from Tennis Magazine (issue of March 1999)
It was 15 years ago... with this section "-15" (already a long time, right?), we have the opportunity to plunge into memories, many of which marked the history of the game. In the month of March 1984, Tennis Magazine dedicates a special to the incomes of the champions (executive salaries). But on the courts a new talent from Sweden emerges. At 18, Stefan Edberg, junior world champion, signs his first professional victory flying in the tournament of Milan. In the final, he dominates his countryman Mats Wilander snapped a regular presence in major events.
Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg shake hands after their 1984 Milan final
What a carnage! The withdrawals of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, both injured, are two thunders at the start of the tournament in Milan, particularly that of World No. 1 - McEnroe - who is retiring at the last minute for the third consecutive year! The event drops his two favorites, and at the same time also a part of its interest, even if the player field, with Mats Wilander, Guillermo Vilas, Kevin Curren and Henri Leconte, is very attractive. But the absence of the two American stars will be quickly forgotten. A relatively unknown player until then, surprisingly occupies the center of the stage.
At age 18 (born on January 19th, 1966 in Vastervik), Stefan Edberg did not, however, arise from nowhere. Author of an historic Junior Grand Slam the previous year - as the American Butch Buchholz in 1956* - he has already been noticed on the professional circuit when he reached the semi-finals in Bournemouth in April 1983.
He also struck a blow at the tournament in Rotterdam just before Milan. Impressive against Johan Kriek and Eliot Teltscher, in the semifinals the athletic Swede (1.85 m, 72 kg) scared Ivan Lendl, forced to fight for three sets (6/3, 2/6, 7/6). Cast to the 35th place in the ATP ranking, it's with full of confidence that Stefan Edberg lands in the Lombard city.
Winner of Fritz Buehning in the first round, the young striker does not give up to feelings against his doubles partner Anders Jarryd, 15th in world ranking (6/2, 6/4). Unashamedly, he continued his run successfully beating the experienced Kevin Curren and Brad Drewett. All this without losing a set. The "victims" of the new "sensation" are impressed, especially by his commitment. "He has a very fast movement and his serve is very difficult to read," says Curren, while Drewett already compared him to John Newcombe due to the efficacy of his second serve.
Stefan only has one hurdle to pass before his first title. Not least because it's Mats Wilander, 4th player in the world, winner of Vitas Gerulaitis in the semifinals (6/0, 6/2). On the momentum of his second Grand Slam won three months earlier on the Kooyong grass in Australia, Mats is approaching the final in full confidence, especially since he has already won five times against his younger countryman (19 months separate the two men).
But then again, Edberg shows no inferiority complex and continues to play in attack. Strangely, Wilander is not trying to break the game and insists on his backhand that, played crosscourt, overflows him regularly. Strangely, because Edberg's forehand, with its long preparation, is at first sight the only weakness to exploit. Still, the junior world champion gave a demonstration of attacking tennis on the synthetic surface in Milan. At 6/4, 5/1, he is not impressed, either by his opponent or by the situation, and ends with a love game including two aces and a winning serve.
Solid in his head, he has dropped his serve only once all week despite a total of 24 break points reached by his opponents. But the most surprising and most promising is Edberg's game, that seems to have only preserved composure from the Swedish traditions. Unusual and spectacular, the player himself admits: "I'd try to do things with the ball rather than wait for my opponent's moves." Follower of serve and volley since he gained power and vivacity, Stefan left his two-handed backhand behind in 1980**. The coach behind this change and this ambitious challenge is called Percy Rosberg, the man who earlier coached a certain Bjorn Borg. Inexhaustible Swedish tennis...
* Buchholz won all four titles between 1958-59.
** It actually happened in 1982.
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- Sweden, knock if you are there
- Book on glory days of Swedish tennis is out in Italy
- Stefan Edberg: best of the Swedes?
- Edberg Emerging As Super Swede
- In Milan a star was born, Edberg
- The rising "star" of Edberg
- Edberg, from Sweden with grandeur