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"This is probably the best match I ever played. I'm even beginning to like New York, too" - Stefan Edberg after his first success at the US Open in 1991. Read the article

Edberg, man anywhere

An article from: La Repubblica
by Gianni Clerici

He has beaten Courier with a lot of tactical variations, New York now suits him: he only misses Paris

NEW YORK. While I was observing the poor Courier run in vain behind Edberg's unreachable trajectories, an old final match crossed my mind, Wimbledon 1957.

I was then the only Italian reporter, correspondent for a newspaper called 'Il Giorno'. Rai (ann. Italian public television), back then, didn't brodcast the images of the tournament and, in short, my only competitors were press agencies. At the end of the match, I found myself surrounded by English reporters that I held all phenomenons, asking me how I could explain such a disheartening defeat for Ashley Cooper, beaten by his Australian countryman Lew Hoad 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.

That match hadn't lasted longer than one hour, because, back then, change of hands hadn't been introduced yet and there was no gap between successive points. But the match would have been even shorter hadn't a fly entered an eye of Hoad's, and a line-judge intervened to get it out with a handkerchief. I wrote therefore that only a fly had been able to stop for an instant an irresistible champion such as Lew Hoad, and I completed with the report.

Now I am in front of another Grand Slam final, in front of a not less clean victory by another blonde champion as Hoad. In front of a match lasted 2 hours, that correspond more or less to the 1957 60 minutes of continuous play. Flies didn't flutter in the greasy and overheated air of Flushing Meadows, there was nothing and nobody somehow able to delay the end of a match dominated by one player.

Though, at a certain point, a small thing had to happen to remind me of this match, should I still live in twenty years. In the fourth game of the third set, Edberg was serving. His very beautiful action, as always at the edge of the rule, projected him inside the court and the line-judge, a big black man, called loud a foot-fault. Stefan's ball had meanwhile flown away, landed next to the lines of the rectangle where Jim Courier was waiting to return.

Judging it out, the big blond dropped the racket, came forward, arms wide open, to protest, to communicate all of his incredulity and his anger to the chair-umpire Norm Chryst. That trimmed and diamond-eared umpire would take a good half minute to convince Jim that the line-judge hadn't called the ball out only because he had been preceded by the foot-fault call. And, resuming play, Jim Courier would keep on shaking his head.

I wish this is enough to understand how much poor Courier was shaken, in everything similar to a boxer drunk with punches. However, hadn't been Edberg's balls to strike him, toss him and stun him. The yellow Wilsons had flown too distant from his big racket, or had bounced too deceitfully for him to tame them, to return them with reasonable regularity.

Jim Courier is one of the very good outputs of Bradenton's lab, directed by Nick Bollettieri. Give him a straight ball and Jim will not only infallibly take it, but will also end up flattening it. For twice, this year, Stefan Edberg had faced him, and for twice he had had to suffer, not only in the Roland Garros defeat, but also in the victorious five sets of the Australian Open.

On Sunday, Stefan therefore decided to change tactic. To anticipate Courier playing once slow and once cut, never strong and straight. And, above all, to serve with an assortment of rotations worth the archive of a museum of ballistics.

In front of such a display of tactical variations, Courier has looked himself for a reasoned opposition, advances to the net that were supposed to stop the adversary. In the end, maybe he would have succeeded better with a game of obstruction, had he been able to alternate it to some lobs. But, he only managed to lob Edberg once, and the consequences have been disastrous, with that Edberg stuck to the net like a chewing gum.

It was indeed an extraordinary Edberg, distant relative of the shaky young fellow that had begun the tournament struggling to beat three opponents ranked behind the number 100. An Edberg that had found his form little by little, also thanks to a very lucky draw. He has never loved New York, Stefan, the confusion, the tension, the dirt of this city.

The Us Open had always seemed to him an unpleasant necessity, and also for this he had always failed, with the record of one only, tentative semifinal. In a moment of enthusiasm, at the end of the game, Stefan has admitted that this year, he had not completely disliked New York. An amazing statement indeed. While I am writing, Stefan has already returned to his apartment of South Kensington, in London, to taste discreet this fifth success in the Grand Slam. Now he only needs the Roland Garros.

Edberg, man anywhere

 

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