by Simon Graf and René Stauffer
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Coach Stefan Edberg is optimistic about Roger Federer, but calls for a more aggressive style of play
Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer during a hitting session in Paris
Paris. In Paris only Stefan Edberg hesitates to give an interview. "I'd rather stay in the background," he says on Friday. But, friendly as the former world number one who joined Roger Federer's team in December is, he finally accepts on Saturday.
In the evening, a handful of Swiss media representatives asked the 48-year-old Swede, in the interview room 3, about a first balance of Federer's results, before his fourth round (from 12.30 clock) against the dangerous Latvian Ernests Gulbis (ATP 17) and what he thinks of his employer now bringing four children with him through the world of tennis.
How is it for you to be back in Paris? Do memories come back?
Since I ended my career I was quite a few times in Paris, played here on the Senior Tour. But of course not in Roland Garros. Memories? Yes, memories have already been revived. Or rather, people will always remind me of one year: 1989. I am asked again and again about the final against Michael Chang... At the time I thought I would get a chance again. But 20 years later, I realized I would have had to take advantage of that opportunity. Too bad it did not work. But Michael is happy. (smiles)
As a coach, you now meet former rivals like Chang or Boris Becker again. How's that?
Pleasant. It's nice to chat with Boris or others a few minutes when we cross ourselves. It's a bit like before. But it's also fun to experience the current players. I still do not know everyone, it's still a learning process for me. I was gone so long. It has really changed a lot. Everywhere new stadiums were built. At the Australian Open, for example. Or in Indian Wells. There, everything is new. Here at Roland Garros it has not changed so much, I'm feeling a little more at home. But to be on the road with Roger, it enormously facilitates life. They treat you very well everywhere.
Earlier, you had fierce duels with Boris Becker. Does this rivalry now also continue off the court?
I do not see it that way. My focus is on Roger. Of course, Boris takes care of Djokovic, one of his main opponents. And I understand that it's a good story, a bridge between past and present. But I do not consider it that way.
How far have you come with Federer since the Australian Open?
We all know that he had a very difficult year because he was plagued by injuries. The main difference is that he is healthy this season. More or less. That's why he plays better. This means that he can also have better training, can concentrate on the essentials. He is again on a faster track. In the phase of Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, he played really good tennis. Better than in Australia. Only in the last few weeks he has not played as much, for obvious reasons. It is now a matter for him to pick up where he was before. He has spent the last six, nine months doing a lot of work. He is fit enough to be successful. I still believe that he can still win a Grand Slam tournament this year when he plays his best tennis. Maybe even two. Who knows.
But in Paris, he didn't play his best tennis yet so far.
No, not yet. But from time to time matches like the one against Tursunov are good. Roger had to work hard to win. He played not so well. But that can change quickly. I know that from experience. And to play better in the first week of a Grand Slam is not as important as in the second. Everyone has a bad day during the tournament. Better to have one in the first week.
Many think Ernests Gulbis could surprise Federer in the fourth round. How would you rate this match?
Of course Gulbis is self-confident, he has just won a tournament. He probably believes he has a chance. But in order to beat Roger on best of five, you have to play pretty well. When Roger finds his game, I guess his chances significantly get higher than Gulbis'. But of course he should increase his level.
You said Federer must attack more often. Against the very best it is not enough to play from behind. How can you influence that? Is he on the right track?
We all know that he will not beat the best from the baseline. I would prefer that he plays too aggressive than not aggressive enough. I know from experience that you should play your best tennis to try to control the rallies. Whether that means to come to the net or to remain behind, does not make much difference. If he plays too aggressive, he will win more than if he remains too passive.
Since you played, a lot has changed. Players are on average bigger and stronger, have better material. What can you bring to Federer?
I would describe myself as a mentor. I am a new voice that brings new ideas. I understand tennis, I can help him in details. I see myself as part of a team, give inputs and try to show him new prospects. Ultimately, however, he must decide whether he wants to implement something like this. Of course, Roger also understands this sport very well, better than most, and probably better than I do. What I can bring him: we can have a good time together, talk about the past or the present. This leads sometimes to discuss even more than technical or tactical things.
What did you find out about Federer that you had not known before?
I noticed especially how well he can switch. He can be very laid-back, but when the match comes closer, he transforms himself. All of a sudden. That is very impressive. Therefore, he is probably the person he is.
Has anything changed for him since he has four rather than two children?
(Laughs) Yes, two children have been added. He now has a big family. But he likes to have his family around him. I do not think that much has changed for him. Anyway, he is a very busy man.
Could family have an influence on his long-term growth plans?
I am convinced that he has a chance this year and the next to be very successful again. And he knows it. I do not think he needs to change something big. He just has to have a lot of self discipline to do the right things. If he stays healthy, he still has two good years ahead of him.
Were there many families on the tour when you played?
There were a few. I also traveled three years with my first child. Children change your life forever, and probably with them your chances to succeed statistically decrease. But that is something Federer has to deal with. Family is the most important thing for him, even if tennis is still important.
How much has your life changed since your return on the tour?
I travel more again, standing in the spotlight. But such an opportunity may never come again. If I can help Roger, why not? Now I have more time than five years ago, when probably I wouldn't have gone. But first I had to find out if I could give him something, whether we would fit together.
You should have told him you would be available as long as he wants.
It's this way, as of now. But things can change... (laughs) We will see from year to year and analyze in the fall, where we stand.
Did you talk to him about the way and timing to end his career?
No, not yet. And if he should ask me, I will say that he should keep on playing.
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