from Hamburger Abendblatt
by Christian-A.Thiel and Rainer Grünberg
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Stefan Edberg won the German Open at Rothenbaum
Hamburg - As the dark clouds moved back over the Centre Court and the first raindrops fell again on the clay, yesterday afternoon at 16.01 Stefan Edberg stylishly ended the 86th German Open, 1992. With a backhand volley, the Swede converted his second match point against Michael Stich from Elmshorn 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
$166,600, 355 world ranking points for his second tournament victory on clay, the revenge for the semi-final defeat at Wimbledon last year and the applause of the remaining 4,500 visitors were his reward for a week of high class tennis.
"The better player won in the end", later said the harmless-looking, relaxed and happy loser. But the four and a half hour long final, three times interrupted by showers, was not that simple.
In the best quality final since a long time at the Rothenbaum, between the two top serve-and-volley players in the world, Michael Stich could preserve for a set and eight and a half games the excellent form of his 6-1, 6-1 semi-final victory over Boris Becker. Strong and consistent first serves, placed volleys, brilliant passings and fantastic backhand returns gradually seemed to leave an effect also on a Stefan Edberg playing at the limit of his huge skills.
But since sometimes little things decide the outcome of a match at this high level, there were probably two moments in the second set, which influenced the final in the Swede's favor.
In the first rally of the sixth game (with Edberg up 3-2), Stich reached a volley from Edberg with a long step, to end the point from the baseline with a longline backhand. This action over-stretched the Achilles tendon in his left foot. The consequences: the ATP physio Bill Norris had to treat him at the following change of ends, and, in the final, 39 minute-long rain delay (on the score of 1-1 in the third set), Stich let the doctors examine the pain site with the ultrasound device. Here, Dr. Bernd Kabelka treated the irritation with a thickening, "which must be strictly observed" and advised Stich, who starts his tournament in Rome at 20:30 against Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, to withdraw.
In the third set against Edberg, Stich played with a "pretty bad" pain that made it difficult for him to "apply the required concentration on court".
Maybe Stich would have won in spite of this, had he not also protested for minutes four games later when the score was 4:4 and 30:30, losing his rhythm. A volley from Edberg landed clearly in the alley, but the linesman gave the ball "in", Stich complained, but played on, and Edberg made the point. Chair umpire Rudi Berger of Munich was then no longer willing to check the mark of the ball. Rather than break point down, game point Edberg. In the following service game Stich lost the set. In the early games of the third set, the German barely hit a ball.
"It was certainly a sad decision. Probably Rudi didn't want to give me advantages, because he is German. To that extent I am sympathetic", Stich commented in retrospect on the possibly decisive moment. But this didn't have influence, "Stefan just returned and passed in an excellent way afterwards".
Michael Stich leaves Hamburg with new confidence The crowd has finally accepted him and his form has stabilized. For the French Open beginning in two weeks, the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, he has a clear goal: "I want to win in Paris".
He has found the joy of tennis again, which seemed to have been lost in the monotony of professional everyday life. Jessica Stockmann, Davis Cup player Michael Westphal's former partner, has supported and motivated him.
And so, after the match, it was an unexpected as wonderful declaration of love, as Stich said from the speaker place: "I thank my family, my coaches and the person who has helped me in the past three weeks, to focus on tennis. Thank you, Jessi".
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