from World Tennis
by Kim Cunningham
Stefan Edberg is shedding his downcast demeanour and discovering the power of positive thinking.
Stefan Edberg practices at Dallas's Reunion Arena, showers, and heads for the parking lot where a car waits to escort him to an autograph session for adidas. He declines a comb and shakes his head to dry his hair. Parked in his path, wedged between the Fords and Buicks, sits a large vermilion-colored van, painted with multi-colored adidas logos. Edberg stops for an instant. "I wonder which car it is?" he deadpans.
Wearing faded jeans, T-shirt and a wide grin, Edberg has the youthful bloom of a farm boy, all wide-eyed innocence and simplicity. He seems as wholesome and harmless as a cornflake, So his frequent one-liners, edged with worldly sophistication, startle you: The 21-year-old Swede has found a dry wit, as well as a home, in London.
The conversation en route to the Valley View Mall revolves around the success of the jazzy Edberg clothing line - a colorful abstraction recalling the Spanish surrealist painter Joan Miro. Edberg has recently inked an all-inclusive contract with adidas for shoes, clothing and rackets that pays him upwards of $3 million a year. A pair of Edberg-autographed shoes in the mall cost $65, a reasonable price tag to him.
"The shoes only cost $5," Edberg sniffs, flipping back his hair in mock haughtiness. "It's another $60 for the name."
The van pulls up at the mall.. Stefan strides through the vast corridors like a rock star heading confidently toward the stage. Only he isn't charged up: He moves easily, in a graceful, unceremonial style that suggests no particular hurry. A few dozen people, mostly teenagers, wait for him. They giggle when he comes into view.
What does Christophe Anderson, 11, like most about Edberg? "The way he behaves," says Chris, an aspiring player. His father, who speaks to Stefan in Swedish, adds: "He's young, and look at where he is right now."
Nearly all the kids who line up for autographs hope to play the pro tour some day. Edberg answers their questions with humor and patience.
"How many hours a day do you practice?" asks one.
"Fifteen," Stefan replies. (They gasp in unison so he tells them the truth: three.)
"What other sports do you play'.?" asks another.
"Frisbee," he says. "it's very big in Sweden."
"I've got both posters of you!" boasts a third.
"I have three," he says smugly.
The youngsters realize he is teasing, and they laugh.
But not Amy Beck, 13, who stands bedazzled a few feet away wearing an "I ❤ Stefan Edberg" T-shirt. Her mother, Kimberly, has driven three-and-a-half hours to Dallas from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and now Amy can't believe she's here. She finally musters the nerve to approach Edberg and asks him to sign her racket bag. "Could you write, 'To my future wife'?" she asks, and blushes crimson. Her mother records the moment on film as Stefan shakes his head and signs.
"He's a good role model for young players," Mrs. Beck says, when asked why she has made such a trip. "It keeps her away from weird rock stars." Amy's mother buys her daughter a pair of $65 Stefan Edberg shoes and at last, the store empties. Edberg talks to fill the lull.
"American kids are spoiled," he says, abruptly. "They play at expensive clubs and they come to the court with four rackets and all the best clothing. in Sweden, it costs about $10 a year to join a tennis club and 50 cents to play.
"American kids also play too much," he continues. "In Sweden, you go to school until about 4 P.M. There are no sports during that time. You are on your own after school for that. My parents took out a loan using their house [as collateral] to get money for me to play tennis."
Bengt Edberg, who still walks a policeman's beat in Vastervik, Sweden, and his wife, Barbro, got a phenomenal return on their investment. At age 17, Stefan became the first and only player to win a junior Grand Slam. The following year, he turned pro. At 19, he won the Australian Open and led the Swedish Davis Cup team to victory over West Germany. This year, before a groin injury contributed to his second-round loss at the French Open, he won four tournaments, including his second Australian Open. At age 21, Edberg has earned nearly 53 million in prize money, and his international endorsements - in addition to adidas - include Snickers candy bars, Sun Maid raisins, Pripps sports drink, Ebel watches, BMW automobiles, and SAS airlines. He considers himself frugal, citing only two personal extravagances - a London flat and high-tech stereo equipment. But he also pays traveling expenses for his family.
"I've always had a lot of help from my parents," he says. "They've always supported me. If I lost, they were good to me. They'd say, 'As long as you did your best, there's nothing else you can do,' or 'Tomorrow comes another day.' That's very important because that gives you confidence and makes you believe in yourself."
Ironically, this positive thinking hurt Edberg in the wild world of sports. After losing a match, he frequently told the media, "Oh well, there's another tournament next week." This attitude was mistaken for defeatism - a loser's belittlement of the event. It seemed an extension of his downcast on-court demeanor when he fell prey to the demons of self-doubt. He calls it his "depression." Tony Pickard, the former British Davis Cupper who has served as Edberg's coach and confederate since 1984, calls it alternately "the sulks", or "the gloom."
"I've always been a little depressed on the court," Edberg explains. "I shake my head and show my feelings, which doesn't help my game because then I can let my game get depressed, too. If I keep my head up and don't show any emotion, my opponents can't tell if I'm angry or if I think I'm playing badly. That's very important because if I get depressed, my opponents get more eager. They think, 'Now I have him,' and they've won a lot of free points from me. So it's very important to keep quiet, be cool, and not show too much emotion."
Maintaining outward appearances may fool opponents, but how can Edberg fool himself? Has he learned to control his emotions before they control him? Is he talking to himself or reciting a mantra when he covers his head with a towel during the changeovers? "No, no, I'm just trying to concentrate," Edberg says of his terry-cloth mask. "There are days when you don't feel perfect; days when you're not hitting the ball well and small things happen and you get a little angry and think, 'Why does it go against me?' But you keep your head up and wait for your chances, because when you're not in the right frame of mind, those times are when you really have to show your guts."
Edberg showed his guts, his true grit, earlier this year in the final of the Australian Open. He led Pat Cash two sets to love, lost the third, and was down 1-5 in the fourth. it was depressing. But suddenly, a lightbulb went on. Edberg remembered what Pickard, the prince of positive thinking, told him just before he walked on court, and fought back to win 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3.
"There is no way you are going to lose if you play your normal game," Tony told him. "But [Cash] can get unbelievably hot and when he gets hot, he will beat you. But he cannot stay hot! So what you've got to do if that happens, is to stay there with him. Keep bouncing, keep pumping, keep your head up. No head dropping! Because if you keep going he will not be able to beat you. Sooner or later, he's the one who will crack under pressure. Not you."
Pickard sees his primary role as a troubleshooter. He tells Edberg things to expect on court on the day of a match so that nothing comes as a shock. "When you're a young player," Pickard explains, "9 times out of 10, something happens that you're not prepared for and vou can be out of the match in 10 seconds."
Edberg's victory in Melbourne represented the turning point in his career, Pickard feels. "Having played so badly in Davis Cup in December [Edberg lost to Cash], he was very negative. I told him, 'It's history: We can't bring it back, but you better learn something from it.'"
Edberg learned to pick up his attitude, as well as his feet. He took a holiday at Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and thought about 1987 as a new beginning. He returned to work and, with Pickard, the pair worked harder than ever. "Edberg is a natural talent," savs Pickard. "He excelled at all sports growing up. But often with talented people, you have to build discipline into their lives. Eventually, they'll see that the rewards of working like mad are worth it."
Edberg agrees. "I played badly in Davis Cup. I was fighting, but everything went the wrong way and I got so tired. So to win a Grand Slam event by beating Cash in Australia was the perfect start to the year."
By winning his second title in Melbourne, Edberg extended the Swedish dominance of the Australian Open to four consecutive years. The Australians cheered him and although he'd beaten their native son, they affectionately nicknamed him Steve, as in, "That Steve Edberg's a winner, mate."
The pressures of playing Davis Cup have brought Stefan to the greatest highs and lows of his career. it's the one event he can't rationalize with his que sera, sera philosophy. "I've found Davis Cup very difficult,' he says. "I've never played well in Davis Cup, maybe because I've never played my singles matches at home. It's a real challenge . It's very tiring because of the crowd and all the things going on around it. Your ranking doesn't matter; things happen that normally would never happen, except when you play for your country and your teammates."
Things like choking? "Not really choking," he says. "There are times when I get nervous and I can't really hit the ball, but it's not choking. For instance, if you have five or six advantages and never take them and you lose the game, you start to think about what you did and how to hit the ball and you choke a little. That's happened to me in a lot of matches, not just Davis Cup. But you try to keep working And wait for your chances. If thev don't come that's too bad. It's the other guy's victory."
How can there be so much reasonableness, such a sane center, beneath Edberg's Peter Pan boyishness? Stefan is like the music listens to - Genesis, Dire Straits, Simple Minds. He doesn't come charging into your skull like heavy metal rock. He doesn't pound or strain to impress you. He's easygoing, dulcet-voiced and congenial. Still, he exudes an off-handed confidence and sophistication. The French use a play on words to contrast Edberg with his nemesis, Boris Becker. They perceive Becker as a fighter and call him, le grand mechant loup (the big, wicked wolf). Edberg's sobriquet rhymes, le grand mechant mou (the big wicked softy").
How would Stefan describe himself?
"I'm quite a quiet person," he answers after a few moments. "I'm natural and easygoing. I'm a little shy and laid-back. Things don't affect me too much. I'm just trying to be myself. I know other players like [Yannick] Noah and [John] McEnroe have more 'personality'on court. It's hard for me to be funny on court. That's got to come naturally. I start to feel a little bit lost if I try to do things just to be funny on court. it's not me. I just play my tennis."
If Edberg is smooth and controlled, a consistent nature, his constant companion Pickard is the volatile solution that can boil and freeze. Tony, a flamboyant personality, and Stefan are as different as chalk and cheese. Here's how Pickard describes himself.. "I'm very direct and very positive. If there's something negative about what he's doing, I tell him straight up front. I never hold back and try to go around the corner and say things in a nice way. I think short, sharp and straight to the point is much more effective."
The opposites work perfectly together. Certainly, Edberg's four tournament performances in the first half of the year are an auspicious start. His injury and subsequent loss at the French Open was disappointing, but it also echoed last year's performance. He lost in the early rounds of the French and Wimbledon last year, but went on to reach the semifinals or better of his next 11 tournaments, including a semifinal showing at the U.S. Open. So the loss may bode well, says Edberg, who admits to being superstitious. (He even keeps the identical routine throughout a tournament, using the same locker, shower, court chair and rackets.)
And Edberg certainly has time on his side. He sees the pressure of being No. 1 or 2 in the world, and is in no special hum to have it. "I'm quite happy with the life I have right now," Stefan says. "I can go shopping anywhere in the world, even in Sweden, and not be recognized, but I have a little bit of fame, too. People talk much more about Lendl and Becker, but I can sneak up from behind and that's a position I like. I would like to reach that No. 1 spot at least once in my career. Just to see how it feels."
by Paul Cohen
Stefan Edberg is a throwback to the great Australian and American serve-and-volleyers of the 1950s and '60s. His game has developed differently from the rest of his countrymen and most European players. An all-court, all-out attacker, he is one of a handful of players who has a chance to become the world's No. 1 player. Tall and lanky, quick and strong, Edberg is a perfect tennis athlete. But can a great player have a weakness and still become No. 1?
FOREHAND - The "book" on Edberg is that his forehand is his weakest shot. The problem is his grip and how far away from his body he hits the ball. Great forehands are usually hit with a semi-Western grip, relatively close to and in front of the body. Edberg's grip is a hybrid between Continental and Eastern. His grip inhibits him from naturally bending his elbow at contact point. (This technique normally provides support to most Eastern and semi-Western forehands.) Edberg's hand and wrist support most of the shot, causing him to hit the ball further away from his body with a straighter arm and medium contact point. Consequently, he doesn't control his forehand as well as players who use a semi-Western grip. It is not as "heavy" a shot as Boris Becker's, Ivan Lendl's, or other great forehand players. He hits crosscourt better than down-the-line. The shot is deceptive because he can hit winners, but it is not as steady as other forehands, nor is it as steady as the rest of his game.
BACKHAND -The best one-handed backhand in the sport. His slice is perhaps the most penetrating of all slices. He virtually swoops in on the ball, leaning into his shots in a classic sideways position. His finish on both the drive and slice are disciplined. His backswing is early and precise, with great depth, control and pace on the slice. His topspin backhand is a flatter drive but also an excellent shot.
SERVE - One of the most unusual deliveries in the sport. The ball toss is thrown markedly to the left-center of his head, rather than to the right. He arches his back and comes over the top of the ball, imparting topspin on both first and second serves, the latter more severely. The enormous kick he gets on his second serve makes it one of the three or four best. He has a hitch in his backswing: He virtually stops mid- way, his racket head pointing toward the ground. But his excellent wrist allows him to complete his backswing, getting his racket head into the back-scratch position. For the average club player, it is best not to imitate this motion because the ball toss can strain the back and the backswing is not a continuous motion.
The tremendous kick Edberg gets on his second serve allows him to move to the net quickly. Although Edberg's second serve is one of the best in the game, players like Becker can still take this shot on the rise and put great pressure on Edberg's first volley. John McEnroe and Miloslav Mecir can half-volley Edberg's second serve, keeping him in the backcourt. If he added a low-slicing second serve to his repertoire, he would have an excellent defense against those who attack his second serve by hitting it on the rise.
APPROACH GAME - Slices most of his approach shots. The backhand slice approach is the sport's best - deep, penetrating and powerful. His forehand approach is not as strong as his backhand, but he controls it well, hitting deep with a firm wrist on slice and drive.
VOLLEYS - The first great volleyer to come out of Europe in 20 years, Edberg is second only to McEnroe as a volleyer. The backhand volley is awesome, like Ken Rosewall's, with excellent pace, control, depth, touch - everything. It is hit with a locked wrist, high racket head, punched with subtle slice well in front, a classic. His forehand volley is not as strong. He hits the forehand volley in a medium contact point zone, giving him disguise. His first forehand volley, crosscourt and crosscourt soft angle are classics, hit with excellent control, penetration, power and depth. He pulverizes high balls off both sides. His touch, angle and drop volleys are masterful. His rush to the net behind first serve is decent, but not as fast as McEnroe's or Becker's. His footwork could be improved, especially on his second serve, when he rushes. Sometimes his ball toss is thrown so far to the left that his balance is poor, making his first step toward the net a bit awkward.
PASSING SHOTS - The backhand passing shot is stronger than the forehand. He hits great slice-angled passes on the backhand, drives well, and has excellent touch passes. Because his backhand is so formidable, he can drive the ball if it is a sitter. When in a defensive position, he uses his slice angles and slice lobs to great advantage. His strength on the forehand pass is crosscourt-angled, but it is more hit-or-miss than steady.
RETURN OF SERVE - One of the premier shots, taken on the rise, moving, and leaning well into the court. He can go either way, cross-court or down the line. He has excellent change of pace and hits angled dinks to disrupt opponents' momentum. His is a thinking player's return with depth, variety and touch. His forehand return is weaker than his backhand. However, he takes chances with the forehand and hits winners when he "goes for it."
TOUCH SHOTS - His lobs, drop shots, angles and variety shots are better on the backhand than forehand side. The slice backhand gives him tremendous variety.
- Stefan Edberg & Tony Pickard Mr Class and his teacher
- Serve-and-volley tennis rises from the dust in Melbourne
- Would you have liked Stefan dressed like this?
- Edberg about technology in tennis at San Francisco summit
- Federer has the best volley today. But Edberg...
- "Women's tennis of poor quality"
- Canè: "He was nervous"
- The coolest champion
- McEnroe: "I don't believe in Edberg"
- Edberg Overcomes Lendl at Tokyo
- Edberg beats McEnroe for 1st time, wins 3rd title
- Edberg Wins Stockholm Open Title
- "Becker puts a little more pressure than the others"
- Stefan Edberg wins the Swiss Tennis Open
- Stefan Edberg wins his first claycourt title in Gstaad