from Tennis Week
by Richard Pagliaro
Thanks Mei-Ling Liu for alerting on the news
The Scottsdale sunshine casts a golden glow across the Grand Slam champion poised to serve. He is one of tennis' most highly respected sportsman, but from the shadows across the court, Stefan Edberg is about to feel the heat of high stakes tennis in his return to the competitive court.
"Edberg, you're too old! Show me what you've got!" screams his opponent, an exuberant Las Vegas weatherman who is trying to apply the heat to the customarily cool Swede.
Edberg the target of taunts?
Even though the joking comment is issued completely in good fun, the sight is as surprising as seeing someone spray painting graffiti in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. An unfazed Edberg takes the trash-talking in stride before responding with a bold challenge of his own.
"I'll give you $100 if you touch this serve," Edberg evenly replies.
The challenge elicits a buzz of excitement from the crowd of about 100 people seated around the hard court on white plastic chairs and nearly everyone leans forward in eager anticipation at the action about to unfold.
Most members of the crowd have paid about $775 to attend this three-day adidas Stefan Edberg Fantasy Camp conducted on the eight hard courts of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch last weekend.
Virtually every one of the attendees have enjoyed the experience of trading shots and and stories with the six-time Grand Slam champion, 17th-ranked Meghann Shaughnessy and the energetic and entertaining staff of the ITUSA who have run the camp.
The camp culminates on Sunday with Edberg, Shaughnessy and former No. 1 Martina Hingis rallying with more than 60 of us hackers who have traveled from all over the country to play with and against the greats of the game.
The challenge from the former No. 1 is so unlike Edberg, you begin to wonder if John McEnroe's bravado has briefly been implanted in his brain, but it intensifies the excitement of the tiebreaker.
The classic Edberg service motion begins: the lofty service toss, the index finger extended slightly on his right hand which is wrapped around the brown, leather grip of his Wilson racquet, the deep knee bend the exposes the bulging muscles of his quads bursting from beneath the bottom of his adidas shorts, the impossibly acute arch of his back and then Edberg explodes upward and launches a kick serve that soars so high it would easily eclipse the top tier of Wimbledon's Centre Court as well as the star that shines from atop the Christmas tree in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center.
The ball clears the net, the back fence and the towering light post overlooking the court and continues its flight path beyond the boundaries of the facility probably settling somewhere on the side of East Doubletree Ranch Road, a yellow felt companion to the cactus that dots the desert.
Everyone erupts in spontaneous laughter and applause and even Edberg offers a sly smile.
More than seven years removed from his final match on the ATP Tour, Edberg looks almost exactly as you last saw him when he glided across the court. His short blond hair is parted from the right side, he stands so straight you could balance tennis balls on his head without worrying about one bouncing off and he's clad in the clean adidas outfit that was his customary attire during his 14-year career.
The 37-year-old Edberg moves with the effortless ease of a man who looks like he could compete with world-class athletes at any sport you spontaneously select.
Edberg has a dry, understated sense of humor. At one point during a break from the camp drills, we ask where we can see him play next and Edberg replies with a smile: "You can see me anytime you like — on old match videos."
Those videos provide a view of one of the most graceful players to ever play the game
A six-time Grand Slam champion, Edberg amassed 41 singles titles and 18 doubles championships in his career. Edberg and McEnroe are the only men in Open Era history to hold the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles simultaneously. Edberg is such a gentleman it often obscures the truth about his game: stylistically speaking he was a revolutionary in his home country.
He shattered the Swedish stereotype of swift, steady, stoic baseliners who modeled their styles on 11-time Grand Slam champion Bjorn Borg. Edberg's aggressive attacking game may have looked risky, but like McEnroe before him he was in tune with a fundamental truth of tennis: the wide serve that pushed his opponent in pursuit off the court followed by the crisp volley into the open court he created is the highest-percentage play in tennis.
His athleticism and grace made him a wonder to watch. Compatriot Mats Wilander once told Tennis Week.com that "In their prime, Borg and Edberg weren't just the best tennis players in Sweden, they were the best athletes in Sweden."
He made his mark as a champion, and Edberg's integrity, honesty and sportsmanship made him one of the sport's most admired figures. Revered and respected by players and fans, Edberg always conducted himself with class both on and off the court.
His superb sportsmanship is so legendary, Edberg not only earned the ATP's Sportsmanship Award a record five times, the ATP actually renamed the award in his honor — it is now known as the "Edberg Sportsmanship Award" — in 1996.
The honor prompted the mercurial McEnroe, who Edberg cites as one of his toughest opponents, to jokingly wonder: "Why wasn't I under consideration?"
In his conversation and camp demonstrations, the message Edberg imparts is clear: express your individuality on the court. Find your own style, recognize your own strengths and actively try to win the point rather than playing prevent defense in an effort not to lose the point.
His kindness cannot be mistaken as weakness: Edberg has not succumbed to peer pressure from some former fellow champions to join the senior tour.
It's not that he doesn't love tennis — in fact he freely admits he's played tennis two or three times a week nearly every week since he officially retired from the ATP Tour — he's just no longer interested in riding the merry-go-round of an organized tour.
There's a purity to Edberg's approach that is refreshing and admirable: he clearly still loves to hit tennis balls and is happy to do just that without any pursuit of further fame or glory or accolades.
Asked early on in the camp if he will consider conducting it again next year, Edberg deadpans: "that depends on how nice you guys are to me." He knows what makes him happy — spending as much time as he can with his family at home in Sweden — and has little interest in turning his life into a road show.
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