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from Neue Zürcher Zeitung
by Daniel Germann
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Former world class player Stefan Edberg talks for the first time about his new role in Roger Federer's coaching staff. He sees two or three little things Federer can work on. The most important thing is that he doesn't lose the motivation for playing tennis.
Stefan Edberg, what made you decide to accept Roger Federer's offer?
To be honest, I was very surprised when I got an incoming call in October. I had no intention of ever returning in any way to the tennis tour. But the more I thought about the offer, the more open I was for it. I have great respect for Roger as a person - on and off the court. At the same time I am also confident that I can help him. The decisive event was then a week in Dubai, during which we trained together.
When you stepped back at 30, you must have had enough of it.
Oh, yes, definitely. I needed a break. This does not mean that I no longer took the racquet in hand. I played regularly. I just wanted to no longer be part of the tour. In the last year and a half I went back to tournaments. Tennis is a great game, and now I realize that it is a difficult game. I have not seen a player like that. But with age one is known to be wise.
It took you quite an effort for you to join the tour again?
As difficult as it was, not. It's a chance. At the same time it changed my life. I have a family at home. Now I will increasingly travel again. But if I can help Roger, it's better this way. The more he plays, the better it is for tennis. He's still good enough to win a Grand Slam tournament. It is vital that he stays healthy and doesn't lose motivation. I have experienced this myself: physically, I would have certainly expected to keep on playing for another five years. But I could not pull myself together.
You have built up a second career in Sweden as a businessman. How do you manage your time traveling for ten weeks with Federer?
Two and a half years ago I started to ease up. I work in finance and real estate business. I've almost traveled as much as a tennis player. You have to find the right balance between work and pleasure in life. And eventually I came to the conclusion that I have worked enough and now deserve some time off. With Roger, now I'll spend my free time.
How will you evaluate the results of your work with Federer? Are you looking for improvements in his game?
I want to be a part of his team and bring in two or three small changes. Roger knows how to play tennis. For him it is important to keep the motivation. Regarding the on court strategy, even on his level there are still things you can work on. That takes some time. As I said, to keep the motivation is the most important part. Should Roger win a Grand Slam title this year or the next one, it would be a little dream for me.
Won't you make a serve-and-volley player from Federer?
Now, we start from scratch. No, seriously: tennis has changed so much that it is no longer possible to play like that, as I have done.
Which changes are you thinking of?
There are little things. Technically Roger is strong. It's more about how he moves on the court, how he hits the ball. And I think it would also be good if he would vary his game a bit more than he does at the moment.
Do you think those points were the reason why Federer didn't do so well last season?
The main reason was his back pain. If you're injured you can not train properly. And it's impossible to keep the level of the best without training. It is easy to remain a little behind. To get back, takes much more time. After all, Roger ended last year well. He has to start from that.
What kind of experience as a coach do you have?
I coached my son. This is not so easy. But otherwise? Not much, if I'm honest. But all the top players have much knowledge. In my opinion he has to dig down deep into this. It is a matter to discuss with him to give input.
Do you like it that several former tennis greats returned on the tour as coaches?
It is amazing what has happened in the past few months. I do not know if this is a trend. Anyway, people talk about it. Even here in Sweden, where tennis is not a big issue anymore. Andy Murray has been an inspiration with Ivan Lendl. Like Ivan Murray had indeed to wait long for his first Grand Slam title. Only with him, he found success.
Does it set the pressure? Certainly you don't want to lose against Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker...
I do not look at it from this perspective. I have a different approach: as a player you look at yourself. Now it's about what is best for Roger.
No small internal contest?
No, at least not for me.
Andy Murray said when he was training for the first time with Ivan Lendl, he was trying to impress him, because he had formerly admired him as a player so much. Have you felt something similar from Federer? You're his childhood idol.
Yes, so he says. He is a very sensitive and nice person. Seriously: We have a lot of respect for each other.
But was he not nervous?
I was a bit nervous when I hit with him two years ago in Stockholm for the first time. It was before a match against Stanislas Wawrinka. I warmed up at noon with him, but had to leave after that. When I got home and saw the television, Roger was down a set and a break. And I said to myself, "Oh it was a great warm up...". But he still managed to turn the match around. To my luck.
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