As a kid I was inspired by Borg and Wilander, their styles were appealing to both watch and to copy as they were styles that were not risky, they were safe ways of playing tennis. I probably did not appreciate other ways of playing the game yet these 'other' ways were possibly more exciting to watch. However when both of these ways of playing the game came up against each other, now that was entertaining.
Stefan Edberg was another Swedish Champion, a player who went against the grain of all past Swedish player's styles, he developed a technically brilliant serve and volley game. Edberg in fact ended up marrying Mats Wilander's ex fiance, a rather attractive blonde who was the daughter of the Swedish Davis Cup Captain.
Now without sounding too sexist I can see why the Swedish team of the early 80's were so inspired. There was obviously an ego war of sorts between the players as to who would in fact would win the heart of young Annette Olson. Mats initially, followed by Stefan. Team practice sessions with Annette looking on were no doubt full of entertaining shot making and testosterone filled banter.
Now initially Edberg was overshadowed by Wilander in particular until the Davis Cup Final held in Sweden in 1984. After all Mats had won the French Open Mens Singles title two years earlier plus the Australian Open titles of '83 and '84, Edberg was primarily just out of junior ranks. Edberg though was picked to play the doubles with Anders Jarryd who went on to become the World's best doubles player in 1985.
Edberg and Jarryd took on McEnroe and Fleming who had not been beaten in 15 Davis Cup matches but this match was on clay and held no fears for either Sweden or a very young Stefan Edberg. A 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 victory to Sweden handed the home team the title after wins to Wilander and Sundstrom in the singles over Connors and McEnroe. The win signaled the emergence of Edberg as a player of the future, his days of being the World's best junior were a thing of the past.
Rather than go through the year by year exploits of Stefan Edberg I believe that fast forwarding to the US Open of 1992 gives a more accurate description of just how good he was. It's rather easy to see why Federer has chosen Edberg as not only his favorite player but why he has also chosen him as his current coach.
US OPEN 1992;
Now after three initial straight sets wins Edberg came up against Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, a man who played much the same as he did. Krajicek would go on to win Wimbledon 4 years later but in this particular match Edberg scraped through 6-4 in the fifth set.
The Quarter final between Edberg and Lendl was a match that Edberg lead two sets to love before Lendl came back and took it to a fifth set. The Swede would eventually take the match 7-3 in the ensuing tie breaker which took him to a semi final against Michael Chang.
Now as far as classic matches are concerned this is right up there with the best ever played in New York, an epic five and a half hour battle that saw Edberg prevail 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. The difference in styles made for a classic highlight reel of amazing shots as one player pushed for an advantage at the net, the other worked the angles from the baseline. Edberg was never really known as an 'Ironman' of sorts like Thomas Muster or Jim Courier but his ability to grind out win after win in 1992 was extraordinary to say the least.
When you consider his athleticism and fitness level to be able to keep attacking the net after so many hours on court over consecutive days this tournament may just put him up with the all time greats.
The final against Pete Sampras was almost an anti climax, a 'short' 4 setter which Edberg won after a pivotal third set tie breaker win, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. This was a match that Sampras said 'defined' his career, a match he said he did not 'fully commit' to and one in which he learned to ask more of himself in the future. He perhaps though could have been excused for being almost mesmerized by his opponent's exploits of the previous few days . Why he was still receiving a battle from a man who should have been on a drip from exhaustion and not one who was still pushing for the title may just have confused him just a little.
The US Open of 1992 may just go down in history as one of the greatest physical and mental performances from an athlete of any sport in general of all time. It may just be the reason why Federer employed Edberg as the man to see out his own career.
I would suspect Roger watched along with many other budding young tennis players in awe of the Champion from Sweden and how he simply refused to lose that tournament. The will to win and a refusal to lose, that's tough to teach........