from The Challenge (Arnesen-Tennis)
by Jonas Arnesen *
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
(picture by Arne Forsells)
Today Stefan Edberg turns 50 years old. Big and hearty congratulations! But what else should I write that has not already been written or said about the sympathetic Västervik Son?
Six Grand Slam titles in singles, three in doubles, a total of 41 singles and 18 doubles titles, three Davis Cup victories, the Olympic bronze and 72 weeks as world number one.
That's a mini summary of his fabulous career that I have been privileged to follow as a journalist.
It started back in the early 1980s, when Stefan's father Bengt was kind enough to call the Barometern newspaper in Kalmar to tell his kid had played and how it had gone.
Usually it went well. Very well.
But Stefan himself was not so talkative. He hasn't been in recent years, either.
As a star in the spotlight in one of the world's largest sports, he managed to preserve his reclusive ways. Similarly, after the end of his career. When other former top players criticized - sometimes very loudly - their successors, Stefan kept quiet.
Sure, once you've sometimes wished that he would have burst in public, for example on how things have been managed in Swedish tennis over the years, but no, we will probably never get to experience the day when Stefan Edberg will go out and criticize someone.
This does not mean he lacks opinions. But he chose to express them internally and in his modest way.
Or, as someone once said: "Stefan does not say much, but, when he does, everyone listens."
Stefan was a fantastic player and he is a fantastic person who is respected and liked in all camps.
He is one of tennis' greatest gentlemen of all times and, when he ended his career in 1996, ATP saw it as a matter of course to let the Sportsmanship Award become the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award.
Of course, the prize awarded at Saltarö, Värmdö, during the annual Saltarömästerskapet (a competition for the juniors amateurs of the resort), is not equally well known. But actually, Stefan has also a large part in the prize.
After one of his Wimbledon victories, I asked Stefan if he could give some small autographed thing - the idea was a few balls or a signed photo - for the best junior of the year at the Saltarömästerskapet.
"No," replied Stefan, and added, "But I am happy to give a prize to the fairest junior player of the tournament."
What did the Grand Slam winner send to the first lucky prize winner? The racket with which he had won his Wimbledon title.
It says a lot about Stefan Edberg as a person.
Completing one year of course is only very extensively in this context. Anyway, it was right on January 19th, 2015 that the Challenge was born. One thing is clear: it will never celebrate its 50th birthday...
* Jonas Arnesen has followed tennis as a journalist since 1979 for some important Swedish papers like Smålandstidningen, Barometern, Expressen and SvD. He is now considered one of the most authoritative tennis journalists in Sweden. Arnesen has been so kind to link our Edberg 50th birthday video tribute on his blog and we want to thank him for this.
- Federer: I still miss Stefan Edberg
- "50 good years in every way"
- Federer's birthday gift to Edberg
- Our very special birthday wish to Stefan
- Happy birthday, Stefan!!!
- Michael Llodra: the day Edberg said he liked my game…
- Edberg inspires juniors at Jönköping mini-challenger
- Swedish tennis in 1988: "Absolutely fantastic"
- Stefan Edberg to speak to juniors about years with Federer
- Stefan Edberg at the Australian Open in 50 images
- Celebrate Stefan Edberg's 50th birthday with 50 great shots!
- Book on Swedish Greats to be translated in Italy
- A triple wish for the new year
- Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree with the Tennis Legends
- Alan Mills pays tribute to Stefan Edberg's sportsmanship