US Open. The soviet defeats the world n.1
NEW YORK. Little Stefan Edberg was lucky that Alexander Volkov plays with his left hand. Alexander, in fact, is not a natural left-hander, but an unlucky as much as courageous right-hander.
At about fifteen, when he already played pretty well, right-hand forehand, two-handed backhand, Alexander went down a bank and broke his shoulder so that he was sidelined from the courts for six months. Little after starting to train again, another accident ruined his shoulder forever.
He thought of changing sport, young Alexander, but, as his mood went a little up, and he got back to his club in Kaliningrad, a friend of his came up with a strange suggestion. They could bet, improvising a match played with the other hand. That was it. In destroying his friend, Volkov didn't take much longer than the hour and 55 he needed to overwhelm Edberg. So he got back to the sport he had instinctively chosen as a child.
The left-hand forehand, that once was a two-handed shot, with the right harm to lead, came easy to him. And, on the right side, things didn't go that worse. The only real problem was synchronizing the ball throw with the serve action. As we all know, the homes of brain inputs can't be changed so easily, and Volkov had to resign himself to spend many afternoons like any circus boy to work on two asymmetrical gestures. In this work he was aided by his patience, only lower than his talent and his self-irony .
When he told me these things, in Milan, Volkov spoke as he was talking of someone else. [...] To say today that Volkov's game has become as precise as his philosopher countryman's watch would be too much. But certainly Alexander missed very little, compared to the risks he had to run against a little vivid, but not resigned Edberg.
In Sunday's headline: "Don't rely on Edberg", I had underlined how the Swede had never started a Grand Slam tournament as top-favourite. But I couldn't even predict he would get on court in the first round at eleven in the morning.
Years ago, when I still enjoyed interviewing players for TV, I had vainly tried to tease Little Stefan, who hung loosely to the morning training. He, who is usually so kind, had hardly replied. My friend Tony Pickard, his coach, had to come and take me out of that scrape. "You can't figure out how hard it is to take him out of his bed", he had whispered to me. It was not only low pressure, anyway, to make Edberg lose to make him equal a negative record like had never happened since 1971, when great John Newcombe fell in the first round against a young Jan Kodes.
Little Stefan wasn't able to play the unusual part of top-favorite, and, most of all, proved himself blind in not changing a losing all-forward tactic. Volkov has in his returns and passings his most dangerous shots. Slow in the first set, Edberg had a good moment towards the half of the second, when he recovered a break and led by 6 games to 5, with Volkov serving on 30-40. On that set-point, Volkov played bravely, hitting the line with his two-handed backhand.
Two more winning points, along with two other mistakes by poor Stefan, rose Volkov to 4-0 in the tie-break and, from then on, the most curious reporters ran to occupy the first rows of the press conference room. Delightful as always, Edberg pleased them with lots of banalities. He had a strange look, he reminded Stan Laurel when Oliver Hardy made one of his gags.
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