from Los Angeles Times
by Thomas Bonk
NEW YORK — For years, people have wondered if there is anybody in tennis more boring than Stefan Edberg. The answer is probably not. Sure, like Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander before him, Edberg carefully cultivates the classic low-key Swedish personality, but his is even lower key. If Edberg works at it, which he often does, he can make his face as blank as a snowscape in his hometown of Vastervik.
At the U.S. Open a couple of years ago, Edberg was asked if he knew a joke. He said he knew a Norwegian joke. "Why did the Norwegian man carry a sheet of sandpaper into the wilderness?" Edberg asked. "Because he needed a map." Edberg slapped his knee and laughed. No one else did.
But now, it seems, the joke is on us. Edberg has been bland on purpose all along. "My personality is to sort of sneak in the back door and be ignored," Edberg said here Thursday. "It's a tactic, yeah."
Edberg continued moving along to a potential quarterfinal meeting with Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open when he defeated fellow Swede Peter Lundgren by the most boring score in tennis: 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
Runner-up at both the French Open and Wimbledon, Edberg has found that being boring is good strategy. On the court, although not flashy, he is quick and decisive. He knows how to finish a point quickly with a serve and a volley. It's off the court that Edberg moves to Dullsville.
When Edberg meets with reporters, he reveals little, unlike such talkative players as John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors, who have vastly different ideas about communication. "You just answer a question and don't talk about everything else," Edberg said. "I've always been very neutral in my interviews. They're not something I enjoy doing. I'm not the kind of guy who loves going into press conferences."
The sandpaper joke notwithstanding, Edberg sometimes shows traces of a fine sense of humor. But not very often. Typically, Edberg is to interviews what oatmeal is to breakfast. Here's a sampling of his exchanges with the press after he beat Lundgren:
Question: What about Wilander losing?
Answer: I am not in that half of the draw. There are always upsets in every tournament.
Q: What are your chances?
A: I have to see how I do. It will be tough. I feel positive.
That this isn't exactly lively reading couldn't mean less to Edberg. Tony Picard, his coach, said it's never been Edberg's style to be funny or quotable or controversial. "That's just Edberg," Picard said. "You're never going to change him."
At Wimbledon, John McEnroe said he recognized how Edberg was playing the press, but the 23-year-old Swede had never admitted such a tactic before. "I mean, McEnroe answers one question and then he talks about everything else in the world," Edberg said. "I'm not like that."
Last week, Edberg had to pull out of an exhibition because of an allergic reaction. Picard blamed the reaction on detergent used to wash Edberg's shirt. "Like I told him, maybe taking a week off was good," Picard said. "He's rested and came here keen." Edberg also came in wearing a new tennis shirt that isn't at all conservative. This one has a black pattern around the shoulders that dips raggedly in the front and back, as if someone had poured chocolate sauce on his shirt.
As always, Edberg still wears a watch while he plays, probably to keep track of his next press conference and another opportunity to tell another Norwegian joke.
"I got a million of 'em," he said.
- The 1996 US Open draw controversy
- Edberg: "The final decided by two points"
- Edberg: Roger's sneaky attack a surprise for me as well
- Edberg on Federer: "You still cannot count him out"
- Federer-Djokovic, preview of the US Open final
- One man show
- Muscled Monica had no mercy
- Seles and Edberg win, but Connors steals the show
- Volkov's hit, Edberg out
- What a comedy, Jimmy
- At the Us Open Edberg beaten by Krickstein
- Lendl meets Wilander again in the Us Open final
- Wilander - Edberg, Swedish semifinal
- The sphinx Edberg dreams the Open