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"It's a special award and an honor for me. But I say to myself that I'm just too young to have that prize named after me. But I think in just a few years time the prize will be renamed after Roger Federer, because he's already got it so many times..." - Stefan Edberg on the Sportsmanship Award. Read the interview

Stefan Edberg's Rogers Cup conference call

Transcript by Mauro Cappiello
Thanks to Tennis Canada for the audio file and Francesca Sarzetto for the media contact

Journalist: Hi Stefan, I was wondering if there were any moments of playing against Canadians or playing in Canada in general that stand up for you during your playing career.

Stefan Edberg: Obviously I've played the tournament quite a few times, but I've also played Davis Cup up in Vancouver and actually the one that I do remember was the shocking defeat against Daniel Nestor at the time, but we won the tie, and obviously I remember all the finals that I played in the Canadian Open as well. But overall it's been quite positive, always enjoyed the time playing in Canada. It's a very well organized tournament, it was in the past and I'm sure it is today as well.

Journalist: Hi Stefan, I appreciate you're doing this. Once you get appealed for... joining the coaching staff for Roger now. What's it like coaching a player that's so established and has won so much? You just want to get appeal from it respect at what? What kind of coaching is involved and how different can it be from coaching a young up and comer?

Stefan Edberg: Well, first of all I haven't done a lot of coaching since I stopped playing tennis because obviously it's different than being a player and I spent a lot of time with kids trying to help them out, but obviously I had a question last year whether I wanted to be part of Roger's team and I think it's a pretty special situation where it's maybe not the sort of the ordinary coach role, it's more like being part of a team, being a little bit of a mentor and maybe talking a lot about my own experiences, getting into his game and see what I can do, so it's... it's been very good so far this year , I think, and it's been a learning process as well, I think for both of us and so far I think it's worked out pretty well and a great thing is he's played a really good tennis this year and I feel he's back playing a good tennis again and the way he's playing now he's a threat to anyone up on a tennis court, I believe.

Journalist: Hi Stefan, it's so good to see you watching some great tennis once again... just to follow up a little bit what you talked about... how tough is it going to be for Roger physically, as we are obviously getting ready to start (or have already started) the hardcourt season, to be able, three out of five, to hang with those young guys?

Stefan Edberg: Well, first of all I believe, you know, Roger had a really tough season last year and I think he was struggling physically with his back but now he's sort of putting a lot of work of the last nine months here, so I think his fitness is a lot better than it was in the past and obviously it is a little bit different when you're in the thirties and you need experience to cope with the training and do enough but not too much, but I think overall he's fit now and he's healthy and I think he showed it in Wimbledon, he was very very close to winning Wimbledon, he played some great tennis. Obviously, like a lot of the top players, he had a few weeks off, which I think they all need in order to sort of just relax a little bit after two Grand Slams and most of them probably will come back in pretty good shape and I think it will be the same thing for Roger who'll come back pretty well prepared for this tournament. As for everybody, Once you've been away for a few weeks it will be a little shaky in the beginning, but I'm sure it should go pretty well.

Journalist: But also, if I may just add another line of questioning... Probably twenty years ago nobody would have believed that Canadian tennis would surpass, on the women's and the men's side, what the American are doing right now. What do you think can be the reasons why Canadian tennis is doing so well with the challenges that we have, just like in Sweden, playing a lot indoor?

Stefan Edberg: Well, I believe, you know, looking back at Sweden, part of the reason we came through was through Borg, but also because tennis became popular. I think we had some great coaches and then we had a lot of young guys playing tennis. It's actually about finding the right environment, finding the right kids, finding the right coaches and then with the backup I think you need now more than before, the financial backup, which is a little bit of the problem at least in Sweden, so, you know, sooner or later you're going to find a generation which is a good one and hopefully it will feed on this one and add some more young kids starting practising tennis here so these things happen and the knowledge has probably always been there, but it's just about getting all the right things at the right time and sometimes you don't really know when it's happening. It can be only once in life when it's been done. We didn't know how it's happening when we had so many Swedes but i think we understand now twenty-thirty years later.

Journalist: Just wondering, you joined guys like Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker, who are coaching some of the others. What's it like to meet guys that you played against on the tour... Does this make it interesting to keep involved in the sport?

Stefan Edberg: So far I think it's been actually quite positive for the game, but I would say this: if somebody would have asked me two years ago it would not have been on the map at all. But something just happen maybe. Murray was a little bit of a trigger. In many ways I think it's nice for me to see some of the players from the past, the decade that I played tennis, it creates a little bit of attention, it's nice to see Boris and Ivan, who's been around, Michael Chang... There are a lot of guys from there at the moment. It creates a nice atmosphere, I think.

Journalist: Why did you come back, becoming part of the coaching team? Was something major missing, just having been part of the tournaments and things like that?

Stefan Edberg: No, being with Federer was not something that I thought I ever would do, to be honest. You know I had a phone call last September/October, I had a call from Roger that he was looking to find somebody else and I think he sort of took me by surprise and it took me some time to decide but I felt, you know, I needed some time to think it through and it's also a great time I think to come back especially in a way with, you know, probably one of the best players that ever played the game and I can be a help to Roger, you know, that was something that was really important and I felt that maybe there's something I can do for him, trying to help him out because he's a great ambassador for the game, he's a great player and I believe as long as Roger is there in the game it's good for tennis and if I can be of any help... why not? But I never thought that would happen, but... here we are and I'm glad I took the opportunity.

Journalist: Hi Stefan, just to get back to the Hall of Fame induction, what does it mean to you to be recognized in this way, years after your retirement from the sport?

Stefan Edberg: Well I think at the time, when you're young, you don't really think about these things that much and obviously it was a huge thing when I got inducted in Newport, which was a number of years ago, and you feel sort of you're part of tennis history, which is great, it was very nice what they did there. I was also inducted here in Sweden also a number of years ago, in many ways it is very nice to get recognized and I think the older you get the more you appreciate these things and, you know, it's really nice to be inducted like this.

Journalist: Does that mean you will be with Roger for the duration of his stay in Toronto and what are your coaching plans for the rest of this season?

Stefan Edberg: Well, I'm gonna be there for the tournament in Toronto, that's for sure, and I'll do a number of weeks for the rest of the year but we'll keep a little bit open but Toronto is the next one and then we'll see.

Journalist: Stefan, who had the better backhand between you and Roger and how would you compare them?

Stefan Edberg: (smiles) I would give me the advantage of a better backhand than Roger, I think a lot of the other strokes he does a lot better than I did, but I'd give myself a little bit of the favour with the backhand, but he's still got a great backhand...

Journalist: What's better about your backhand?

Well, I think, probably thinking back I had one of the better backhands of the game when I was playing, I could use it both defensively and offensively with a lot of variation, it was a key shot for me, so... that's the way I think, but it's my own opinion. It may be different from others.

Journalist: Is it possible in today's men's game for players to be dominant in singles and doubles consistently?

Stefan Edberg: I think it's always possible, but I know how demanding it is to play singles today and, especially outdoor, with the possibility of rain, it's very hard to combine, but I think it is possible and I think it would be a bit easier today because the doubles matches are shorter than when I was playing. At the time you could combine, when I was playing, but that was a long time ago. But I think most of the guys just want to play singles, because it takes so much out of it and it's very hard to combine. Nothing is impossible, but it's really really hard. Getting everything together can be very very difficult from a tournament point of view to do all the schedule playing both in singles and doubles, but, you know, doubles is a great game to watch, there's no question about it...

Journalist: Hi Stefan, you had very good results at the Rogers Cup, including back-to-back finals at the Rogers Cup. Does that tournament rank as one trophy you would have liked to win in your career and why?

Stefan Edberg: Yes, I think it is, there's a few ones. I think at the time, thinking back, obviously, I did not play all the times, but today is really a major title that every player wants to win, but I think at the time it was an important build-up for the US Open. You can't win them all, I had my chances and maybe I should have won maybe one of them but I did not, but... there we are.

Journalist: Stefan, of course everybody remembers the great influence that Tony Pickard had on your career. Does a little bit his approach, the way he dealt with you, the time to say certain things, when you're coaching a legend like Federer, I guess the timing of your comment is as important as the comment itself, I suppose... and I was wondering if what you learned from mr Pickard is something you can implement today in the way you talk to Roger.

Stefan Edberg: That's a tricky question (smiles). I don't know, I mean... I think, you know, my relationship to Tony was great for me at the time, he took hold of me when I was younger. I think it's a little different situation with Roger today, because he's towards the end of his career and obviously I had a knowledge about tennis in those situations before and maybe that's where I can be a little bit of a help but it's... I think it's been working out pretty well so far, but it's a learning process as well, I would say.

Journalist: We've had a lot of questions about how the game has evolved throughout the last twenty years. I just wanted to ask, Stefan, what do you think, Stefan, has had the biggest impact on how the game has evolved, has it been the surfaces that are more uniform, the material, the physical preparation of the players... What do you think has had the biggest impact on how the pro game has evolved the last twenty, twenty-five years?

Stefan Edberg: Obviously there have definitely been some changes in tennis, like it is in many other sports, too, and I would say there has been a great generation of players now for the last ten years, I would like to say like a golden generation with exceptional players, but obviously there have been some changes in the game, like you said, I think the most are the surfaces that are really similar today and compared to the time when I was playing, all the courts are very very slow, which I think gives a little bit of an advantage to the players that are the best, I think, technology-wise, the strings have made a big difference on the game. I noticed that myself, because it's so much easier to control the ball than when we were playing, because we were all playing with natural gut. That definitely  made the change, there are really a few things that really made the change, but what we've witnessed in the last ten years, we've had four or five guys winning all the Grand Slams, so nothing that ever happened before, but it's probably due to some reasons, but coming back I think to the great generation of players as well.

You can download the original audio of the conference call (.mp3 format) at this link

Stefan Edberg's Rogers Cup conference call

 

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