by Linus Sunnervik
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Gossips said his tennis career was over. Six months later, with Stefan Edberg as coach, Roger Federer is reborn. Sport-Expressen met the Swedish tennis icon for a conversation about the details behind the 32 year old's strong comeback - and the future. - I'm convinced he can win one or two Grand Slams, says Edberg.
Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer in Rome
Roger Federer is feeling better than ever.
Two weeks ago, the 32-year-old and his wife Mirka became parents of their second pair of twins. Within next summer, the couple's huge luxury villa worth SEK 115 million (€ 13 million, $ 17.5 million, translator note) in Valbella, Swiss Alps, will be finished. And on the tennis court the Swiss is back to his good old shape - thanks to a Swedish coach.
Or that, in any case, is what the media think a week before the French Open kicks off.
Stefan Edberg is modest when Sport-Expressen meets him.
- I do not know. I might have had some impact. But the biggest part is that he's healthy in his back and has been able to train properly, said Edberg.
Contacted in December
The reality was quite different for Federer last winter.
After what he called his worst season in twelve years, the tennis icon was questioned. For the first time he was reminded of his age in the form of a back pain. And that he would be able to challenge Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the future was seen as impossible.
Some wondered if it was worth at all continuing to fight for the semifinal places.
In December, Federer's decision to contact Stefan Edberg. A training camp in Dubai and, later, the duo's collaboration was announced with the start of the Australian Open.
- How he came up to hire me I still don't know, laughs Edberg. - It was great to be included in the discussion. I think it's good that he seeks help, he gets the opportunity to let others influence him, he says.
With an aggressive serve-and-volley game - not different from Stefan Edberg's own, covering all the court - Federer broke into the semifinals of the Australian Open, winning in Dubai and reached two more Masters finals. The number one was suddenly reborn.
- It feels like we are on the right track, says Edberg.
- I told him he needs to develop the game he already has. And I think he realized it. Now he is on track to find a game which is more aggressive. This is probably just the reason why he contacted me, given the style of play that I had, he says.
Playing with bigger racket
A less noticed change in the material. Federer has always played with a racket of 580 square centimeters. In 2014, he has gone up to about 630 square centimeters. It gives him more hardness in the battles and a better return on serve - a weapon the Swiss has always been able to lean on in difficult times.
- It was a pretty bold decision to replace the racket. But that's exactly right. You have to look at where improvement opportunities exist, says Edberg.
Nowadays Edberg can be seen on the Tour along with Federer during the big tournaments. The Swede's own commitment to a tennis academy in Växjö means that he selects the occasions to be on site.
- But we keep in touch all the time. It's about give and take - it's almost like being in a relationship. I am part of a team, where his second coach Severin Lüthi is also included. We bounce ideas constantly among ourselves, said Edberg.
How do you fit together?
- It feels like we go well together. We have similar personalities - we all want that little extra bit. On the tennis court, I can add the last tactical bits. Opponents know he is already so good.
Outsider at the French Open
In March Sport-Expressen could tell that the duo will continue their cooperation for the rest of the season. The next stop for them is the French Open in Paris - the tournament that Federer has only won in 2009, when Robin Soderling sensationally beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
Federer is back as a world top-four and goes there as an outsider.
- Now he has played well in five or six months in terms of build-up. The first condition is that he must be healthy. But I think he looks better now than when I jumped in, said Edberg.
He believes that the 32 year old's body has still got more.
- Under the right conditions, when he plays his best tennis, I'm convinced he can win one or two more Grand Slams.
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