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"People always want autographs, I just wonder what they do with them. When I was 11, Jens and Erwin Velasquez, the world freestyle Frisbee champions, came to Vastervik to play an exhibition, and I waited in line for their autographs. Actually, I've still got them" - Stefan Edberg on tennis fans. Read the article

The verdict on the future of our tennis: total darkness

from Dagens Nyheter
by Nils Palmgren
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello

Stefan Edberg with Robin Soderling and the 2016 winners of the SE foundation schoolarship: Maria Petrovic, Ross Weibull and Cajsa Henneman

At the Stockholm Open the crowd cheers a 18-year-old Michael Ymer. But the reality for Swedish young tennis is anything but light. This year not one of the national teams managed to qualify for the European Championship games. “There is total darkness,” says the outgoing Davis Cup captain Fredrik "Fidde" Rosengren.

The place is the Royal Tennis hall's VIP section, and the scene will take the former world number one Stefan Edberg on the stage. Among the former Swedish star’s mingling crowd there are players and even those who never became anything, plus parents, coaches, sponsors and representatives from the Tennis Federation.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Stefan Edberg Foundation and this evening he will hand out 25,000 crowns (€ 2,577) to two 14 year olds and 50,000 crowns (€ 5,155) to two 16 year olds. To assist him former world number four Robin Soderling and Sofia Arvidsson, with a number 29 best ranking. Both have themselves received money from Stefan Edberg's hand. ­

“I wanted to give something back. Tennis has given me so much,” explains Stefan Edberg on the background of his foundation. ­ “Sure, you can always write a check and say ‘go ahead, do something.’ But I wanted to do something more long term. From 2017, the scholarship totals will also increase to 50,000 and 100,000 crowns (€ 10,310), respectively. ­ It is very costly to travel and start playing tennis today. Above all, the cost starts to escalate in the 16 ­year­ old category and therefore we want to give something extra,” says Stefan Edberg.

And that may be needed. The truth is that Swedish youth and junior tennis today are at the absolute bottom. ­ “There is total darkness,” says the outgoing coach of the Swedish Davis Cup team, "Fidde" Rosengren and does not hold back: ­ “Team Championships for the 12-­year-­olds, nothing! Team Championship for the 14-­year­olds, nothing! Team Championship for the 16-­year-­olds, nothing! ­ We are not in any age group in Europe today,” says the coach who coached Jonas Bjorkman, Robin Soderling and Magnus Norman to international success. ­

“There is no coach in Sweden who can sit and say that we are doing great, because we are not. We have more full­time coaches than ever, we have more courses than ever, but there is no one who can say that we have succeeded,” says "Fidde" Rosengren.

“The truth is that all of the Swedish youth national teams in tennis are not making it through to the European Championship finals. And if you look at the leaderboards in Europe and the world, you get to look far for Swedish players. ­ If we look at the younger classes we see they are clearly heavily out,” says Swedish Tennis Federation's sporting director Johan Sjögren.

Right now, the union has reached a critical stage in which to develop a new business plan for the years 2017­-2020. What it will include is not clear yet, decisions will be taken at the annual meeting in the spring, but with a weaker economy, you have to clearly prioritize harder. ­

“I work for the future, the activities of our clubs should result in more competitive players,” says Johan Sjögren and adds: ­“The priority is to find a way for our 7­-12 year olds. You can have God himself as a coach when you're 17, but if you don’t have the technical stuff you can not develop.”

Johan Sjögren believes that tennis clubs need to take in many children to make ends meet and pay the full­time trainers, but it affects the quality of education. ­ “Out in tennis schools today, we work a lot with the quantity. It is not this way that you become a competitive player, but you learn a little about tennis. ­ We can also see among the young that there are fewer and fewer who have the physical characteristics with them, so the coaches who work with our younger players need to focus very much on coordination and balance. ­Something that once children spontaneously got sooner when they were doing different sports, but especially because they had more sport in schools,” says Johan Sjögren.

"Fidde" Rosengren also believes that it is out in the clubs that more work should be done to develop better young players. ­“Robin Soderling is well the last tennis player who came up from the club level,” says "Fidde" Rosengren who also calls for a greater commitment. ­ “I hope there are many coaches out there that will look at themselves in the mirror and say ‘I'll do my job better.’ Who think that they have to go this week-end and look at the players they train, even though it is in their spare time and they do not get paid for it. ­ I hope there are such people, but I will be damned worried because I see that it is the same people who tried at the right time and got nothing”, says Davis Cup captain and notes: ­ “Without a commitment and an inner drive from both players and coaches we can not succeed.”

“Today it is believed that one can reach the top without the taste of blood in their mouths. Many are ambitious and competitive, but from being there to being a Robin Soderling there’s a long step.”

The Royal hall vip rooms notes Soderling himself and that is enough. ­ “You can not force anyone, and it does not matter how good coach you are, if you do not have players who have their own motivation,” he says, and continues: ­ “I think we in Sweden, after the success of the ‘80s and ‘90s, took it a bit comfortable. We have worked with the old methods, that worked in the ‘80s and we believed they would work 20­-30 years later, but it is not so.” ­

“Tennis, like all other sports, is going forward. All are practicing so much smarter today than 30 years ago and I think it was a pretty long period that we in Sweden have not hung out with,” says the former world number four.

Where Robin Soderling talks about training smarter, so says "Fidde" Rosengren that it is important for children to compete more, even in training. ­ “But they do not dare that today,” says Soderling and explains what he means: ­ “When you notice that you are beaten in training, then you should be damn grateful that there is someone who is better than you, so that you can improve yourself. You may be thinking ‘I got a game today, I'll take two  tomorrow and in six months I might take a set.’”

Even Tennis Federation sporting director believes that more competition is needed. ­ “To play a lot of matches, playing every set, is pretty damn important,” says Johan Sjögren.

At the Royal Hall Stefan Edberg himself diplomatically says it. ­ “Without having too much insight into the whole thing, we have ways to go, I guess. But one must start at one end and it must come from the bottom of the clubs and the road. ­I'm trying to help my way.”

14­ year ­old Maria Petrovic from Farsta TK is happy about it: “My goal will be to use this money for my training and competitions,” she says with a scholarship in hand.


Receivers of the Stefan Edberg Foundation scholarship

1996: M16 Jacob Adaktusson, F16 Anna Andersson, M14 Joachim "Pim Pim" Johansson, F14 Jenny Lindström;

1997: M16 Andreas Vinciguerra, F16 Anna Andersson, M14 Mario Dimakos, F14 Kristina Bengtsson;

1998: M16 Filip Prpic, F16 Anna Eriksson, M14 Robin Soderling, F14 Sofia Arvidsson / Hanna Nooni;

1999: M16 Erik Claesson, F16 Klara Pettersson, M14 Kristoffer Järpmyr, F14 Natalia Papadopolou;

2000: M16 Robin Soderling, F16 Sofia Arvidsson, M14 Joakim Fröberg, F14 Mari Andersson;

2001: M16 Pablo Figueroa, F16 Mari Andersson, M14 Ervin Eleskovic, F14 Kristina Andlovic;

2002: M16 Robert Veres, F16 Mari Andersson, M14 Andy Chirita, F14 Michaela Johansson;

2003: M16 Daniel Kumlin, F16 Michaela Johansson, M14 Rasmus Jonasson, F14 Mona Mansour;

2004: M16 Otto Sauer, F16 Sousan Massi, M14 Gustav Kivilo, F14 Caroline Magnusson;

2005: M16 Otto Sauer, F16 Sandra Roma, M14 Erik Thorelli, F14 Anna Brazhnikova;

2006: M16 Gustav Kivilo, F16 Sandra Roma, M14 Daniel Berta, F14 Valeria Osadchenko;

2007: M16 Patrik Brydolf, F16 Anna Brazhnikova, M14 Nima Mamdani, F14 Ellen Allgurin;

2008: M16 Daniel Berta, F16 Beatrice Cedermark, M14 Morgan Johansson, F14 Ellen Allgurin;

2009: M16 Morgan Johansson, F16 Ellen Allgurin, M14 Elias Ymer, F14 Caroline Kållberg;

2010: M16 Philip Bergevi, F16 Rebecca Peterson, M14 Daniel Windahl, F14 Jacqueline Cabaj Awad;

2011: M16 Daniel Windahl, F16 Danika Bahota, M14 Mikael Ymer, F14-Kajsa Rinaldo Persson;

2012: M16 Elias Ymer, F16 Jacquline Cabaj Awad, M14 Mikael Ymer, F14 Sandra Örtewall;

2013: M16 Michael Ymer, F16-Kajsa Rinaldo Persson, M14 Johan Garpered, F14 Julita Saner;

2014: M16 Michael Ymer, F16 Ida Jarl Timber, M14 Kevin Chahaud, F14 Karolina Tilander;

2015: M16 Karl Friberg, F16 Alexandra Viktorovitch, M14 Kevin Chahaud, F14 Victoria Carl Stone;

2016: M16 Anton Örnberg, F16 Caijsa Hennemann, M14 Ross Weibull, F14 Maria Petrovic.

The verdict on the future of our tennis: total darkness

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