by Bill Koch
The Cincinnati stop on the ATP Tour has always been one of Stefan Edberg's favorites. Not only did he win two singles titles here, but this is where he played his first round of golf.
Edberg's last visit was in 1996, his final appearance as a player, so when he walked into the Lindner Family Tennis Center this week as Roger Federer's coach, he was impressed by what he saw.
"They did some changes during the time I was here," Edberg said. "It was always growing. Coming back now, it's been 18 years and obviously it has grown."
Edberg, a six-time Grand Slam winner and a former No. 1-ranked player, considered the ATP Championship a significant event back in the day and played well at the Mason facility, winning his titles in 1987 and 1990. He played here for 13 straight years from 1984 to 1996.
"A lot of the Swedes were here playing, too," Edberg said. "With a golf course nearby, it was a very good setup. This was always one of my favorite tournaments throughout the year. During the American tour, I think Cincinnati was the best place for me normally. I always felt pretty much at home here."
Edberg said he and the other players didn't go Downtown very often when he played here, mostly staying in the area near the stadium.
"We stayed at the Kings Island Inn and the Quality Inn and the Embassy Suites and had breakfast at Perkins," Edberg said.
They also spent a lot of time at the original Montgomery Inn.
"I've only been here for two days, but there's probably a good chance we'll revisit for some ribs," he said. "It's one of the few places I do remember going to overall. In the beginning of my career, we went to the places close by here, anything from McDonald's to Perkins or whatever it was."
There have been massive changes to the facility since Edberg's last visit. A third permanent stadium court has been added and the footprint has grown by 5.4 acres to include six new courts, along with a new ticket office and entry plaza, both of which opened in 2011. The previous year, the tennis center boasted new player and media facilities.
"To point out that this was going to be one of the big ones going forward, that would have been hard to guess," he said. "Where it is now, it's quite substantial. I think they've done a very good job."
Edberg, 48, was hired as part of Federer's team last December. He says he has found the work rewarding, even though coaching was something he never considered until he got the call from Federer, who has said that Edberg was his childhood idol.
"I never thought about being on the tour at all, to be honest," Edberg said, "but now I am here and it's worked out pretty well. There are still improvements to be done once you get older, and that's for everybody.
"I've been on the tour. I've been in big situations. I've been to the later stages of my career. You have some experience from the past. Probably we players have more knowledge than we think. It's a different feeling, but I'd love for him to win everything if possible."
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