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"I've never really thought about coaching and if it had not been Federer doing the asking, honestly, I would not have been interested" - Stefan Edberg about Roger Federer's proposal to be part of his team. Read the interview

A joke with my brother and a passion born just by chance - by Martina Frammartino -

by Martina Frammartino

I almost followed Stefan’s career from the very start, and now I regret not to have done so. My brother was watching a tennis match on TV. He used to root for Ivan Lendl and, as a good obstinate opposer who would never side with him, I said: “The other one will win”. The “other one” was a young and promising guy, who had won little and, most of all, nothing important, something that made him nice to me. Then he was also a good looking boy, just three years older than me. Mine had been a joke, made above all to irritate my brother, but in the end the young guy had won for real. That match - only years later I would realize its importance – was the 1985 Australian Open semifinal, a match Stefan won 9-7 in the fifth set. In the following match, Edberg would defeat Wilander, so winning his first Grand Slam trophy.

I knew nothing about tennis back then, and I kept on knowing nothing for a long time. Then, on a June afternoon in 1988, I happened to watch the Roland Garros semifinal between Wilander himself and another young boy, a certain Andre Agassi. Not that I wanted to follow the match, I was just zapping and I stopped for a couple of minutes. I liked what I saw and I ended up following the entire encounter. That’s what could happen when you could watch a sport on TV at a decent time, without any particular subscription and with high level matches: people could get involved just by chance.

I’m not saying I immediately became a tennis fan, but my interest raised .

A month later there was Wimbledon, a tournament I barely watched. Now it seems ridiculous to me, how could you not watch Wimbledon? Never mind all the other tournaments, but I like the green lawns, the green and violet uniforms of the ball boys, the color of the air itself (when it doesn’t rain). Wimbledon is tennis history, and any other tournament comes second.

Well, I ignored the tournament, at least until the semifinals. At that stage a guy named Edberg was really struggling against Mecir, and the commentator was rooting for his comeback. The commentator was actually rooting for his 1983 prophecy to turn into reality: that young guy would win Wimbledon in five years and that was the last chance he had. I was keen myself on the comeback, even though I still wasn’t able to understand the details of the game. But Edberg won, and, even though I didn’t link him to the 1985 match, I liked him for the second time. On the following Monday, I saw him win the final against Becker and I was enchanted. On Sunday, he had been up, he had been playing better, then a rain delay had happened and the German had taken advantage of it, coming back and winning the first set. Rain again and match suspended until the day after, when I really became a tennis fan.

For some years I supported both him and Agassi, at least until the American player spit in a chair umpire’s face. I can stand many things, but not rudeness, so I quit rooting for Andre little time before he won his first Slam, oddly right in Wimbledon.

One time I also happened to (moderately) root against Edberg. It was the 1989 Masters and Edberg and Agassi had to face each other in the first round. I was convinced that Edberg would go on anyway, while I was very doubtful on Agassi, so I supported him, even if then I didn’t regret the result at all.

When I started following tennis, Lendl was the best player. Ok, in 1988 Wilander had won three of the four Slams, but then he had had a drastic drop he had never recovered from, and, by the time I had learned what was really happening on a tennis court (not only know the rules, but also see the players’ strengths and weaknesses, game strategies, form conditions and so on) Wilander had become a good player and no longer a champion. So Lendl is the only one I considered for some time better than Edberg, and not even by much. Becker was a difficult opponent, probably the most difficult, but he was beatable, as shown by three of the four Slam meetings and the Masters final played by the two.

I started rooting for Edberg by chance, to go against my brother and because a reporter supported him in an unlikely comeback. In both cases Edberg won very important and difficult matches. I didn’t root for him because he was a winner, or I wouldn’t have rooted for years for Jana Novotna, in spite of all the matches thrown away by the Czech player. I noted the player by chance and I was faithful to him by choice. The fact that the Sportsmanship Award was named after him is for me a reason of pride. But what I most really liked was his extraordinary game. His ability to bend his legs, the naturalness to make impossible things look easy, the volleys, his extraordinary both attacking and passing backhand, his backbeat rushes to the net, the half-volleys, all was grace. Only his forehand was rather poor, also when it worked, but human beings are not given perfection. I enjoyed myself more seeing him lose a wonderful match at the Grand Slam Cup against Stich than in seeing him comfortably beat Rios in a match flown away smoothly just because the Chilean never managed to read Stefan’s serve. Victories were important, of course, but were not all I was looking for. What I wanted to see the most was fine game and, in this, Stefan almost never disappointed me.

A joke with my brother and a passion born just by chance - by Martina Frammartino -

 

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