Edberg: after me a robot-like tennis

from Il Corriere della Sera
by Roberto Perrone
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello

He wanted to quit by winning the Davis Cup but an injury stopped him: and his friend Noah brought him in triumph. "We must protect the attacking players". "With the current rules of behavior McEnroe and Connors would be in trouble". "Now that I've quit I can say it: I am not made of ice, I hate sneaky and rude people"

Stefan Edberg in the trophy ceremony of the 1996 Davis Cup final against France in Malmö

With the face of those who had already won and, no one knows why, are celebrating another, Niklas Kulti stands on the Swedish newspapers. Stopped by history one step away from glory, which, in the following pages, is all reserved to Stefan Edberg on Yannick Noah’s shoulders, the special hero on the evening of French victory, moved to tears, like in Stockholm when Kulti himself eliminated him in the first round of his last tournament.

But his tears are composed and divided between the man symbol of a great sports history and the man who witnessed a great moment of competition, of the kind that only the old, neglected Davis Cup can offer. Between Sampras-Becker in Hanover and Boetsch-Kulti in Malmö there is a huge gap of tecnique for the Masters final, but the emotions triggered by those two second line players can rarely be found on the tour. Also Yannick Noah admitted it, drunk, but not too much: "The Davis is not a place for meetings, sponsors, business. You have to give all of yourself, you have to sacrifice yourself for a team." Thus, the goodbye to a player with a unique style is linked to an unforgettable day.

- Mr. Edberg, maybe you thought of ending your career differently.

"But I'm not so sad. I'm disappointed for the team, but I saw two great matches and the decision not to play was right: in modern tennis you can not afford not to be at one hundred percent."

- What will tennis be like without Edberg?

"It will continue, with more and more tall and strong players, as it has been for ten years now. When I started I was a kind of white fly, now I pass almost unnoticed."

- Unnoticed, however, was not your tennis, this, yes, more and more rare, almost to be protected as an endangered species.

"I think they should make slower balls. But one thing is for sure: it is important that the measures to be taken will not penalize serve and volley."

- Of this style you were a purist, a subversive, compared with the Swedish method. Who taught you to play like that, among so many clones of Borg?

"Noone. It has been my choice, I just felt I should do it. And do you know why? I didn’t want to stay all day on a court to hit balls."

- No one would have said that, looking at your coldness.

"I have always just wanted to play good tennis, trying not to be different from what I was, I am. I've never tried to create an image of myself that doesn’t correspond to the truth, a concern that many of today’s players seem to have, instead"

"I've always been used to keep it all inside but it was only tactics, because, as when you play poker, you have to show as little as possible to your opponent, you don’t have to bring your weaknesses out and exploit his. For me, the perfect example of how to be on a tennis court  is Chang”.

- What kind of man are you besides tactics, out of the role?

"I'm not ice. There are plenty of things and people that make me angry: those who tell lies, those who arrive late, those who don’t care for others. And then I can not stand too long waitings in restaurants" .

- On the opposite?

"Honesty, generosity, politeness, I like those who take their own responsibilities. This is the kind of human beings I prefer."

- You were accused of having little personality on court.

"With today’s rules there wouldn’t be room left for people like McEnroe and Connors and then personality is also style. And I had it."

- You shunned the labels, not chasing popularity, yet you have always been very popular, although not with the impulses reserved to Becker or Agassi.

"I have always just wanted to play good tennis, trying not to be different from what I was, I am. I've never tried to create an image of myself that doesn’t correspond to the truth, a concern that many of today’s players seem to have, instead."

- What do you have left from tennis?

"A lot, that’s why, although I'll end up accepting the invitation of Adidas to work with them, I will follow closely the foundation that bears my name, and aims at helping young Swedish players, to return a little of what I was given and it is not just about money."

- What will you do tomorrow?

"I’ll wake up, I'll do the luggage, I will upload them in the car and I'll go northwards. But I don’t think I'll go back to live in Sweden. My house will be in fact in London with Annette and our daughter Emilie."

- The Swedish Federation gave you a telescope.

"They told me I’m a star and so I could see myself in heaven, but I'll use it to watch the others. By now, I’m not there anymore."

Edberg: after me a robot-like tennis