from La Gazzetta dello Sport
by Vincenzo Martucci
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
The Swede from his rivalry with Becker to his relationship with his "pupil". «We had stronger personalities. Federer goes beyond. And he'll win more.»
Stefan Edberg is expecting an interview on his famous pupil, Roger Federer. That's why, knowing his famous understatement, that he refined during his long stay in London as a player and during his relationship with coach Tony Pickard, we started from the past that rolls back. Which means from Boris Becker, yesterday his rival on court - also 6 times at the Masters, now played in London, - today as coach of Novak Djokovic.
Last July, in the Wimbledon final, Becker beat Edberg.
"We are no longer rivals like back at the time, we are more friends: we know that, with the desire we had to win against each other, we pushed each other to give our best. Now we are helping two champions. It's more relaxed, at least for me."
How is it possible that two champions like you only met four times in Grand Slam?
"Today, Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray meet at every Slam. At the time, there were more upsets before the finals, there were more people who could win. Now tennis is better, and this generation of superstars is amazing, back then there were stronger personalities."
Becker has pioneered the power tennis that sent to retirement the net dancer Edberg.
"Many things have changed: rackets, surfaces, balls, strings, physical training, return... Today nobody teaches my style of play and, once you are 20 years old, you can't learn it anymore. Too bad. Because the game is so predictable, everyone already knows what will happen, and how, and then they meet and play in the same way, just one way. There is not much variety, and there are not great net players like McEnroe, Becker and myself. I'd be glad if someone served and volleyed 50% of the times."
How could Edberg be competitive at the top with this tennis?
"Of course I would not go to the net 89/90% of times. I would mix it up to surprise my opponent."
In fact, Federer beat Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 playing serve&volley, then he abandoned the net game only to resume it in 2014.
"Going to the net is part of Roger's offensive process: which means end the point earlier, and vary a lot just to look for the solution with the weapons of his repertoire. Be more creative and unpredictable. Even with volleys."
Edberg wanted to increase the tournaments of Federer's season.
"With the passing of the years, you need to find your groove into the game, that Roger found, along with the confidence in his shots, also because he has solved his back issues."
Why did you agree to coach Federer?
"When Roger called in September-October last year I was very surprised, because I had been for long out of the loop and if he had not asked it I don't think that I would have been interested. But what a honour, what a unique occasion: one of the best tennis players ever asked me to help him. I thought about it, I wanted to do a week together in Dubai in December, and now I'm happy I accepted. Because he is exceptional, both as a tennis player and as a person. And I found a great feeling even with Severin (Lühti), who follows him more often than I do in tournaments."
What did Roger ask you?
"He told me what he had thought about me to inspire his game, because I had been in such situations, and to exchange ideas."
What surprises you most of Federer's tennis?
"That he can make any type of game, and any shot, and still try to improve, and be more aggressive. The change of racquet was the first step: I know what it meant to play with a small oval. And I know that some small details can make all the difference."
Few saw other major triumphs in Federer's future.
"I think he can win more Grand Slams. As we saw at Wimbledon, where he was very, very close. Immediately we have seen the progress of the work together. Now he needs to insist because what he has done is amazing, like being in top form at 33, but if he can play his tennis he has always got a chance."
Federer is not only a tennis player, he is an icon. For example, he always wins the Edberg Sportsmanship Award: for his colleagues he is the one who behaves better on court.
"He's a great ambassador for the sport, on and off the court. You can also see it from the crowd's reaction around the world. Roger is one of the best things that ever happened to tennis: the longer he plays the better it is for everybody. He goes beyond, he is unique. As an opponent, he would have been very, very tough to deal with, even for the best Edberg."
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