by Mauro Cappiello
Stefan Edberg stretches his left leg during the 2nd set of the Zurich Open final
The memory of most of the real Edberg fans will have gone back of 22 years, to the final of the Australian Open in 1990 against Ivan Lendl. Stefan led by one set and was about to serve for the second when he torn his stomach muscle and was forced to retire some games later from a match that he would surely have won... Today it was just the final of a Champions event, in Zurich, but the episode reminded everybody what an unlucky champion Stefan Edberg has been (and still is...), when he injured his left leg just before serving for the title against Carlos Moya, an opponent 11 years his junior.
He had dominated the final until that moment, a one man show by the Swede, who had brushed up his huge arsenal of shots, to show the crowd of the Saalsporthalle that even two former world number ones can be separated by a large amount of class. The first set won in just half an hour, two chances for a double break in the second that, if converted, would have closed the contest against a Moya who simply had no clue anytime Stefan came to the net.
Then, already during the change of ends of 4-3, Stefan started stretching, he held another serve, but the pain grew when he had to serve for the title on 5-4. Moya saw the chance and didn't miss like before, he took the break back to love and forced a Champions' tie-break winning the last four games of the second set.
Twice in front of a miny-break in the decider, Stefan went then down 5-9, managed to save three match points, one with the help of the net, but in the end his movements were too limited by the injury to allow him to really fight to win. He missed at least three smashes, the last on the decisive match point, that he really should have put away, and he surely would have done so, had he only been at the 70% of his chances...
But the Zurich Open ends on a high note for us fans. The tournament proved that Stefan is still in great shape, finds enjoyment in playing and has managed, continuing to practice regularly, to narrow the inevitable age gap with many of the former tennis stars, now populating the Champions Tour. Henman, Philippoussis, Moya himself are all players who had just started their careers when Stefan was about to leave the ATP. Still, in the matches of this week against the Swede, they did nothing more than chase balls.
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