translated by Markus Zacharski
Växjo. Where does he get his kicks nowadays? He, who won six grand slam titles and played the leading part in some of the worst nail biters of Sweden's sport history. Stefan Edberg looks surprised. "Kicks...?" After a while of reflection: "I'm quite satisfied with life when it's quiet, so to speak".
Give Svensson (Ann: "Svensson" stands for the typical Swede) some hundred millions and Svensson blow one's top. Gives the finger to the boss, buys a luxurious villa in Danderyd, a pair of cars and, why not, an own golf course.
With Stefan Edberg it is different. He owns millions but does everything to become a Svensson. Exchanges the maisonette in London for a yard outside Växjö, drops the temptations of the metropolis for quiet family life and tennis training in the Strandbjörkshall. Furthermore he tries to work. Not exactly like Svensson but almost.
He's sitting in the finance company Catella Capital's board, has tasks with his old sponsors and is helping Stockholm Open and Växjö tennis centre. That is, when he's not sitting at his desk thinking about his own business.
Is he satisfied with life?
He gives a typical Edberg answer: "Proportionally, yes, you can surely say that. It's not completely perfect, but almost."
He is not quite easy to get hold of. It's so to say easier to explain how Stefan Edberg is not than how he is.
It's not Edberg who, wearing a headband, climbs up the stage and plays rock'n'roll at Björn Borg's wedding. It's scarcely Edberg you saw in the crowd with a small extravagant beard, squeezed in two deep necklines. And if you thought you caught a glimpse of a discarded tennis professional driving in an Italian sports car in Båstad a week or so ago, then definitely it was neither Edberg this time. He gets on best under his Småland cork oak.
Asked about what he's doing when he's free there comes another typical Edberg answer: "Well, we don't go to the cinema and we don't go out and eat especially often."
What are you missing from London?
"Not that much, to be honest. Clearly, there is a much bigger offer concerning entertainment and restaurants but I'm doing fine without that."
In itself, eating outside was neither Stefan Edberg's favourite occupation during the time he was active. When the Davis Cup team came together for dinner got they scarcely done sitting down to table before Edberg mumbled: "Well, let's order then." "He wasn't prepared for small talk", Davis Cup team chief Carl-Axel Hageskog remembers. He went to the restaurant for dining not for talking. He was an athlete up to his fingertips".
He's dressed in a tennis shirt, stockings and shoes by Adidas. In his hand he's holding a racket by Wilson. Exactly like before, so then. Even physically he seems to keep the style. At a short distance you're hit by how strong he's built. Presumably, Stefan Edberg isn't much limper in his body as 1996 as he stroke his last kick serve on the ATP tour. He keeps going by three times tennis a week and some hours squash.
"As long as I get the balls directed I still can play well. I can't play at elite level but now and then respectably in training."
The truth is that still he is full measure compared with players like Magnus Larsson and Andreas Vinciguerra. Edberg has beaten both of them in occasional exhibition matches. The feeling for the volley is still there.
"Yes, if only I come to the ball. That's the secret... to come there. Well, I kept the form surprisingly since I quit."
Why don't you play on the senior tour?
"It's pretty nice to cut the band. Tennis has formerly been in focus in my life. If I played on the senior tour I would want to go there with good qualifications."
In other words: He's not of that kind that consider this as paid holidays with celebrities and free alcohol.
"It's a special kind of life. A life where you are the focus of attention. I think it was easier for me to cut the band than for others, for I'm not a person that likes to stand in the middle of the room. I like to keep myself in the background."
When did you start to think about what to do after tennis?
"It turned out at the end of my career. I knew when you're around 30... this is about what the body manages. But that required some preparation and planning about what I should work with. You have to find something you are interested in. To just hang around, play golf and go to a party, this doesn't last long."
When he moved home to Småland two years ago it was to go "back to basics", as he puts it. Back to the roots, into safety.
"You have to find a balance in life. If you're used to work hard, I think it's not good to quit abruptly. If you're working much, you appreciate your free time."
During your career you've been described as an elegant player but at the same time as a boring mother-in-law dream.
"Yes, I'm not what media are looking for today, of course. To be normal and to do a good job is totally uninteresting today. I think it's harder to be a sport star today, on one hand you have to be capable of what you're doing, on the other hand you have to see that you create a certain image."
"I suppose I kept my style through the years, I didn't try to be someone else. I suppose I'm a boring person, but that's a part of me."
Is the picture right that has been given of you?
"Well, of course, you know how it was to see yourself on tv. At least in the beginning. You whined and looked generally boring on the court. But I worked on it and, hopefully, improved it."
"Furthermore, I think that maybe you're winning respect in the long run. Maybe you don't get appreciation from the beginning, but on the long term it became a more positive than negative image."
It happened rarely one could see you angry?
"No, it's right for both on the court and outside. But there is a certain frustration on the court, too, even if you don't show that outwards."
When do you get angry?
"This happens very, very rarely. This has to be something very obvious in that case. When certain people are doing long beside their best or are cheating. This you can be ... irritated of."
"Yes, rather irritated, so to speak"
Those who followed Edberg near by are talking about his calmness and purposefulness. If he once got irritated then it was when people in his surroundings weren't on time.
If a Davis Cup training should begin at 9 o'clock, the other players often got the order to be in the hall at half past eight. Everything because training should start on time and to keep Edberg in a good humour. But nowadays there are business meetings as often as training in his
After have stolen a glance at the watch a little while he says: "Well, I think it's closing." Stefan Edberg is shaking hands, disappearing out to the car park and driving away. The car? A deep blue Volvo.
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