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"The race for the world number one remains between Lendl and Becker. But I don't think I'm too far behind them" - Stefan Edberg after winning in Indian Wells in 1990. Read the article

The legionary through to the final

An article from: La Repubblica
by Gianni Clerici

Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl after the handshake of their 1991 Australian Open semifinal: the Swede has just lost, missing two match points

AUSTRALIAN OPEN. Lendl stood against the 43 degrees, Edberg didn't. Now Becker

Freudians and tacticians won't agree, when they hear me say that Edberg has lost for a cap. A cap, not a hair (ann. in Italian the words cap and hair are very similar: cappello, capello), as could believe someone who saw on the Tv Little Stefan waste the first of two match-points with a disastrous volley, at 5-4 in the fourth set, and even perpetrate a double fault on the second.

The southern sun, in fact, becomes protagonist of tennis matches, if its traps are not justly exstimated and faced with the most obvious defense, that is a visit to the numerous stands along the beach of Saint Kilda.

In these places there are in beautiful sight Akubra hats of wide stratum or a lot of straw varieties, and also baseball long-brimed or cricket short-brimed caps. Neither are missing those of light calico, like the ones used in the foreign legion, with a small back mantle that goes down to cover the neck of whom wear them. Of one of these legionary models, very similar to that historical of Jean Gabin in "La bandera", Ivan Lendl was decorated, after having taken the risk of collapsing for an insolation two years ago, in a hot semifinal against Thomas Muster.

Up to that day, Lendl as all the Europeans, had ignored the teaching of the Australian past champions, from the legendary Norman Brooks to Rod Laver. These white aborigines didn't put their noses on the court if they were not defended by a cap, often lined with a leaf of cauliflower inside.

Playing an exhibition in the club of his coach Tony Roche, in Port Stephens, Lendl came across "La bandera" model, and, since that day, he hasn't lost a match in Australia. Egocentric as all the champions, before covering his head, Lendl had denied the utility of a cap.

The same would do Little Stefan today, without besides succeeding in explaining me what ever happened to him, when he suddenly started to mishit the ball, he who has a blessed hand. An intimate of the Swedish champion suggests that the irresponsible choice of going around uncovered is tightly linked to the care Edberg dedicates to his golden ringlets, always revived and well taken, also in the most agitated stages of the game.

The coach Tony Pickard denies instead that the brain of his assisted was smoking. Strong of this authoritative affirmation, the freudians believe that, reached the match point, Stefan has relived the trauma of the past year, when, up a set, 6-5 in the second and service against Lendl, he pulled his abdominal muscles and was forced to retire.

The tacticians observe that already in the first set Edberg had proved not to be in his best day, and that the waiting attitude of a mediocre Lendl had helped him to find his rythm and to lead the score.

These excellent theories nevertheless can't explain us how, right when he was next to the finishing line, poor Stefan got totally lost, began to splinter the ball, and didn't manage to find himself again anymore 'till the end, while certainly Lendl grew, especially in comparison to the decrease of the blond.

Ivan had started very aggressive, well inside the court, even with some net attacks but, won the first set, his reluctance to volley had given Stefan time to pick himself up, to find the rhythm from the baseline, to choose more and more uninhibited approaches.

In the ninth game of the fourth, two errors and a passing by Edberg forced Lendl to suffer the break, and to throw a ball high in the sky, causing a warning by the umpire Littlefield. Little Stefan would save then two break-points, would reach two match-points, missing the first one with a horrible backhand volley, with the court wide open, and the second with an obscene double fault.

From that instant, Stefan would skid, first in the tiebreak, finally in a fifth set where it seemed that lifting the eyes to the sky was enough for him to double-fault. There were 43 Celsius degrees on the green grid, and it seems to me that this explains a lot.

The legionary through to the final


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