The sphinx Edberg dreams the Open

An article from: La Repubblica
by Mario Ellena

The Swede, 21, beat twice Becker in ten days

When, last February on the hardcourts of Indian Wells in California, that big polite boy of Stefan Edberg lost for the seventh consecutive time to the German panzer Boris Becker, everybody thought that the matter of the supremacy between the two hot young of world tennis was definitively closed.

Besides, the age should have played on teen-ager Boris' side, since he'll be 20 next November 22nd, while Stefan is already 21 since last January 19th. Then, you know, in tennis there's nothing worse than being a victim of the inferiority complex: Arthur Ashe was weaker than Rod Laver, but not so much to lose seventeen straight times against him... and then how could Gerulaitis and Vilas never beat, neither by mistake, the great Borg?

In the quoted cases certainly there were technical reasons as well to justify such a continuity of results, but could Becker really be considered so much stronger than Edberg to be unbeatable for him?

I remember what that little boaster of Becker said, displaying some of that arrogance American journalists don't dislike, enchanted by "self-confidence", after his success in California: "Against me Edberg always plays great matches, but in the end I always win the important points.

Just look at how our tie-breaks end, when tension grows. I think I'm stronger here..." concluded Becker beating the right hand knuckles against his temples.

The Swede, winner of the Mickey Mouse Trophy at 11 in Sweden, winner of the junior Grand Slam in '83 - the last to do it was the American Butch Bucholz in '59 -, who won the tournament in Milan in '84 (beating Wilander in the final) and rose the enthusiasm of the critics, was so clever to win two consecutive editions of the Australian Open, had climbed the world ranking until the second place at Lendl's shoulders... had overcome his rival Becker in the ATP ranking, but had never managed to beat him since January '85, Philadelphia tournament.

But in two weeks the Swedish boy, son of a sheriff of Vastervik police, grown under the eyes of the first Borg's coach, Percy Rosberg - at 14 he convinced him to leave the two-handed-backhand, "you're not quick enough with legs to afford it", and turned him into an attack player - broke twice that harmful spell.

Ten days ago in the Canadian Open semifinal, in Montreal, Edberg beat Becker 6-2, 6-4. Last Sunday, in the final in Cincinnati, he doubled, leaving him one game less, 6-4, 6-1. What happened? Somebody says that Becker has not been the same since his coach Gunther Bosch left him, that his "sentimental distraction" for the graceful Benedicte has to be blamed, that he got swollen-headed.

Imperturbable Edberg, who preferred London to Montecarlo as tax paradise ("I pay something more, but I get much less bored") has been coached since a long time by former English tennis player Tony Pickard and has never let himself be involved in the wave of gossips followed to his engagement with Wilander's former girlfriend.

They said he was mentally weak, he's slowly proving the opposite. Exactly as tall as Becker, 1.88, he's seven kilos lighter. He worked a lot, besides than on his forehand, that is not worth as much as his wonderful backhand anyway, also on quickness of movements, on agility. He never lacked in reflexes, as a great doubles player.

Apparently shy and niggard in statements Edberg actually is the one, among the Swedish players, who most loves laughing and joking. You don't realize it, though, when you interview him or follow him in a press-conference. A real torture. Borg, compared to him, was original and unforeseeable.

Next week the Us Open starts, last Grand Slam event, after Edberg won in Melbourne, Lendl in Paris and Cash in Wimbledon. The number one favorite is Lendl, who aims at his third consecutive win (the third straight final wouldn't be enough for him), but Edberg, winner of five tournaments this year, often proved himself to be a difficult opponent for Lendl.

He already beat him three times and has at least to be considered number two favorite. Even if Bergeli, last Borg's coach, never believed Edberg could become a champion.

The sphinx Edberg dreams the Open

Tags: 1987, us open