View Full Version : I was never able to see Becker or Edberg play
06-28-2006, 08:23 PM
During the time they dominated the tour, I was out of tennis. I was a fanatic when I was a little kid and I saw Borg, Vilas Mac, and Lendl, then I quit tennis for like 15 years. By the time I returned, circa 98, I saw Sampras, Agassi, Rafter and now Fed, but there are two players I missed; Becker and Edberg. Can somebody tell me how really great they were?.
Did they innovated or influenced the game?. Were they worthy of their legends?.
I would really like if someone can describe their games.
(Specially now during Wimbledon, I noticed many people seem to miss them :| ).
06-28-2006, 11:28 PM
becker and edberg were THE wimbledon rivals from 1988-90 when they played in 3 straight finals. edberg won in 88 and 90, becker won in 89. both were serve and volley players but becker relied more on strength and power, edberg was more elegant with more finesse.
becker, the youngest wimbledon champion ever (17 in 1985), was originally nicknamed boom-boom because of his power game. although he served and volleyed, he could also win points from the baseline because of his powerful groundstrokes. becker's first serve regularly reached 120mph which was huge back then, especially since the grass surface back then was much faster than it is now. (contrast with today, andy roddick was hitting in excess of 135mph and many of his serves still got returned).
edberg was a pure serve and volley player, but at the same time, he was the opposite of john macenroe (another pure serve/volleyer). edberg was right handed, mac was a lefty; stefan relied more on a kick serve, john on a slice serve; edberg was as cool and calm as they get; mac had that fiery temper. edberg's best shot from the baseline was his sweeping one-handed backhand, which was unique since most swedes modeled their games from borg with thier 2-handers. he could roll, drive, slice, lob and drop shot from that side. his forehand has been described as ugly, but it was almost as effective as his backhand. unlike becker, edberg hardly ever attempted to blast outright winners from the baseline. he always looked for an opportunity to go to the net. mostly, he set up his volleys with his amazing kick serve, one of the best in tennis history.
i suppose becker influenced the game a bit more in terms of the development of greater and greater power. both men won 6 slams, but neither won the french, although edberg was a finalist to chang in 1989 and becker was several times in the semifinals. becker won 3 wimbledons, 2 australians and 1 u.s. open; edberg won 2 each at wimbledon, australia and u.s. edberg spent more time at number 1 but becker had a slightly longer career. if i'm not mistaken, he also won more overall titles and has the edge in their head-to-head.
why do people miss them now? because they miss that attacking style of play that used to be so dominant at wimbledon. both guys were also very popular all over the world. although they were rivals, you could actually root for both of them. i don't recall many people hating either of them, the way we see now with the anti-nadals or anti-roddicks.
06-29-2006, 04:12 AM
Well Edberg couldn't be hated, he was a pure sportsman - a real class-act, but Becker was indeed disliked to some degree (me included - I didn't like his off-court behavior) even so I'm german I rooted for Edberg most of the time if they played. ;) - but there wasn't anti-Nadal/Fed/Roddick like hate involved (by fans) for sure - something I despise!
All in all an acurate summary of their respective games Jack!
06-29-2006, 06:16 AM
Did they innovate? You could make the case Becker had a hand in popularizing the modern power baseline game (much to the vocal disgust of his coaches and trainers, who were always trying to make him attack the net more). His strategy: hit everything as hard as you can -- every shot. Wouldn't really stand out today, but was kind of (only kind of -- see: Ivan Lendl) revolutionary at the time.
Edberg certainly didn't innovate. He was more like one of the last of a dying breed. He was one of the last great S&V'ers, before the era of extreme grips made the passing shot laughably easy against all but the biggest servers, and killed off S&V tennis for good.
Edberg had one of the most overrated backhands in history. People lauded it because it was smooth and classic, and in complete contrast to his herky-jerky forehand and serve. But statistically, it was still nowhere near as effective as his forehand, and was very attackable.
06-29-2006, 07:54 AM
Jack - very well done...Nice memories Edberg was really a great player to watch...
great trip down memory lane, jack.
06-29-2006, 09:07 AM
What was fun about the two of them (Becker MUCH more so) was that neither of them ever dominated the game, even during their better seasons or when they were ranked #1. You always had the feeling that they were human first, and could potentially blow a match early in an event to some nobody or quasi-nobody. There was always an unpredictability to their talents. Becker always left his feelings on the surface, and there were days when Stefan just didn't have it. I much prefer that over blind domination, like a Federer who theoretically has a tough Wimbledon draw (Gasquet, Henman) and still just blows people away. I get nothing from that ... zip, zero, zilch. Federer would be much easier to like if he would melt down once in a blue moon, show a little soul - his icy brilliance makes me want to change the channel.
06-29-2006, 09:40 AM
Thanks a lot for your impressions guys. Jack; you ever thougth about tennis journalism? ;) .
I readed a book a year ago, called "Hard courts" I think, about the 91 season, and if you add Lendl, Mac, the youngs Agassi, Courier, Sampras and Chang, it seems it has been one of the most exciting times for our sport. (Call me crazy but I always think about Lendl as the GOAT, considering that with this grass, he would have won a couple of Wimbledons easily).
In this book, Becker is portrayed as a very emotional and ciclotimic young man, thinking about retirement when he was 21,or 22, living isolated in a penthouse at Montecarlo, and giving headaches to his coach (I don't remember the name) and to Ion Tiriac. Very funny!.
Was his behavior on court disturbing, or disrepectful to the others, or was it self destructive a la Gaudio?.
(Agassi is portrayed as an a s s hole!. I can hadly believe is the same man I admire now).
How did Edberg, without baseline strokes,managed poweful baseliners as Lendl or.... I don't know... Who else?.
06-29-2006, 09:40 AM
Great review jack, man those were great matches to watch.
Anybody know what either of these guys are doing nowadays?
Involved in tennis?
I wonder if Edberg could coach someone his style of play.
06-29-2006, 11:28 AM
I'm surprised you didn't include Wilander in your discussion, another great player during that terrific era for men's tennis.
The thing I most remember about Edberg was his cool kick serve he would use almost exclusively. I think he was the only player that did that during that time. His volleys, especially his backhand was a thing of beauty. A classic S&V player.
Becker was very different from the cool Edberg. Young, fiery and very exciting to watch. The first of the new breed of power players in my book (growing up with graphite rackets). He was known for diving all over the courts of Wimbledon.
Good trip down memory lane. I wish we had a few Beckers, Edbergs still playing today.
06-29-2006, 12:19 PM
i used to have the "hardcourts" book. but i don't really remember it very well now.
becker was portrayed as sort of a headcase, but not as much as safin or even ivanisevic. if there was a modern player i could think of to compare him to in terms of his mentality, maybe roddick. his confidence tends to ebb and flow. i don't remember becker ever being disrespectful to his opponent. he was emotional and obviously very passionate but not obnoxious like hewitt or connors. his temper sometimes flared but i don't recall him smashing rackets or loudly cursing the umpires. on some occassions, he even tried to be funny. and no, he wasn't self-destructive on court.
with regards to how edberg became successful using a serve and volley game, remember that he played from the mid 80's to mid 90's when there were more than a few serve and volley players around (becker, sampras, krajicek, stich) so it shouldn't be a mystery how he succeeded with that style. consider that in the late 90's to the early part of the millenium, pat rafter used the same serve and volley game to win 2 us opens, get to 2 wimbledon finals and reach no.1 albeit for a very short time. and in the same period, there were even some serve and volley players on the women's tour (navratilova was still a top 10 player when she retired from singles in 1994; novotna and tauziat were both top 10 players in the late 90's). it's really only now (2002 onward) that the serve and volley game has become virtually extinct.
06-29-2006, 12:35 PM
Becker and Edberg were made for each other. If Edberg were a scalpel, Becker would've been a chainsaw.
Boris Becker once said he was the "best 2 - 3 shot player in the world". What he meant by that was if it dealt with serve/return of serve, and maybe one other shot, he couldn't be beat. Cliff Drysdale used to opine that if Becker was getting 70% of his first serves in, he couldn't be beat. Becker was a juggernaut when he hit the tennis scene. McEnroe said that Dunlop had better build him a racket that would allow him to compete with Becker's power.
Becker was not beyond gamesmanship even though he always talked about sportsmanship. In his Wimbledon final against Kevin Curren, I can still remember him backing out of returning serve between first and second serve trying to draw Curren off his mark. It worked and Becker was roundly booed by the crowd for it. I can also remember Becker making a journeyman Scottish player mad and then blowing him a kiss. He did it quickly and the camera was lucky to catch it, but it showed the essence of the competitor. However Becker could be gracious and magnanimous like no other player. I remember him losing a final of a Grand Slam (US Open) and asked, with his racket still in his hand, how he felt. He said "life goes in small circles, I'll win another day." That borders waxing eloquently.
Edberg was just elegant. He never got ruffled, he always appeard to be enjoying himself when playing, and he was Borg-like in his treatment of the opposition. In other words, he never complained, took anything personally and just plain let his racket do all the talking. Edberg was slighted by Wilson. There was a time he was the #1 player in the world and didn't have a racket endorsement contract. I distinctly remember him saying "I guess Wilson doesn't want me." I also remember when Wilson did pick Edberg back up, he always stenciled his rackets with the little "W" that fit wood racakets.
In his US Open win, he played Lendl. At one point, Lendl got caught and played a ball behind his back. Edberg got the opportunity later in the match and did the same to the delight of the crowd and even Lendl smiled.
Where Becker would beat an opponent into submission, Edberg would carve them up. Becker's volleys were hit with a hammer grip and he basically appeared to muscle the ball wherever he wanted it to go. Edberg's volleys were clean and forceful. Edberg didn't have the magical volley of a McEnroe, but what he did have was perfect technique. After watching McEnroe take volleys close to his body, drop his racket head nearly to the ground, hit swinging volleys, and do everything everyone else was told not to do, it almost appeared as though Edberg didn't know how to volley, that he was stiff. In retrospect, Edberg's volleys should be taught to anyone who is learning to play net.
One of the pros I work with last year changed my technique completely. It has been the best tip I ever got. I, like a whole generation, was ruined by trying to emulate that which is not copyable, McEnroe. The pro had me watch some of Edberg's volleys. If you watch Edberg, he comes in with his racket way out in front of him. It looks a little awkward (and the commentator mentioned this) but it also gets the racket out in volleying postiion. Edberg never took a volley late or in bad position and he let his legs do 90% of the work on his volleys.
The two of them, Becker/Edberg, were the last of the great rivalries on grass. They had some classics that will sadly never be repeated again.
06-29-2006, 12:38 PM
One of the neat things about the edberg - becker era was that you had 2 great S&V players. There was always the anticipation of a wimbledon final between the 2. The result was not a foregone conclusion.
With Sampras and now Federer, we've lost this balance. It would be nice if there was somebody to challenge Federer on grass.
06-29-2006, 01:30 PM
Becker and Edberg were made for each other. If Edberg were a scalpel, Becker would've been a chainsaw.
Where Becker would beat an opponent into submission, Edberg would carve them up.
Edberg never took a volley late or in bad position and he let his legs do 90% of the work on his volleys.
Great summary rabbit. I particulary like above statements.
Very simple but accurate descriptions of their games.
One time, I remember Becker told Agassi to shut up during a match.
Well, not exaclty "shut up", he said "you talk too much". Agassi got
quiet after that and lost the match. This was Wimbledon.
What I remember of about Edberg: Good looking nice guy. Strong legs
with huge thigh always relentlessly working. Power house backhand.
And of course kick serve.
Someone told me Becker had a flat foot and that's why he slipped
often and dive to volley. I'm not sure how accurate information it is.
Do they still ATP sportmanship award name after Edberg ?
They used to officially name it "Edberg sportmanship award".
06-29-2006, 06:51 PM
Textbook, Edberg and Becker are one of my fovorites (the others are Rafter, Cash, Guga). BTW, I've bought some DVDs including many Edberg/Becker and of course Edberg vs. Becker matches. The seller is very honest with the quality of his collection. I ended up buying quite a few from this site.
And I agree...I wish there are real competitors for Federer...Safin with Edberg's head, Hewitt with Becker's power etc...:(
Edit} it's t.e.n.n.i.s.d.v.d
06-30-2006, 11:56 AM
I'm having the picture now! :).
This kind of information can only be obtained directly from fans. There are certain things you don get by records, statistics or just watching the tapes whitout the feedback that only those who were there could give you.
I wonder if we could enjoy the Fed - Nadal rivalry the same way, without hating the other player or his fans (I'm guilty of this myself sometimes), or is just that time has softened the memories among those who rooted for Edberg and Boom Boom.
Newuse; I'm sorry I forgot to mention Wilander. I saw him play and he was one of the greats no doubt, but I guess the giant shadow of Borg was still too present in my mind back then to really embrace another swedish baseliner as an idol.
Gundam; Thanks for the link.
Man.. this board is useful sometimes! :cool:
07-17-2006, 11:48 AM
Well Edberg couldn't be hated, he was a pure sportsman - a real class-act, but Becker was indeed disliked to some degree (me included - I didn't like his off-court behavior)
What did he do?
07-17-2006, 12:03 PM
Edberg was kind of like Federer in the attitude, but he doesn't talk back behind people like "Kill the Czech Bas.****!" or "He is just a one dimensional player".
07-17-2006, 12:18 PM
What did he do?
Marry a black women?
07-17-2006, 10:40 PM
Becker during Davis Cups - USA & in Germany are for the ages. Miss the Dutch windmill forehand thunder - still watch alot of his matches on VHS-DVD vs Sampras-Agassi-Edberg-Lendl.. All are matches that compete w/ todays thrillers. Edberg the stutter stepper - very quick feet - fun to watch that serve - how he comes over the top for the ultra spin.
07-17-2006, 11:42 PM
Superhuman: As a quick example of Becker's 'gamesmanship': During the 'live' televised display by NBC of the 06 Wimby final, John MacEnroe mentioned that, in 1984/5, he was playing Boris during the spring, and BB was stalling, questioning calls, and generally behaving like a brat who was aware that stalling tactics could change the momentum of a match. Mac mentioned that he said to BB that "he had to win something first" before he was allowed to act that way. As the story goes, a month later Becker won Wimbledon at the age of 17.
Becker wasn't known for consistently 'misbehaving,' but certainly he was much more emotionally expressive than Edberg ever was. Stefan's biggest expression was, to my mind, his celebration of winning the 1988 Wimbledon: he fell backwards with both hands outstretched; after such a super match, it was a classy way to end a super final. In fact, I believe that the Sportsmanship award given annually by the ATP is still called the "Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship" award.
Becker and Edberg were known as very different fishes from the beginning of their pro careers: Becker was always known as a fighter, while Stefan was labelled a 'quitter'/ 'choker' for the first couple years, much like Ivan Lendl was. However, just like Lendl, he didn't lack the emotional drive or ambition, Edberg just lacked the physical strength and conditioning necessary to win the long matches. As their careers drew longer, both Becker and Edberg became stronger, better conditioned athletes who could go the distance while playing their respective styles to the end.
One of my most irrepressive images of tennis, one that inspired me to keep playing, both as a 10 year-old and now:
1986 Wimbledon Final. Becker vs. Lendl (who was in his first W final, which he reached by playing pure s&v tennis). Becker's up 2 sets to none, and roughly 5-3 in the 3rd (close to winning at least!). At 30-15, BB serves to Ivan, who hits a decent return. Boris volleys deep into the fh corner, and Lendl rips a fh passing shot down the line. BB dives for a bh volley; the shot hits the net an dribbles over. After recovering from the dive, Boris flops himself forward to hit a stab bh crosscourt dropshot. Despite a top-speed run, Lendl only watches it bounce twice, and puts both hands on his hips and shakes his head. Boris leaps to his feet and, seeing that the point is his, lifts both hands in celebration while shouting satisfaction.
A few points later, BB wins his second Wimbledon.
Without question, that point illustrates the type of passion that the best tennis is played with; could anyone disagree?
07-18-2006, 12:39 AM
Becker took power to a whole 'nother level. Evolution of power since 1980: Lendl... Becker... Agassi... Ivanisevic... Safin... ?
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