by Mauro Cappiello
Stefan Edberg and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before their exhibition in Doha
Nobody had talked or written about it, but Stefan Edberg was in Doha with his family (his wife Annette and children Emilie and Christopher). Probably he had been invited by the organizers of the Qatar Open to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the event.
But nobody would ever expect Stefan to play again in Doha, 17 years after his second success in that tournament that had also been his last trophy on the ATP. The occasion came when world number three Roger Federer had to retire injured before his semifinal match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could even begin. The organizers' minds immediately went to Stefan's name and so they managed to arrange a single set show match between the Swede and the Frenchman, that paid back the crowd, already disappointed for the walkover of the defending champion.
The match was funny and hilarious. Stefan attempted at least three tweeners (one on a match point for Tsonga on the score of 5-4 for the Frenchman), reacted with a smile to a foot-fault called by a strict line-judge and even placed an ace on a second serve! But he couldn't help defeat against an opponent who is still in the top ten, is going through the most positive moment in his career and, last but not least, has almost half his age... The match ended with the score of 7-5 for Tsonga, with the only break happening in the last game, when maybe everyone was already waiting for a decisive tie-break.
Nevertheless, Tsonga tasted what it means to run powerless from a corner of the court to another chasing the razor-cuts coming off Stefan's backhand volleys, something that the players on the Tour today are no longer used to facing. The pace today was very slow, that's true, but Stefan's net game hasn't lost effectiveness, even though the balls are heavier and the courts are not as fast as when he used to play, in the '80s and '90s.
You can verify that in the clip below.
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