from Tages Anzeiger
by René Stauffer
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Stefan Edberg has clear ideas about how Roger Federer can take more Grand Slam titles.
Stefan Edberg seems surprisingly fresh for someone who has just arrived from Europe in Melbourne. Even more so if you consider that what Roger Federer's coach first found were temperatures above 40 degrees. During the match against James Duckworth he gives a calm impression and later he commented quietly on Federer's victory: «He had to win and he did what he had to do.»
Even the night before he had met the media for the first time. The international only for a few minutes, but for the Swiss representative he takes a lot of time. As an ATP official in the Melbourne Park players restaurant wants to put an end to the interview after just six minutes, he waves his hand and says resolutely to go on. For almost half an hour the former world number one explained his views and refuted the stereotype of the taciturn and reserved Swede. The six-time Grand Slam champion, two days before his 48th birthday, shows that relaxed and modest living has a beneficial effect. He seems to be inspired by his new mission - to lead Federer once again to major triumphs in the late phase of his career.
Why did you accept the offer to enter Federer's team?
He called me in October and asked me what I was doing. Then, he explained, Paul Annacone would leave the team, and in the discussion of who they could get, my name had appeared. I was very surprised. I had not thought that I would return to the tour again. Then the idea of being his coach or consultant looked better appealing to me, after I had thought through everything. I respect Roger a lot and he asked me if I could help him - and I think I can do that. After the training week we agreed.
Was it difficult to make the decision?
It was. I had to discuss everything with my family and consider my situation in Sweden. My life is now changing somewhat. I'm more in the public, I must travel more. Christopher (his 16-year-old son) is still in school, otherwise the decision would have been easier for me. This is a great opportunity to help Roger. And I think it is important: because the longer he plays, the better it is for tennis.
What did you have to change in order to return to the tour? You're now a businessman.
Two and a half years ago, I started to change my life. I had a lot of working after I had stopped playing tennis. I worked in the financial business, I have an investment company. This is a job I can do traveling as well. I was also involved in property transactions, but now I have someone who takes care of that. I started to give myself free time - without knowing what was coming. But now it fits in well. In life you have to find a balance between work and pleasure. I have a feeling that I've worked enough. This is now my free time (laughs).
Are you confident about Federer?
Everyone knows that he had a tough year, also because of injuries. If he is healthy, focused and motivated - and he seems to be - he's good enough to still win Grand Slam titles. Of course, the road to there is long. I think he will want to play as long as he has the feeling of still being able to get great titles. So it was at least for me. From a physical point of view I would have been able to continue for five years, but I quit because my motivation waned. It is difficult, if you are almost 33 like he is. But until 35 tennis should be physically no problem if you're healthy. So he still has some good years left.
Had you had enough of tennis when you stepped back at 30?
Definitely. And that for a long time. I needed distance from the tour, even though I continued to train. Only in the last one and a half, two years I was at the tournaments again and enjoyed them, for example Wimbledon. My mind slowly returned to tennis. It's a great game in many ways. And today I also understand that tennis is very difficult, very tricky. 20 years ago I had not yet realized, but with age you get wise.
How will you measure success: from his results? Or do you have a vision?
My vision is to be part of his team, to have an influence and perhaps to help him with two or three details that could get better. Because he knows how to play tennis. It is all about keeping the motivation, but you can still learn things, for example, in terms of the strategy in this age. But this is our first joint tournament here, and everything takes time. I also need to find out what kind of person he is and how he works. If he could win a Grand Slam title this year or next, my dream would come true.
So you'll not try to make him a serve and volley player?
No, because he would have to start from scratch... And now that's so much harder than before. I saw in Dubai. Tennis has become a different game than in my time.
What details do you want to improve?
There's about how he moves and hits the ball, this can improve a little. If he plays positive, this make that much. He must vary his game more than he does. But this process takes time.
Do you see a main reason for his decline?
If you're injured, as he was, and can not train properly, you will be slower and it's impossible to keep yourself at the top. The good is he had indeed not a great year, but finished it pretty well, played good tennis in recent months. If he can build on that, he has a chance to come back. Usually you goes down quickly, however, and after that it takes a long time to come back. For him, to come back he needs to be a little faster and have more confidence. That could change everything, because the differences are so small. The first priority is that he stays healthy, number 2, that he keeps the motivation and number 3 all the rest. That's how I see it.
Do you have plenty of experience as a coach?
I coached my son, and that was not so easy (laughs)... Honestly, I have very little experience. But I have seen a lot of tennis on TV in the last 15, 20 years. And I continued to play, often with children. All the top players have their own knowledge. For me it's about digging deep and getting this to filter my thoughts. Then it's up to Roger to assess whether that makes sense or not. He learns pretty quickly, which I have already noticed. He can quickly change something that is great.
When Federer called you in October, did he have a concrete offer?
At the beginning it was just about what I could imagine. Then he invited me to a tournament, which was not possible for me. Then we agreed the training week in Dubai, and that was the best, because there were no people around us. There, everything went off. I had to feel comfortable to jump on the train. And I made ??it clear to him that I could not be there for him 52 weeks a year. Although I do not think he wants me 52 weeks around. To start with about 10 weeks and see how it goes, is pretty good.
Is the exact work schedule already planned?
We discussed it, but not yet finalized everything. After the Australian Open, we will talk about it again. It is good to have a flexible planning. Because a lot can happen during a year.
What do you think about the fact that so many former champions are now back on the tour - you, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Michael Chang?
Everything that's happened in the past few months is amazing. One after the other are coming back. This increases interest and people are talking more about tennis, even in Sweden. With Lendl Murray has shown the way. They also fit well together. Murray had not won a Grand Slam title, and Lendl once had to wait until 24. But the situation is different for everyone. I am now part of a team, and that's easier for me than if I had to take full responsibility.
Murray said he had tried to impress Lendl in the first practice because he had admired him earlier. Do you think that it was similar for Federer?
Yes, because he is very reasonable. (Laughs) No. When I was growing up, Borg was my idol, and I know that Roger was a fan of mine. Maybe because he's from Basel and I played there when he was young (Edberg won the Swiss Indoors in 1985/86/88). Maybe he liked my game. I would say: we respect each other.
Were you nervous when you first trained with him?
I hit a few balls with him the first time in Stockholm a few years ago and I was, frankly, already nervous. I really warmed up well. But the disturbing thing was that I had to leave the same evening, and when I came home and watched the television, he was down a set and a break against Wawrinka. I said: "That was a really good play...". But then, he still managed to win, and I felt much better (Federer won the 2010 quarter-final 2:6, 6:3, 6:2 and later took the title).
For you, who is the most impressive tennis player?
We currently have a fantastic generation, and I have a lot of respect for all the top players because they're playing on a different, better level than we did. But I would single out Federer and Nadal over the last decade and all have made huge contributions to tennis. Roger has a great balance and is one of the best, if not the best who has ever played this game. Nadal is not far behind him and still has a lot of time. And Djokovic has the momentum on his side. What amazes me is that four players have virtually won all the Grand Slams in the last ten years. This has never happened before and is highly unusual, but good for tennis. There are some great, famous players. Now it would be nice to get a surprise, a new Grand Slam winner. But it does not look as if this could happen in Australia.
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