An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion - MensTennisForums.com

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post #1 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 09:15 AM Thread Starter
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An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

He was not one of my favourites, but I thought I would share this interview. It's very long, so I will type it in 3 parts.

Here is part 1

Stefan Edberg
The Gentleman Champion


If there was ever a Sportsmanship Hall of Fame, Stefan Edberg would likely be one of the first athletes selected. Meanwhile the ITF will induct highly respected Edberg at its July 11 ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island. The stylish serve-and-volleyer, who twice captured singles titles at Wimbledon and the Australian ad US Opens, talks exclusively with Paul Fein

When you were a boy growing up in the seaside town of Västervik, did you ever think you would become a tennis champion and some day go into the International Tennis Hall of Fame?

No, not in my wildest dreams! Tennis was just another sport to try. It wasn’t until the end of my junior career that I realized I had a chance to go on the pro tour (He won the Junior Slam in 1983). When I was young, I was just trying to become a better player and maybe No.1 in my age group. I didn’t think much further than that.

Tennis stars often become coaches or TV commentators or compete on the senior tour after they retire from the Tour. What have you been doing since retiring in 1996?

TV commentating is not for me. I don’t feel like playing the ATP seniors tour either. I’ve tried to live as normal a life as I possibly can and have my kids grow up in a quiet environment. Apart from that, I’m still involved in tennis a little bit. And I do quite a bit of work from home, managing my investments.

What is your typical day like?

I usually get up at 6 or 6.30 because the kids have to be in school by 8. I work in the morning and then some days I work out. By 10.30 I am quite tired. But the great thing is that I can make my own schedule.

Please tell me about your wife and children.

I have been together with my wife, Annette, for almost 20 years, so it’s quite solid. Emily will turn 11 this summer, and Christopher just turned seven. They’re both in school now. We moved back to Sweden in 2000 to the countryside. They are typical Swedish kids now. I’ve gone back to my roots. I live pretty close to where I was brought up in a small place with only seven houses. It’s 30 kilometres south of Växjö in southern Sweden.

Why did you start a tennis foundation in Sweden?

Tennis has been so great to me. It’s meant a lot to my life and made me what I am today. So I wanted to do something for the young generation coming up to give them a better chance of succeeding in tennis. Instead of writing a cheque for the Swedish Tennis Federation, I decided to start a foundation at the end of my career. I want to run it for the long term and make sure the money is used for the right things.

Specifically, what does your foundation do for young players?

The foundation is for 14-16 yr old kids. You can earn a scholarship if you perform well during the year. We put quite a bit of money into what we call Davis Cup and Fed Cup schools. They bring the best kids in the country to Båstad to train for a few days. It’s more for the elite juniors than a grass-roots program because that’s quite an important age in your career when tennis costs a lot of money. We help with travel expenses. The kids have other coaches, but I do visit the two schools and play with them a bit. They hardly recognise me because I haven’t played for seven or eight years… It’s usually their mums and dads who recognise me, not the kids.

Looking back at your career, what were your three biggest on-court victories?

Winning the first Wimbledon final over Boris Becker is a great memory. The best match I ever played was beating Courier 6-2 6-4 6-0 in the ’91 US Open final. I had a great day. Also, the 1984 Davis Cup final was huge when we beat America in Göteborg. Anders Järryd and I beat McEnroe and Fleming to win the final. I don’t think they had lost in 14 or 15 Davis Cup matches previously.

You competed against several great champions during your 14-year career – McEnroe, Connors, Wilander, Lendl, Becker, Agassi and Sampras. Who were the best players?

It’s a tough question because they were all at their best at different times. The only thing I can say – and I haven’t seen Laver play and other champions before him long ago – is that Pete Sampras stands out as the most complete player of all because he could play well from the baseline and he could serve and volley. I’d pick Sampras as the best. It’s hard to pick the order after that…. I would put them together in a group.

What did you find most exciting about your era?

It was a great era of tennis. Tennis was building up in the’70s, and a lot of money poured into the sport in 1980 to 1982 when I started. Tennis grew in popularity because of the stars but also companies put a lot of money into tennis. It was a special era. You had Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Vilas and Borg – all the big names that made tennis prosper. Along I came as a youngster to join that great era. They had thrilling rivalries like Connors-Borg, Borg-McEnroe, McEnroe-Lendl. I was lucky to have a close rivalry with Boris. Rivalries have always created great excitement and been important in an individual sport like tennis.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in tennis since you retired eight years ago?

There haven’t been big changes. But the guys are taller and stronger, and they hit the ball a bit harder. But there is less variation now. Tennis is played in a similar way by most of the guys today.

Which men and women players today do you most like to watch?

Federer because he has all the weapons and moves well. The Williams sisters have brought lots of attention to the sport of tennis. The women have had lots of personalities in recent years, which is good for tennis. It’s always good to watch the top-ranked girls. Henin-Hardenne plays the best way. She has a one-handed backhand, which is nice to see. It’s quite an unusual shot. And she is a very good athlete.

I will type up more of the interview

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #2 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 09:34 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Nice one. Once I saw a Wimbledon documentary with one of the officials saying "Tell me something bad about Edberg". Such was his niceness.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
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post #3 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 09:52 AM Thread Starter
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

During your last US Open in 1996, Andre Agassi said about you: “He only adds to the game. His image and his person are impeccable.” Pete Sampras said: “If you are looking for a role model for kids, he’s the guy.” How did you maintain an unblemished reputation in a high-pressure, high-stakes individual sport filled with controversy?

It’s a good question. I really don’t know myself sometimes (Laughter) I’ve stuck to a simple strategy: to be myself and not try and act like somebody else. It’s quite important because young kids look up to stars to show them what’s right and wrong. That means being a good citizen and showing respect for other people, whether they are drivers or people working at the tournament. They are a part of the big picture, so you shouldn’t forget them, too.

You won an amazing five ATP Sportsmanship Awards and were so admired for your sportsmanship that the ATP renamed the award the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. Is that the legacy you are most proud of?

Yeah, that’s quite an achievement. At the same time, maybe it came a little early, so soon after I retired. I have mixed feelings about that. When you think about it, it’s really quite honourable to have a sportsmanship award named after you.

In 1999 Mats Wilander said, “John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors weren’t the nicest people in the world, they were the most selfish players, but they were great for the game. Tennis needs players who don’t care about pleasing sponsors, who don’t care about being nice.” Since you are a nice guy, do you agree with Mats? Why or why not?

In a way, I do. Because you’re never going to have a perfect world no matter how hard you try. Having only nice players may have worked 30, 40 years ago, but we live in a different society today. It’s almost abnormal to be normal today. If you are normal today, you don’t get any attention. You need to be really good or really bad.

So it’s good to have normal people like you and crazy people like McEnroe?

It creates discussion and attention around the sport. And even bad publicity today is good publicity. It’s almost like you need a good guy ad a bad guy to create the best concept. But being a bad guy is nothing I recommend. We’re all very different.

Agassi and Laver are the only men players to win all four Grand Slam events during the Open Era. But you came very close when you led Michael Chang two sets to one and had 10 break points in the fourth set and then were twice up a service break in the fifth set of the French Open final. Was losing that exciting final your biggest disappointment?

Not at the time because I thought I’d have more chances. But as the years went by, I realised that was my great opportunity. It was similar to the great chance McEnroe had against Lendl in the 1984 final. With my game I wasn’t going to get that many chances in Paris. And I was playing very well that year. If I had played one big point better, that probably would have been enough to win the match. But Chang had God on his side, or whatever you call it. (Laughter) Maybe he was destined to win that year. That was a big, big chance, and it’s obviously something I regret today. But what the heck, you can’t win everything.

Today players change coaches more often than ever. Tony Pickard coached you for nearly your entire pro career. You once said, “Tony is really my friend, not just my coach.” Is that why your relationship with Tony was so successful and so long?

I think so. That’s part of the reason. We were well suited together. He became a friend, almost like a father. What he did for me was great, and I’m very thankful.

You won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics when tennis was demonstration sport. Are you pleased with the way tennis is staged at the Olympics?

Yes and No. In 1984 having tennis in the Olympics was a bit suspect. But at the same time you have to be supportive because the Olympics is a big event. It wasn’t until Agassi won it in the US that you got a little pop about winning the Olympics. But I don’ t think tennis really needs the Olympics. I’m not sure football does either. Tennis can stand on its own feet without it.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #4 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 10:06 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Thanks for this GWG.

It's about time he got into the Tennis Hall of Fame, they should have done it earlier.


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post #5 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 10:07 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

That's hysterical! Edberg takes shot at Chang! Not so nice! WHOOO!
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post #6 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 10:14 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Thanks for the article, but as Carnival says it's very funny when someone like Edberg has a go at Chang. I wonder who had more friends on tour Chang or Muster?
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post #7 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 10:15 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Thanks GWH, Stefan is a wise man and I loved how he played tennis.
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post #8 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 10:18 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

GWH where it is from?

EISERN UNION

Bryans || Djokovic || Paire || Rojer || Tecau || Pospisil || Chiudinelli || Verdasco || Simon || Seppi || Leo Mayer

Björkman || Arthurs || Edberg || Nalbandian || Hanley || Rafter
T.Johansson || M.Norman || Aspelin || O. Rochus || Söderling


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post #9 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 10:59 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

This is great, GWH. Thanks.
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post #10 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

This is the last part of the interview.

As late as 1991 Annette cut your hair. Even though you are wealthy, you are still frugal. Does that come from your conservative middle-class values as the son of a police detective?

Well, I do have a respect for money. That’s how I was brought up. I’m not throwing away money. I buy things I need but nothing more than that.

You were one of the most elegant, athletic and effective serve-and-volleyers in tennis history. But today there are few serve-and-volleyers. What should tennis do so this entertaining and important style of play doesn’t die?

That’s a good question. If I was playing today I would not play as aggressively as I did because it’s too predictable and the guys return serve far better than previously. With serve-and-volley, it takes a couple more years to learn about the game. It’s riskier, there is less margin for making mistakes. I don’t think serving-and-volleying will die. I just wish there will be more serving-and-volleying because it’s beautiful to watch.

Arien Kantarian, chief executive of the USTA says “The sport is best marketed as tough, athletic, and macho. The Williams sisters have done as much as anyone to market the sport as macho. Tennis players are up there with basketball players as the finest athletes in the world.” Do you agree with that?

Not totally. You need to be athletic. But the game itself – the way it’s played, the scoring system – is exciting the way it is. You can play badly for 45 minutes, but it’s still the last point that wins the match. We don’t need to be like other sports. Tennis has always been a gentleman’s sport, and that’s the way we should keep it. Otherwise, it will be like everything else.

In America some coaches teach juniors to grunt, pump their fist and yell, “Come on!” What do you think of that?

It’s good to show your emotions to some extent, but you don’t have to overdo it…. At Wimbledon you’re out there in the fifth set, and it’s as exciting as you can get, and you can hear a pin drop on the floor. That’s quite astonishing. That kind of tension is great for tennis.

Fame never seemed to matter much to you, but you once said: “Sports always has been my passion. It has given me a chance to be somebody.” Would you please explain that?

I’m a low-key person. Fame comes with the sport. Tennis has given me a lot. It’s give me a career, and I can support my family for the rest of my life. That’s the great part of it. I can deal with being famous and recognised. It’s kind of nice. It helps you in normal life. At restaurants if you’re Mr. Svensson, people don’t take notice. But if you’re Mr Edberg, you may get that table you want. In many ways it’s quite good to be famous. I think people are nice to you.

Even though you became a somebody, you never really changed. How did you stay so normal in a tennis world which is so abnormal?

Yeah, it’s quite abnormal to stay that normal. It comes down to the way you are brought up, what you believe in. Today I am quite a famous person. But what’s important to me today is to bring up my kids in a normal atmosphere. That’s part of the reason we live in the country. They go to a public school. We try to have our feet on the ground and have the kids not taking things for granted. Kids look up to you. If you are a good example for your kids, you teach them good manners, what is right and wrong, and respect for other people. They have to do that to get through life.

McEnroe, Becker, King, Cash, Navratilova and many great champions have written highly revealing autobiographies. When will you write your autobiography?

You have a guess. I’ve had a interesting life. But I’ve stayed very normal. And that’s why I don’t think my autobiography would sell today. Maybe it would in 20 years time. I doubt I would write a book about myself because I am a private person. I don’t feel any need for a book about myself. If I want to help people. I’ll help them in my own private way.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #11 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 11:23 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Hmmm ...

Edberg seems to have a deadpan sense of humor.

I also agree with his assessment of the popularity of a future book.

Well, maybe it would do ok in Sweden, I don't know.
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post #12 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 11:24 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Thanks a lot for posting that great interview!!!
Stefan was the reason why I became a tennisfan end of the 80´s and I still like him very much. It´s great that he finally got into the Hall of Fame.

VAMOS TOMMY!!!



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post #13 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 11:31 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

completely agree with Edberg about what he says about Justine
(of course, he is also right in many other things )

although he was never one my biggest favorites in the 90s, I liked watching Edberg also, I think he had a nice and modern game and maybe he even deserved more big titles than he actually got. Alltogether really a complete player.

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post #14 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 11:34 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarnivalCarnage
Hmmm ...

Edberg seems to have a deadpan sense of humor.

I also agree with his assessment of the popularity of a future book.

Well, maybe it would do ok in Sweden, I don't know.
Edberg is even boring by Swedish standards, but a deadpan sense of humor is a wonderful thing and I appreciated his tennis, even though he was not a favourite of mine.

The book wouldn't do that well in Sweden, then he never had Björn Borg like antics away from the court.
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post #15 of 55 (permalink) Old 07-01-2004, 11:36 AM
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Re: An Interview with Stefan Edberg the Gentleman Champion

Isn't he a beloved sports figure in Sweden? No? Shut down? Ok then.

Perhaps he doesn't have a deadpan sense of humour (or any at all) and was simply accidentally making jokes! Now that would be funny.
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