from Tennis Oggi
by Michela Rossi
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
"I beat your little hero, but I hope you're not too angry with me"... These are the words of a champion eager to leave the crowd with a twist of sympathy which loosens defenses going straight to the heart. Goran Ivanisevic is a smart guy and knows how to captivate the quiet German viewers, who get involved only when one of their fellows collects successes.
But it is a joke with a little bitter aftertaste because, yes, the Croat defeated the "little hero" Boris Becker, but said it at the end of a final lost badly against an opponent he had always beaten in the last six meetings.
The big hero of the Eurocard Open in Stuttgart, the jewel invented by mustachioed Ion Tiriach in 1988, was instead a renewed Stefan Edberg. The refinement of his touch, combined with the perfection in the shot execution, ended up to quickly destroy the resistance of a nervous and faulty "Mr Ace".
After a year of fogging (last season he only won a tournament), probably caused by a drop of concentration - however justifiable for an athlete who has now been on the breach for a decade (in 1985 Stefan was already world n. 5 and since then he has never ended a season behind this spot) - and family life distractions (his daughter Emilie was born in July 1993), the Swedish serve and volleyer is back as new again.
Already a winner in the first tournament of the season, the Qatar Open in Doha, Edberg has performed well in Australia and then in Germany touched the top of his form, displaying the ideal tennis he had already shown once at the US Open in the final match of the 1991 edition against Jim Courier...
"Not only I have found determination, confidence and physical condition - explained Edberg in the press conference - but I also greatly improved my game. Now I serve much deeper and return quite well, and then I boosted the two basic weapons of modern tennis. So I am competitive again, and I convinced myself that I can sign at least one more Grand Slam before ending my career."
The former no. 1 of the world also had the undisputed merit of being able to control the great changes happened in his life - gradually turned from that of a teenager into that of an adult man - and then to adapt to a new way of thinking his traveling tournament after tournament. Now the Swedish champion only travels with his wife Annette and his daughter Emilie, and has learnt how to handle completely alone also the setting of his trainings and the organization of all his movements.
His old and inseparable coach Tony Pickard now only follows him in the four events of the tennis "poker", to support him and "enlighten" him in the hardest matches. That's it. "I came back to basics", pointed out Stefan with a big smile, conscious of having taken a huge step forward, instead.
To pump up the interest for the Eurocard Open there was also the participation of another home little hero, Michael Stich, who was expected at a fiery derby against Becker. Although in the last year Stich gained reputation to the eyes of his countrymen, thanks to the countless successes conquered mostly in Germany, the hearts of German fans still beat faster for "Bum Bum".
It was a meeting at the highest level, the one staged by the two powerful Teutonic gladiators, with many spectacular points and finally a regenerated Becker. "The two-month break - explained the champion from Leimen - was very useful. Moreover I finally found a coach (Nick Bollettieri - editor note) able to take me off the bed in the morning." Boris also showed a more powerful forehand than usual and a much more lively footwork.
"Now - he continued - I still have to improve just a couple of little things, and I'll be able to be consistent for the rest of the year." Ironically, the super manager Ion Tiriac (the other great hero of the tournament) has thus obtained satisfaction from his former pupil right in the first edition of the tournament held after their divorce. After years of injuries and sudden ailments, the new father with racket was able to show his best in this important competition. And God knows how much his crowd, and Tiriac, needed it.
- "I am a happy person"
- Greatest tennis player: Edberg wins ‘best backhand’ poll
- Stefan in Federer's box at Wimbledon
- Game, set and cash to Edberg
- Federer has no more doubts on his real tennis idol
- Edberg Regains Form, Beats Stoltenberg
- Edberg: 71 minutes, $87,500
- Down the Coast
- Edberg, the pain and the dream
- Effusive Edberg serves up warning: Near-perfect Swede gains sweet revenge
- Edberg wins in Qatar and dreams Australia
- Paris, oh dear one
- Champion of style
- Nice-guy Stefan falls foul of club official
- Emilie Victoria, pretty as a queen