Here is a man with 41 career titles, six of them in Grand Slams. It hurt tennis fans to see him slipping. "Yes, well it hurts me, too," he said. "But I feel I have been very consistent for a long time."
Nine years in a row in the top five, then No. 7 in his 10th year. Two victories at Wimbledon (1988, 1990), two at the Australian Open (1985, 1987) and two at the U.S. Open (1991, 1992). Seventy-two weeks at No. 1 in the world, beginning in 1990. But more than all the numbers, 13 years of great sportsmanship.
You have the feeling it will be easier for Edberg than it would be for others to slide from tennis into something else. His marriage is in its fourth year and his daughter, Emilie, is nearly 3. He has other things around him.
"I am looking at things a little differently now. That's what life is all about," he said. "Tennis has been a big part of my life, but there are other parts."
Coaching is not in his immediate future and he is not decided whether to continue living in London or go back to Sweden, where he is revered almost as much as Bjorn Borg.
He will play a full schedule in 1996, perhaps 22 to 24 tournaments. There will be celebrations wherever he goes. So far, he says, he has been able to handle it. "If it becomes a distraction ...," he began. "Well," he added, "we'll see."
Lipton tournament director Cliff Buchholz will have a bit of an emotional week saying a personal goodbye to Edberg.
"I met him when we were at Delray," he said. "He was practicing. He was always a hard worker but he never did things that would make him stand out. Just a solid citizen, someone always respectful of others.
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