by John Roberts
The Swedish former Wimbledon champion delights the crowd while Korda and Leconte reach Challenge semi-finals
The only thing about Stefan Edberg that was ever high-profile was his sumptuous tennis. The court was the only place where he did not blend into the background as if camouflaged. During the many years he lived in Kensington, as a Wimbledon champion and world No 1, Edberg would stroll to Queen's Club to practise between tournaments, not exactly unnoticed but never pestered.
At 36, Edberg is even more selective about where and when he plays. His preference is a "small little court" near his home in Grimslov, Sweden, where he can play for an hour-and-a-half with one of the teenagers from his tennis foundation.
Returning to London this week for an exhibition match in aid of Tim Henman's charity, Kids at Heart, Edberg enjoyed meeting old friends such as his former coach Tony Pickard, from Nottingham, and was happy to treat spectators at the Royal Albert Hall to a sample of his elegant serve-volley style.
At one point Edberg imitated several of John McEnroe's idiosyncrasies, but he did not go too far along that route. His opponent, Jonas Bjorkman, a fellow Swede, is the ATP's master mimic, just as Mansour Bahrami is the trick-cyclist of the Delta Tour of Champions (the 46-year-old Iranian leapt over the net and returned one of his own shots when playing doubles here yesterday).
Edberg drew the line, however, when McEnroe tried to recruit him to the senior tour, explaining politely that he understood why younger former players were needed, but was not inclined to be one of them. They had had the same conversation before.
"It was nice to play in this lovely arena again," Edberg said, "but coming here is too much like the old days. I'm still involved in tennis, but it's more at grassroots now." That, he added, is a big enough challenge now Swedish tennis is in decline after the astonishing era of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, and Edberg, even though Thomas Johansson won the Australian Open this year.
"Time has changed, and it's difficult getting hold of talent," Edberg said. "Other countries now have the equipment and the hunger. Tennis in Sweden has fallen back, and other sports are bigger there now."
Edberg rolls back the years
from BBC Sport
by Alison Keogh
It was clear from the rapturous reception Stefan Edberg received at the Royal Albert Hall that his fans had missed him.
The Swede, who was facing compatriot Jonas Bjorkman in an exhibition match at the Honda Challenge event, had disappeared from the limelight since retiring in 1996.
But after a shaky start, the 36 year old showed he had lost none of the sparkle that made him one of the greats of the game.
The old traits were still there - the unique service style, the athleticism and of course the elegance.
The quiet serve-volleyer rolled back the years to take the first set 6-4.
But things got slightly more competitive after that as Bjorkman upped the tempo.
The second set was a closer affair, but at 3-3 Edberg produced a stunning winning backhand down the line.
This was swiftly followed by a delightful backhand volley.
The shot, the like of which we so rarely see from today's players, was carefully disguised with backspin to totally outwit his opponent and he looked to be on his way to a straight-sets victory.
However, it was Bjorkman who fought back to come out on top in the set and the crowd were treated to a Champions tie-breaker to decide the winner.
After a series of glorious rallies it was Bjorkman who led and looked like spoiling the party.
But a spirited Edberg fought back, and to the delight of a packed Albert Hall, took the tie-breaker 10-8 to seal victory.
The match was played in a good spirit, with plenty of fun and jokes from both players, but when it mattered most the competitive edge was still there.
Edberg showed that he could still teach today's professionals a thing or two and after four years in retirement and with six Grand Slam titles under his belt, it was clear that his popularity has not dwindled.
Perhaps the affection in which he is still held by the public will convince him to join the senior's tour very soon. McEnroe and co had better watch out.
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- Hard work and team spirit, the secrets of Swedish coaches
- From Edberg to Björkman, the coach speaks Swedish
- Modern players, be inspired by Edberg and Becker
- Becker and Edberg Roll Back the Years
- Edberg, Becker all set to renew rivalry
- Becker and Edberg Reunited to Celebrate 25th Anniversary
- Edberg resists McEnroe
- Henman pulls out of Edberg exhibition
- Becker won fight of the legends
- Edberg-Henman at the Royal Albert Hall in London
- Edberg-Becker to play in Denmark
- Edberg in exhibition in the US