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"Things have really changed in today's tennis. In my years there were more upsets, there were a lot more names... It was not as predictable as tennis is today. You've got the question: «Who's gonna win the next Grand Slam?» and you only have four options" - Stefan Edberg on today's tennis. Read the interview

Stefan Edberg, doublet in Seoul '88

from ITF Tennis.com
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello


Stefan Edberg with Anders Jarryd and the doubles medalists of the 1988 Olympic Games

Former world number one and great ambassador of a classic serve and volley tennis in the '80s, the Swede Stefan Edberg is one of the rare athletes who can complain to have won an Olympic gold medal in one of the few editions where tennis was not yet formally accepted as an Olympic sport, but only as an exhibition event.

This happened in Los Angeles 1984, the year in which the sport was again present as a demonstration, like in 1968.

On American soil, the Swede took the gold in singles, but he did not have the same luck when, four years later at the official Olympic event, he "just" could take two bronze medals in Seoul '88.

Los Angeles '84


Stefan Edberg with his 1984 Olympic singles gold medal

Four years before Seoul, the Swede had risen to the top of the podium. "I started in Los Angeles in 1984 winning gold, but it was not official at that time. In Seoul I won the bronze in singles and doubles. It was obviously great to get a medal, but I felt I should have won the gold. I had other chances, but never got it. I had another try in Barcelona '92, but lost in the first round," he recalls ruefully.

"It was just great to get the medal in Los Angeles, to be part of the village. It's something you see on TV when you're young. Being part of the opening ceremony is special. As a tennis player, representing your country is something you do when you play Davis Cup, and the Olympics were great. For tennis players, it is different to stay at the Olympic village."

Looking back, Edberg believes that his gold medal was a great feat. "In 1984, I was very young. The gold medal was a big deal even though in Seoul everything was more official, it felt more real. In the '80s, the Olympics were not as important as now. Everything changed when Agassi won in 1996 for the United States."

"It took time for the Olympic to settle, and things have changed a lot in the last 30 years."

Edberg won 41 career titles, including six Grand Slams. "At the time, the Games were not as important as Wimbledon or the US Open. If you ask people today, the Grand Slams are still giants, but the Games are on par. Everybody thought differently at that time, looked at the Olympics as to something new. Tennis did not need the Games. It was not the most important tournament of the year. "

Seoul 1988


Stefan Edberg in action during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul

Despite initial sorrow at not having achieved gold, the 1988 Seoul bronze medalist is today much more objective about his two "official" conquests. He took bronze in singles and doubles, the latter along with his compatriot Anders Jarryd. "When I think about it, I feel pretty good, although I admit that in 1988 there was more frustration for not reaching the gold."

"But looking back, it was great. I remember years ago my children took the medals to school because it was an Olympic year, so that others could see how they were made," he continues.

The former world number one would never win the Roland Garros and his wins in tournaments on clay can be counted on the fingers of one hand. "I lost soon in Barcelona 1992. It was on clay, it was never my surface."

His medals are still in the box from his last moving. "I went away from London 14 years ago and my trophies are still in a box. Maybe it sounds weird. But this way I know where I can find them."

The best of the Games, the village

To share that moment with others is his sweetest memory. "The big difference was to be part of the movement, of the village, seeing athletes from other sports. It was a unique experience. Playing wasn't different. We are people on the court doing our job."

I remember years ago my children took the medals to school because it was an Olympic year, so that others could see how they were made

Despite his Olympic triumphs, Edberg highlights the fellowship he lived. "My best experience was being part of the Olympic village and live with other athletes. I remember when you were hanging out with a lot of other colleagues from the same country you had only seen on television."

"I felt bad because other fellow athletes only had the opportunity to show their skills to the world once every four years. We are lucky because we compete in four Grand Slams every year, we have the Davis Cup, the ATP finals, so it's much better for us."

"I have no specific names. I met many athletes in the Olympic village and talked to them. They were renowned athletes. I was very shy and so did not dare to talk to everyone," he said while outlining a smile.

Barcelona '92

One of the things that the Swede recalls from Barcelona '92 is the opening ceremony. "It was very special. I was flagbearer for my country, a great honor. I remember the suit, the tie, the belt".

But he suffered the sweltering heat: "You have to wait for a long time before entering the stadium and you end up in a tunnel that is very hot when there are 35 degrees, you are with many people and with the flag you sweat a lot... I remember others told me I was very fast with the flag, but I wanted to move fast. And others wanted to greet quietly. It was so hot!"

* This story has statements included in the ITF Olympic Book to be published in summer 2016. The book will include 118 Olympic and Paralympic medalists who remember what it meant to them to win a medal, with interviews and exclusive photos.

Stefan Edberg, doublet in Seoul '88

 

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