from Matchball (issue of January 20th, 1994)
by Stefano Semeraro
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
After ending a nine month long drought, «daddy» Edberg wants a Grand Slam title for 1994. And he aims at a "red" target...
On January 19th he turned 28 years old. To celebrate his birthday a week before he gave himself an important victory in Qatar in the tournament of the sheikhs, the first of 1994 and the first in Stefan Edberg's record, after a drought lasted nine months since Madrid '93. A suffered delivery, in short, for one who was accustomed to living at the very top of the ATP rankings and last season - also due to another "delivery", the one with which his wife Annette gave birth to little Emilie, Edberg's eldest daughter - crashed some floor down: ATP number 5. As he had never experienced in the year-end rankings since 1988.
«I really needed this victory - frankly confessed the new father during our meeting in Doha where he was with his whole family - The fact of no longer being able to win one tournament was becoming a small obsession, this success is really a good confidence booster. And it is definitely a good sign, because at the beginning of the season we start from an even level, and it is important not to miss opportunities like this».
- Victory in hand, Rebound Ace seems to create you problems: also here in Qatar, during the first round match won against Gary Muller, you suffered a new back pain...
«In a way it suits my game, so much that right on Rebound Ace in Australia, I got good results. But playing on it I had many physical problems, so that now I'm inclined to think that they are due to the surface. Surely it also partly depends on me, because the other players are not affected in the same way, while four years out of five I had this kind of problems, that I have not had with other surfaces.
Rebound Ace is perfect when you play indoors, while it becomes dangerous when it suffers the effects of weathering. In Australia, for example, under that tremendous sun, it gets very sticky, dangerous for knees and ankles. It also returns all the heat it receives, and so sometimes playing on it becomes like walking inside an oven.»
- Are there better surfaces?
«Yes, for example Greenset, Plexipave or DecoTurf. Not that Rebound Ace is to be deleted, but you can choose better, this is my point.»
- What do you think of what Becker said about the players that, according to him, would make use of performance-enhancing drugs?
«I think Boris was not really very wise to come up with that kind of statements. The ATP has a good anti-doping program, tests are frequent and accurate, and tennis is definitely a "clean" sport in this sense. If Boris really knows something, he would have to make names. This way I do not think it helps.»
- Which Edberg shall will see in 1994?
«I must say that I feel very good, and I'm very pleased to have started the year with a success. The last one was not a bad season for me, but I honestly can't even say it was good. I won one tournament in Madrid, and for me it's not much. But now I seem to be on the right way, and I think that if I do not have health problems I will be able to give myself a good 1994.»
- Do you have any particular goal?
«I would like to improve my tennis compared to last year. In 1993 I did not play very well, at least I did it only in a few occasions. So when the Grand Slam tournaments were over, I looked at myself in the mirror and I told myself that I had made nothing special and it was better to use the rest of the season to prepare for 1994 in the best way. I think I succeeded and finally I begin to see the results.
If you want to play well in Australia you have to reach this event well prepared from a physical and mental point of view. And this is a work to be done between November and December.
After Doha I will play an exhibition in Australia, in Adelaide, then the Australian Open, where each match must be treated with great concentration, so I'll need to be in top condition at least for three weeks. In the last month, month and a half I took just ten days off, for the rest I played tennis almost every day...».
- In Qatar you came without Tony Pickard, are you maybe planning to split up with him?
«No, Tony will join me in Australia next week (the last for the reader, editor's note). In December, I trained alone because like every year I spent a couple of weeks in Sweden before Christmas, and
I took the opportunity to train with many of the Swedish tennis players. Then I came to Doha quite early, on December 28th, because with the cold in Europe it was better to run away in search of sun and heat...».
- Have you worked on anything in particular?
«Yes, on my serve. It's always been the key to my game, and last year it did not work as it should have, so I decided to take care of it. I wanted to find the fluency of action and impact that I need, and now it is much better than two months ago. I think I'm on the right way. I found the right "swing", now what I need is to play a few matches. I need to serve well to set my game, and especially when the match gets close, I need to serve better than I did last year. Also because this year I'm going to win some tournaments more.»
- Do you think you have a chance in Australia?
«Yes, I think I'm playing well enough to win. In Australia I have often picked up good results, I like playing in Melbourne. Over the last three months I was able to play good tennis: although I have not won anything, I lost some very tight matches, and I think that if I can maintain the standard of this week I can do something really good in Melbourne.»
- Some say that your tennis now seems outdated if you compare it to that of the young "bombers" on the tour...
«Yes, it's true, my tennis may look a little "old-fashioned", and it probably is. But in the past it has worked very well, and I am convinced that it can still do very well, although last year things didn't actually go like they should. I hope I can keep on winning with my "old style" tennis for a few years: now I'm too old to change style! Maybe I can try to take a few more risks, to be more aggressive, but I can not really distort my game.»
- Are you interested in the clay season you or will you focus on Wimbledon and the US Open?
«I'll seriously try to win in Paris, even if I know that for me it's very hard. Indeed it does not matter much which tournament, the important would be to win at least one Slam in this 1994... On the other hand, one must set oneself goals, challenges, and Roland Garros is the only one of the four Grand Slam events that I have never won. If I could choose, it would be the first on the list.»
- About clay: you have not come to Rome since '84...
«It's true. I almost never entered the Foro Italico in my schedule, and perhaps in the past the reason was that the tournament seemed decayed. I know now that it is back to very high levels, but I still prefer to play Hamburg the week before and then the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf: to add Rome would be too tiring before Paris. But it's not said that I won't change my mind next year.»
- Becoming a father has also made you feel... "older"!
«No! I'm still quite young and capable of giving anyone a hard time, if that's what you mean...».
- But something has changed...
«Of course. Having a family brings many responsibilities, but it is hard to exactly say what has changed in my life...».
- Perhaps the way you look at your sports career?
«I would not say that. I always consider my work very seriously, I know that to remain at the highest level I have to use much of my time for training and working hard on court. More than anything else it's my life off the court that has changed as, like everybody, I would like to spend more time with my family. But back to the initial question, I must say that for the moment age does not scare me. The problem in this job is to find new motivations, because physically you can keep fit for very long, as proved by the examples of Lendl and Connors. At 30, 32 your tennis can not be the same as when you were 25, but I think I have at least a couple of more years at a high level in front of me. Afterwards, it may be hard to maintain the required game consistency and solidity, although, on the other hand, now I can exploit the experience I gained over many years. In short, unless I suffer a serious injury, I think you will see me around for a few more years...».
- Do you have any particular goal that you would like to achieve before the end of your career?
«As I said before, I'd like to win at least one more Grand Slam tournament. And most importantly, I want to try to play great tennis as long as possible. But I'm not going to go ahead at all costs. I think I will be able to realize when the right time has come to say "That's it", sit down and look back with satisfaction to a long and happy career. From now on, every year spent on court will be a bonus for me.»
- In short, you can't see yourself on court at 40, like Connors...
«No, no, absolutely! I can guarantee it right now. In any case I will play maximum up to 35.»
«She will decide, I do not know what she will do, what her interests will be... I'll take her to a tennis club, then we'll see. I certainly won't put any pressure on her.»
- And what about you? What will you do after tennis?
«I could remain in tennis, in some way, but it is still early to say. Surely I won't stay hands in hands, I believe that keeping busy is very important.»
- What do you think of the current tennis situation? Many argue that without great personalities and rivalries public interest may wane.
«Tennis is such an international sport that it will nonetheless find a way to survive. There are still big personalities, maybe not many as in the past, but we must also consider that tennis has changed and that from the quality point of view the tennis played today is the best ever. Players are perfectly prepared, very strong, and "power tennis", as they call it, may have some negative sides as regards to the indoor tournaments, but I think it is a positive development anyway. And then it is not said that, as happened in the '70s with Borg, tomorrow won't come up some young talent, capable of revolutionizing everything, of making a change.»
- About changes: what do you think about the new ATP points that favor winners and finalists?
«I think it's a step in the right direction. Definitely, something had to be changed, this is a good start, if you want to give the rankings greater credibility...»
- And what about the new formulas suggested for the Davis Cup?
« Well.. You'll see that eventually something will change, but I'm always fond of the old system. I like the idea of playing home, in front of my home crowd , because it is something that gives you a truly special and unique feeling. I would not want this to change, in short, but if it should happen it won't mean that because of this I would refuse to play the Cup.»
- We talked before about goals for '94: does the Davis fall in the topic?
«It's always fun to play it, and I was very lucky to win it for three times in the past... I would like to win it again with new team mates, with the new Swedish generation. In the last two years we put on a good team. Not as good as that of the past, but still very competitive, so why not?...».
- Stefan Edberg & Tony Pickard Mr Class and his teacher
- "I am a happy person"
- Edberg to BBC: "Federer is the greatest in my eyes"
- Edberg: "No one thought Federer and Nadal would be here today"
- Edberg: "It was like the script for a movie"
- Down the Coast
- Edberg, the pain and the dream
- Effusive Edberg serves up warning: Near-perfect Swede gains sweet revenge
- Little and big heroes
- Edberg wins in Qatar and dreams Australia
- Champion of style
- Nice-guy Stefan falls foul of club official
- Emilie Victoria, pretty as a queen
- Bruguera bows before a flawless Edberg
- Edberg imposed his style on Bruguera