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
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".
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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.