Edberg, glad to amaze you

An article from: La Gazzetta dello Sport
by Vincenzo Martucci





NEW YORK. Kisses the net, clenches his fist, jumps over the net, throws ball and racket away, protests, screams, hugs his opponent, judges, fights back, resists, laughs, jokes, tells, breaks into the stand to hug relatives and friends.

Forced by the Flushing Meadows mess to release a TV interview in the men's toilette, he threatens: "If you hear me scream, rescue me", and, after closing the door, he screams for real, making all the presents burst with laughing.

Yes, Stefan Edberg has changed indeed. His marriage with Annette and his wins have brought out the soul he had never shown.

Now he's the strong man in men's tennis, because, besides the fact that he's just defended his title at the Us Open and has come back to the top of the ranking, he represents in the best way a sport that often risks to decay to a simple application of power.

Better his maybe sometimes monotonous attack-play than exhausting fights from the baseline, with players hitting like boxers just to gain thirty centimeters of court.

Agassi says that, to compete with Courier, he (Edberg) must put on more muscles. The number 1 disagrees: "I think I'm one of the strongest physically. I depend on how well I can move on the court, but, compared to the others, I don't hit the ball that hard. Movement and serve: these are my basics".

His real strength is in simplicity: "Service? It's just a matter of rhythm, not power".

His creed is work: "I trained much before the Olympics. I didn't see the results immediately in Barcelona, but I've been rewarded this summer on the hardcourts".

His tomorrow is never too far: "When I came to the Us, I realized I was playing well and I gained a lot of confidence after winning in New Haven. Confidence to successfully defend my title at the Us Open. But I faced it match by match.

After the win against Krajicek, I thought to the match against Lendl with confidence, because I had beaten him recently. Then I concentrated on the match against Chang, that is on a very hard match, as it's been indeed. Mentally hard. And in the end, Sampras".

Yes, Sampras. With three home players in the semifinals, the Americans have to celebrate a Swedish winner. After that marathon of 5 hours and 26 minutes -length record in Grand Slam tournaments- how could Edberg be more fresh than the youngest competitor for the top position in the ranking?

«When I woke up in the morning I didn't feel bad. Just a little numb. Then, though, despite an hour and a half of massages, the situation wasn't great. But, as time went on, I felt better and better.

It's all a mental question, because, after the battle with Chang, I said to myself: "Don't expect much of yourself today. Go and have fun. Try to do your best, most of all stay stuck on him at the start or he'll run away, because he starts to serve impressively and sets you down".

Ok, he won the first set, but he didn't bother me too much, 'cause I felt in the match. I was there also in the second set and I won it. Then, in the tie-break, I did that double-fault and I said to myself: "No... again".

After all those faults against Chang... But he gave the gift back and that was really a nice surprise. And, when I won that set, he lost his rush, while I felt extremely determined, more than in all this extraordinary week. And then because I served better than the other days.

Honestly, it's been harder against Chang. He was 3-0 up with two balls for 4-0 in the fifth set. And then he was 4-2 up with a break. Lendl? When I went back home, the evening after the suspension, I was angry, but I had the feeling like that was my match and I also laughed of all the situation, the mistakes, the fact that I was two sets up and I was rejoined.

I just had to think positively, because it was hard to get back on the court the day after and take the match. Ivan? He's a great worker, I have great respect for him, for his attitude on court and in the training sessions. But I think it's difficult for him to win another Slam. It's already hard for me with all this competition..."

He's not proud to have regained the number one in the ranking that he had lost last February, after the final of the Australian Open against Courier: "What was really important was to defend the title. Going back to number one has been like a present. It's nice, but I have to play really well to remain on top, because last year I won a couple of tournaments that are waiting for me now".

He's proud to have recovered many times: "I really deserved this second win here. Winning this year has been harder than last year. In the end I can't be very happy with the way I played, because I struggled too many times, but I always got off of it. I don't know if someone has ever managed to win the way I did, always coming from a break down in the fifth set.

And for three matches in a row. This proves that I built a strong character and I fight on the court. I fight from the first to the last point, I fight for my life and I go through it".

Meanwhile Sampras talks of his stomach problems that bothered him during his match against Courier and then against Edberg. Maybe it's a virus, maybe something else. But in the end he says: "The better player won, I'm not looking for apologies".

But he doesn't need to explain, fear is still painted on his face. No problem, years ago even Edberg was scared. Maybe it's just a matter of experience. And wins.

Change at the top, fine style wins
by Rino Tommasi

Introducing the US Open in recent years I've always maintained that, taking nothing away from Wimbledon's prestige, it is the more technically reliable of the four Grand Slam tournament. I think that this year's results confirm this assertion. Also in the women's singles the verdict is absolutely fair, since it awarded the player who took three of the four Slams in the last two year, so six out of eight tournaments.

As far as Edberg's victory, I think that this year's success, although obtained without reaching last year's standards (with the exception of the first two sets against Lendl), is worth much more. It erases the doubts on the Swede's fighting qualities, often hidden by a modest and elegant attitude, but also shown in the past.

Three times in this tournament Edberg had to come back from a break down in the fifth, so that, compared to the matches against Krajicek, Lendl and Chang, the final against Sampras looked easy. It actually wasn't for the first three sets, before the third set tie-break brought Sampras down. The feeling from the stands was that, while the tie-break was decisive for Sampras, it wouldn't have been so if Edberg had lost it, due to the huge reserves of confidence he had accumulated during the tournament.

Besides the fighting qualities, we can't neglect the athletical ones. Edberg had the toughest and most dangerous schedule. The prosecution of the match against Lendl, for instance, required enormous nervous energies.

Winning his sixth Grand Slam tournament, Edberg regained the first spot in the computer ranking. Edberg's presence at the top of the ranking is more important for tennis than for the Swede himself. Edberg and Sampras are the expression of a tennis that satisfies more the eyes of the aesthetes and the spirit of the game. The final was very good as long as Sampras stood the challenge and the quest for the point was the basis of every tactical choice.

Every now and then you can have fun with the bombings of hard-hitters like Courier and Agassi, but I believe that Edberg and Sampras represent more rightly the game at its best.

The US Open verdict can't be considered as definitive. Fortunately, tennis has a group of protagonists that can offer enthralling competition. So let's applaude Stefan Edberg, let's approve Pete Sampras, let's not forget Courier and Agassi and players like Becker who will surely be able to get back to the top. Let's also admire a champion like Lendl, capable of extraordinary performances at the age of 32, and little athletes like Michael Chang, certainly the closest to beat Edberg on his way to the title.

Tennis enjoys very good health, but it would be nice if also we Italians could participate in the party. Unfortunately we are only spectators, but this is another story, buried for the moment after the disappointments of the first week.

Edberg, glad to amaze you