by Dann Kneipp
Stefan Edberg and Joe Kneipp (photo © 2003 Dan Kneipp)
Two time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg decided to give Joe Kneipp a game of squash today. There were two very obvious highlights to the match.
The first was Edberg reminding everyone that he was one of the greatest volleyers in the history of tennis as he lunged onto a backhand volley for a drop shot winner against Kneipp. Edberg’s overwhelming serve and volley tennis game transferred beautifully onto the squash court, with his immediate urge in each rally to get to the T and volley the ball at every opportunity. The second highlight of the match was after less than ten minutes of play seeing Edberg gasping for air as he rested against the side wall with his hands on his knees and his shirt drenched with sweat. Not something you see too often in a tennis match with all of the breaks between serves, points, games and sets.
Edberg was playing Joe Kneipp as part of the Catella Swedish Open ProAm. Tournament sponsors got a chance to have a game with some of the world’s best players including John White, Stewart Boswell, Kneipp and Olli Touminen. The event was held at the same venue as the qualifying tournament, a separate venue from the main draw with the portable court.
Edberg isn’t new to squash. Even during his tennis days he would play as a way to get a good run and add a little variety into his training programme. Even though he has been retired for a few years, he is still involved in tennis, coaching some of the top Swedish juniors. Typically during a week he will play tennis three times and squash twice. He obviously enjoys the game and it shows in the standard of play he has reached. He would be competitive against the top player of any club (if not beating them).
Edberg works well with his base of tennis skills to play squash. His backhand is a noticeable tennis slice swing, but it’s not as pronounced as you’d expect. He knows the bounces and angles of the walls well and nearly wrong footed Kneipp with a reverse boast. He also gave Stewart Boswell at game, with Bozza starting out very slow to accommodate Edberg’s level of play, not knowing how good he was. When Edberg hit a backhand cross court nick winner off the serve, and followed it up with two well earned points, Bozza realised he wasn’t playing a beginner and picked up the pace accordingly.
Edberg shows his tennis overhead smash skills on the squash court (photo © 2003 Dan Kneipp)
Edberg has played in squash tournaments and ProAms before and welcomed any advice on how to improve his game (he’s very friendly and approachable). At one stage Joe hit a good length on the backhand so that the ball only just bounced off the back wall. Edberg realised he had no room to swing the racquet and tried to do a two handed scoop-like shot to retrieve it.
After the game I pointed out to him that his only option when the ball is that close to the back wall, is to hit a back wall boast, and that with his standard of racquet skills he would have no trouble doing it and would be able to keep the rally going. It’s common at most squash clubs to see beginners who have just learnt how to do the back wall boast going absolutely crazy and hitting the shots at absurd and unnecessary times. But it’s rare to see a better quality player not using the shot when it’s crucial. Edberg said he was actually aware of the shot, but it was such a foreign concept of a shot to him that during games it never occurred to use it.
I guess it’s hard enough for a player with a lifetime of tennis to learn to leave the ball so that it hits the back wall, let alone turn around and whack it in the opposite direction, away from the tennis net, your opponent and over the tennis court behind you. I played a game of tennis with Sarah Fitzgerald in France last year and she said she’d been in the middle of a tennis game once and let the ball go, intending to hit it once it came off the back wall. Not so easy on a tennis court.
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