Simone Ritchie wrote:
The Tennis Week Interview - Stefan Edberg (part 2)
Tennis Week: What is your future in tennis? Are you still working a
lot with juniors in Sweden?
Stefan Edberg: I'm still involved in tennis and I still have my
foundation, which I'm running back in Sweden. I still do some work
locally. I set up a place with Carl-Axel Hageskog, who was the
previous Davis Cup captain for Sweden. We set up a place where you can
combine studies with playing tennis nearly full-time.
Tennis Week: Sort of like an academy?
Stefan Edberg: Yeah, yeah, you can say so. I'm spending some time on
court with these guys and some of the girls. They're about 16, 17 and
18 years old.
Tennis Week: Do you still play a lot? Because you look so fit, like
you could walk out on court right now if you wanted?
Stefan Edberg: I do play regularly. At the moment, I'm not playing
anything because I've got a slipped disc in my back in the moment.
Tennis Week: It's not because of this (emulates the back bend on
Edberg's serve), is it?
Stefan Edberg: (smiles) Probably that's part of the reason. Otherwise,
I play some tennis twice a week and I some squash too. I keep active.
And that's why I still keep playing with the young guys: so I can
still keep competitive and give them a match out there.
Tennis Week: Do you think any of the Swedes — Joachim Johansson,
Thomas Johansson, Robin Soderling — are potential top-10 or top-20
Stefan Edberg: Well, Johansson has the potential. As you know, he's
had a huge setback with his injuries so he's going to find it hard to
get back to where he was. Soderling, I think, he's got the game to get
up there. He was just in the semis of a tournament. Ususally with
these young guys, like Soderling at his best is really good, but it's
getting to a consistently good level every time you step on the court
that can be difficult.
Tennis Week: Even Federer, as a young player, struggled to get that
consistency at times.
Stefan Edberg: Absolutely. But Soderling has potential: he's got the
game, he's strong so he could definitely get up there to the top 10.
Soderling has the potential to get there, there's no question about
that, it's staying there that can be a little bit more difficult.
Tennis Week: You played so many great players at or near their peak.
Who do you consider your best rival? Who brought out the best in you?
Stefan Edberg: The Spanish guys on clay (laughs). No, I think
obviously the Becker rivalry was great at the time. Becker was such a
great competitor especially in the big finals. There was a little
rivarly with Mats (Wilander) too. We both brought out some great
tennis in each other. I was lucky enough to play McEnroe at his best,
which was awfully tough. I competed against Lendl at his best, which
was not easy either. I competed with Agassi close to his best and he
caused me a lot of trouble because he returned the ball so well. And
Pete Sampras somewhere close to his best as well. He sometimes blew me
off the court when he was close to his best. So I was lucky enough to
play against great players at the peak of their careers or pretty
close to it.
Tennis Week: You had some memorable matches with McEnroe (McEnroe won
seven of their 13 meetings). You were both attacking players, but
obviously so different in terms of temperament. What was it like
Stefan Edberg: I kind of liked John, the way he acts on the court. He
makes it pretty interesting. I always liked to watch him play. I
didn't agree with him all the time, but I didn't really mind playing
against him because he was more arguing with himself or the umpire. He
didn't really care the opponent that much. He was more worried about
the calls so that was a good thing about John. I didn't really get too
irritated playing him because I knew what to expect. He did a great
job arguing — he was the best — so we miss him (smiles).
Tennis Week: Did you ever have a time where you just mentally lost it
Stefan Edberg: Oh yeah. It happens to everybody.
Tennis Week: How did you keep it together and stay so cool for so
Stefan Edberg: Well, there are times when you're there, but you're not
quite there. When you're tired and you just do the best you can for
the moment. It's like you haven't got the strength and you just have
to finish. So you just play and do the best you can and then take a
break from it because you have to understand it happens to everybody
at some point.
Tennis Week: During rain delays at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open they'll
sometimes televise old matches. Do you ever see old matches that
you've played; do you ever watch yourself?
Stefan Edberg: Hardly ever. I've got all my prizes and all the videos
packed away in boxes. And I haven't gotten to the stage where I do
watch them. I've got a chance now because they asked me to send some
of my trophies for the Hall of Fame museum. So I had to get up in the
attic, go through the boxes and dig out the few videotapes I had.
Tennis Week: Do you think you'll ever sit down with your kids and show
them any of those matches?
Stefan Edberg: I think if they ask we'd do it. If they get to the
stage where they're interested and want to see it. When they want to
do it and they're interested we can, but I think that's the key with
kids: they have to want to do it. It's like that with tennis: you
don't want to push them into playing tennis unless they really want to
do it on their own. But if they come to you and want to play tennis
then you're in a much better position because it comes from them and