Edberg vs Federer -- hypothetical match-up, aesthetics, mentality and competition
I've been debating with myself over whether or not to open a thread of this nature for a variety of reasons, one of which being the shortage of active members who would seem apt to participate in such a discussion. Thus, I won't be at all surprised if this thread fails to generate discussion; on the contrary, I'd be pleasantly surprised if it were to generate a noticeable level of intrigue, given the current state of affairs on this forum.
It's difficult, and perhaps to some degree, hazardous to one's health to deal in hypothetical scenarios -- especially in sports. After all, the world is seemingly in a constant state of change. How are we to objectively compare two immensely talented athletes who operated under such different conditions ? Well, the truth is, it's an almost impossible endeavor; however, there are certain factors which are able to withstand technological advancements and high-bouncing courts which, in relation to low-bouncing and quick-paced courts, are disproportionately represented.
For example, player H2Hs produce their own irrefutable form of evidence. Moreover, individual weaknesses and strengths can be measured against one another, irrespective of the particular era in question. Lastly, intangibles (e.g., psychological endurance, mentality and self-belief) constitute a stable foundation upon which to build an objective review of two players.
Federer vs Henman (7-6)
Federer vs Rafter (0-3)
Federer vs Sampras (1-0) - Wimbledon
Edberg vs Henman (2-0) - 1996
Edberg vs Rafter (3-0) - 1995
Edberg vs Sampras (6-8) - (2-0 in slams - US Open Final '92, Aussie Open '93)
In the case of Edberg's five victories over Rafter and Henman, his age is noteworthy: He was well beyond his prime, and would retire in 1996. Based on this fact, we are able to conclude that the very same players against whom Roger Federer once struggled were no match for even an old, declining Edberg.
Federer's poor record against Rafter is significant insofar as it serves as an illustration of the trials and tribulations of a developing star. However, Federer did lose to Rafter on three surfaces (clay, grass, hard). With respect to Tim Henman, Federer won their final six meetings after going 1-6 in their first seven matches.
Edberg triumphed over a young, virile Pete Sampras in their only two meetings at Grand Slams; Federer beat Sampras in a 5-set Wimbledon thriller, barely defeating a declining 13-time Grand Slam champion (Yes, Sampras had 13 slams in 2001).
Based on Federer's ratio of success against inferior serve-and-volleyers, it's difficult to conclude that he would "dominate" Edberg, even under today's painfully slow conditions. Could he beat him ? Perhaps so, but one shudders to imagine how Federer would have fared against an Edberg in his prime, given his mediocre record against less accomplished serve-and-volleyers. Moreover, one could easily make the case for Edberg as the best serve-and-volleyer, even when compared to the likes of McEnroe and Sampras (the latter being the weaker of the two at net, a fact which was diluted by the Sampras 1st serve).
Forehand: Federer by far
Backhand: Edberg by far
Serve: Tie (Kick-serve - Edberg) (Slice - Tie) (Flat - Fed)
Passing: Federer (better forehand pass)
Mental fortitude: Edberg (came back from a break down in the 5th set at Wimbledon against Mecir and Becker, also repeated this feat against three successive opponents (Krajicek, Lendl, Chang) at '92 USO)
Also, with respect to Edberg's kick serve (which would be enhanced on today's high-bouncing surfaces), Federer would struggle to consistently attack it with his backhand, which would be a requisite in order to combat an endless barrage of net attacks by Edberg.
Last edited by prima donna; 04-24-2009 at 12:54 AM.