US Open. The Swedish champion, next to retirement, goes on surprisingly: beats Britain's Henman and goes through to the quarters where he meets Goran Ivanisevic
NEW YORK. As already in the second round match against the German Karbacher, also against Britain's Tim Henman, who had beaten Todd Martin, we all had the feeling (and, why not, the fear) to be witnessing the last performance by Stefan Edberg in a Grand Slam tournament.
Instead the Swedish champion went through to the quarter finals, a target he had never reached in the major tournaments since January 1994 when he was defeated in the Australian Open semifinal right by Martin.
Down one set, that he had badly lost, Edberg had to save nine break points in the second to stay in the match and then win the tie-break 7-2. Besides the score, it was a matter of fact that, after a very good start (two balls for a double break and anyway a margin of 5-3), Edberg had lost timing to keep his magical shots in and, most of all, had lost the reflexes that allowed him to brilliantly defend the net.
Someone might have had the feeling that Henman, who had never met Edberg, but had often practiced with him in London, lacked the determination he would need to let the Swede behind and win the set. The truth is that Edberg hides, behind his faultless style and good manners, a courage that just a few players have.
He was certainly tired, more tired than his opponent, nevertheless on 4 all both in the third and the fourth set Edberg found the strength to obtain the decisive break; the same he did when, 2-0 up in the fourth he was rejoined on 2 all, he didn't give up and took the right risks, taking the last 12 points of the match, closed with his tenth ace (just two double faults).
Once again Edberg was asked if he will change his mind on the date of his retirement set for the end of the season, but once more the answer was negative. The only change could be the day. In fact Edberg should have played his last tournament in Stockholm at the start of November, while now there are two more options.
Sweden could qualify for the Davis Cup final, beating Czech Republic in Prague, while the points gained in this tournament will very likely qualify Edberg for the Grand Slam Cup that will be held in Munich in December.
Today Edberg meets Ivanisevic against whom he won twice this year, in Rome on clay and at the Queen's on grass. The Croat, though, is playing well and has realized to even have the chance to win the tournament. Of course, much depends on Ivanisevic's serve. But Edberg has the personality to make Goran doubt himself.
The winner of this match will certainly meet Pete Sampras, who overwhelmed the young and dangerous Australian Mark Philippoussis and shouldn't have problems against Alex Corretja, one of the two Spaniards to reach the quarter finals.
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