"Behind our success there's the will to grow far from the shadow of Borg"
Sweden, one more Davis Cup. How a country with just 8,3 millions inhabitants could produce an impressive series of champions (from Wilander to Edberg), change world tennis geography, and now with a very young team (the average is 21 years old) threats to dominate for long years to come.
Strange country Sweden: where summers look like pale winters, where the old king Gustaf played tennis with the pseudonym of Mr. G., even though everybody knew it was him.
He was appreciated even in the French Coast and played healthy until the age of 88, so that a street was dedicated to him in Bastad: Mr. G Street. Really strange country: known at the start of the '60s for having the highest rate of suicides in Europe, the most anarchical prisons and the least perverted sexuality and now very well known for having a strong team of tennis players.
Borg was one and only. Corrado Barazzutti remembers: "Sweden that won the Davis in '75 was completely different. They blamed Borg to be too selfish, not to get excited for his country.
Well, let's make things clear: Borg had as team mates players ranked around number 200 in the world rankings, while he was number one. What relationships can be built in this situation, what friendship can grow in disparity?
Today, instead, Wilander & co. can seat at the same table without problems. They are more or less equal".
Sweden almost dominates tennis. Last year they ended '84 with three players in the top-ten, this year there are four, plus five more in the top-hundred. After years of American domination the racquet center is Europe again. Thanks to Lendl, Becker, but also Wilander and Edberg.
It's natural that the French Chatrier, International Federation president, pretends to be horrified: "Sweden could list another team and win the same. It's something to consider. When you play against a team a genius is not enough".
It's difficult to explain a silent revolution. Sweden doesn't have the best coaches in the world, nay, compared to Italy, they have very few of them; neither have they much money, since everybody remembers, though they try to forget, where Sweden celebrated their success on the US last year in Goteborg: a large wood booth, some beers, some kippered herrings, no chair. The scenery of a poor sport for rich players.
And in Bastad, where in '69 a school for young talents had been brought up, there's no kind of special training, says Vittorio Selmi, member of the ATP and big expert of Swedish after-Borg era.
"Borg didn't do anything for Sweden. He was far from the kids as much as McEnroe could be. He played neither in Sweden nor for Sweden. He was an idol, but a cold and distant one. Wilander, Edberg: the new generation is different. I don't mean that as soon as they get back to their country they start playing tennis with the first one they meet, but they are present. They play the tournaments in their country, travel the world together, help one another. It's another atmosphere".
And if Borg addressed journalists from his own country in English, to show that the links were broken forever, this polite group of boys, with wild laziness, rare statements, pressing from the baseline, but now also with a shiny net play, turn out to be maybe incomprehensible, but very nice.
"I never envied Borg - says Wilander - others compared him to me and I keep on denying". "I have never personally seen Borg play - says Edberg - I prefer McEnroe". "Borg? No, I want to be like Lendl", says Johan Alven, new Swedish tennis hope.
And you eventually also understand how the absence of sun, an unnatural and exasperated sense for reflection, sometimes exceeding to stupidity, contributes to shape a group of winning tennis players.
Their calm character seems to pass undamaged through a more and more nervous and hysterical tennis. Yannich Noah, who won the French Open in '83, then went a step away from suicide, Wilander, who won on the same clay when he was just 17, today smiles to you still with no phrenitis and Edberg, who won in Australia before being 20, says: "I'm not interested in getting to the top in a hurry, I'm interested in doing it well".
Sweden, who won the Davis Cup for the second successive time and for the third absolute, 3-2 against Germany, threat to cast their shadow on tennis also for the years to come. They have a youngest average age: 21 years old.
The same thing threats Boris Becker, alone. He beat Edberg and Wilander, put Westphal a step away from success.
This young man, who immediately after beating his opponents goes searching for a caress from his coach Bosch, may sometimes be awkward, but he sweats and moves on the court with a sense of the scene that only great fighters and great actors have. He doesn't amuse, but excites. No use to say how long he will last. Becker has already lasted.
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