Stefan Edberg

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by Rabbit, Mar 26, 2004.

  1. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    After several posts on another thread, it seems that a thread about Stefan Edberg was appropriate.

    The first time I saw Stefan Edberg play was at Wimbledon. He didn't do very well, but caught the attention of the world. An Italian journalist whose name escapes me, said if Edberg didn't win Wimbledon in 5 years, he'd quit his job. Well, Edberg beat him to the punch and won it 3 years later. Many forget that Edberg also got to the finals of the French Open where he lost to Chang. I would have bet my house and everything I own on Edberg that year, but it was Chang's year. Edberg is one of the few players in the history of the Open era to make it to all four Grand Slam finals. He won 6 of those Grand Slam tournaments, two Australian, two Wimbledon, and two U.S. Opens. It would seem that Edberg was as balanced in his victory count as he was on court.

    Edberg's chief rival in my view was Becker. The two were perfect foils for each other. Becker was very German IMO. Becker's game was built on precision and power, just like most exports from Germany (the four wheeled kind). Edberg was the antithesis of this, playing more like a refined McEnroe. You know you got beat, you just didn't know quite how.

    Edberg's Game

    Edberg's game centered around two things, his serve and his volley. Edberg had the most awesome kick serve the world has ever seen, before or since. He routinely hit 115 MPH kick serves. The service delivery had one purpose, to allow Edberg time to get into volleying position. He did this as well as anyone who's ever volleyed. His serve has been described as awkward, but I thought it was really a defining part of his overall game.
    Edberg's volleys are classic. The thing I noticed most about his volleys is that he kept the racket head close to eye level, and his balance was impeccable. Edberg had very little racket movement incorporated into his volleys and used placement more than power. His whole game was built around placment rather than power.
    Of all the strokes Edberg possessed, more has been said about his backhand than any other stroke. I have yet to see a better looking one handed backhand from any player, male or female. He could hit all three backhands with equal proficiency. Edberg could rally from backcourt hitting topspin backhands, hit a slice that was both defensive and offensive, and he could come through the backhand and drive it through the court. Probably the most classic one-handed backhand the game has ever seen.
    Edberg's forehand was described as his weakness. It may well have been, but it possessed the same elegance that the rest of his game did. He never really got a ton of racket head speed on any of his groundies, but he always met the ball very cleanly.

    I remember when Edberg put down his ProStaff in favor of an all-encompassing Adidas contract. Adidas had built him an all white frame and he played with it at the Masters in NYC. It was a good looking frame, but it did little for Edberg save give him a touch of tendonitis. He went back to Wilson and played for two or three years (one of them as number 1 in the world) without a contract. I remember him being quoted as saying "I guess they don't want me". It didn't matter to him and he kept playing with the ProStaff. Wilson later signed him and kept him I guess ever since.


    Becker and Edberg really parallel each other. They both own 6 Grand Slams, both love the grass at Wimbledon, and both consider each other as their chief rival and greatest advesary. They had some epic battles at Wimbledon and their matches are the last classic S/V vs. S/V that we're likely to see. Edberg and Becker both moved like they played tennis. Edberg forever graceful and elegant, Becker powerful and throwing himself about the court.
     
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  2. AAAA

    AAAA Hall of Fame

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    Rabbit, If I may I'll add this:

    When Becker beat you, you felt his power.

    When Edberg beat you, you didn't feel a thing (physically).


    Muster a most macho player was driven nuts by Edberg whom he never beat in 10 meetings. Mucho Macho Muster could never come to terms with his macho-self being beaten all the time by the 'prissy' Edberg. :lol:

    Rabbit, I was still young when Edberg was in his prime, so did he ever hit backhand winners with the same power as Becker, Lendl or Stich?
     
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  3. Ballmachine

    Ballmachine Semi-Pro

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    Great post! I agree with everything you said, except that Edberg's forehand was awkward, ugly, and not very graceful at all. His forehand groundstroke and his forehand volley were the only weaknesses in his game. Out of the blue, both of those shots would go off in a match for long periods of time.

    The rest of his game, including his attitude and sportsmanship, were indeed very graceful.
     
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  4. Hal

    Hal Rookie

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    I agree, it was a great post. I do agree with Ballmachine, that Edberg's forehand had a hitch, that would sometimes breakdown and cause many errors.

    Also, I agree that Edberg hit precise volleys, but they had a good amount of "pop" on them. They certainly weren't the touch kind of volleys that Mac used to hit.
     
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  5. edge

    edge Banned

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    Edberg's awkward forehand had a continental grip that would go out of kilter if he did strike the ball squarely. Like McEnroe, he was from the Aussie school of, "one grip for every shot."
     
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  6. borisboris

    borisboris Semi-Pro

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    Edberg was not a priss-any player who serves & volleys plays twice as long of match as a basliner. Edberg had a RIPPING BACKHAND!!! He would knee bend lower than any player and crush a showstring b-hand, had great control with it. A true legond and greatly missed.
     
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  7. jayserinos99

    jayserinos99 Hall of Fame

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    rabbit, your post brought a tear to my eye. excellent post.
     
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  8. madhavan

    madhavan New User

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    ah, Stefan Edberg's backhand - my favourite topic! It was the shot that absolutely captivated me in all my 25 years of following the game. What a perfect backswing, explosive swing and dramatic follow-thru! He could play conservative or absolutely rip flat winners. Check out the 88 wimbledon final or the 89 final (though he lost it, there were still several wonderful bh passes). I have no idea why some people think Stefan had a lovely bh, but could not hit it hard. When he hit out (as he frequently did on passing shots), the ball went like a rocket.

    My other favourite backhands - Ken Rosewall (check out the 'Tennis to Win - vol 1' video for how incredibly smooth his stroke was) and Gustavo Kuerten (slightly awkward backswing, but great swing/follow-thru).

    Lendl had a great one, but a bit
    more stiff style than Edberg. Becker hit it hard and well, but he really used his physique to muscle it - it didn't have a smooth flow to it. Stich was very elegant also, but with a more abbreviated swing. I found Sampras very awkward on the bh (I do love his
    serve/fh!), Federer/Haas are much smoother.

    Edberg's volleys of course were absolutely subliime - no question about the perfection of the backhand volley (Rosewall was damn good too!), but I think the forehand one was also very close.
    Any good player can put away high volleys, but what set Edberg apart was his elegance and precision on the low ones. I think his super footwork was the key.

    The forehand - now that was an awkward looking shot for Stefan! He wasn't able to do much with it in a rally, but managed to hit reasonable returns, passes and topspin lobs.

    His serve (esp the 2nd one) was great for the 1st half of his career, but he then toned down the kick due to back problems.
    Combined with the improving return games of other players, it started becoming quite a liability - to compensate, he tried hitting it harder and flatter, but it caused a lot more double faults, esp in crucial points.

    -Madhavan
     
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  9. Bhagi Katbamna

    Bhagi Katbamna Hall of Fame

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    Excellent post. I remember watching him and cringing when he used to hit forehands because I always had a feeling that he was going to hit it into the stands.
     
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  10. tennis*bill

    tennis*bill New User

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    Thanks Rabbit. I remember watching Edberg and wanting to play that style. He was my favorite player to watch with the S&V. I'd be lucky to hit that kick serve. Rafter was another great one to watch. Those guys had style and grace, and were some of the best sportsmen around.
     
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  11. tetsuo10

    tetsuo10 Rookie

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    I agree with borisboris. I have tapes of Edberg vs Becker (W 90), vs Chang (FO '89), and vs Sampras (USO '92) finals. He ripped backhands like no other at the time. I remember a baseline rally with Chang where he hit two offspeed, topspin, cross-court backhands, then rip a backhand down the line for a clean winner. Just completely caught Chang off guard.
     
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  12. kreative

    kreative Professional

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    awesome post rabbit
     
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  13. edge

    edge Banned

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    Edberg BH was perfection, old school continental grip. It is very different than the eastern BH grip used by JHH, Guga and Mauresmo which have more spin and loop/ I also think that the latter overotate their shoulder when finishing which creates inconsistency in the girls but less so in Guga. My tournament playing 13 year old son has had a one handed BH since he was 8. We periodically watch Edberg tapes to reinforce the "perfect" BH technique. New pros always want to change his grip to eastern but I always refuse believing that the continental grip is better for fastcourt and attacking. I remind them that Edberg & Lendl hit with a continental grip.
     
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  14. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    Edberg had great backhand, true. IMO people tend to underestimate Edberg's serve. It was one of the greatest and most effective. True, he didn't hit many aces, but he could always force errors on the return. And it set up the volley, which was its man purpose.

    In the match against Becker in Wimbledon 1990 you can clearly see in the low camera angles how high it kicks. Becker frequently had to return serve at shoulder hight standing on the baseline. Becker is a big man so that kick had to have been tremedous. What would happen if he stepped back a few feet? It makes me realize how impossible it would be for me to return that serve with my 5.8 feet height -- I would have to hit above my head or else back into the stands to recieve it lower.
     
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  15. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    One other story about Edberg

    I read a story in Tennis Magazine some years ago. It detailed that Stefan was still living in London and playing once a week or so. Greg Rusedski called him to hit, Greg apparently needed the practice on grass. The story went on to say that even though Edberg had been retired for 2-3 years, he beat Rusedski badly....and (get this) was laughing at him! I remember the last part vividly because it seemed so out of character for Edberg; well at least his court pesonna. But, it would appear that Edberg was having a good time playing.

    Stefan Edberg, IMO, was the ultimate serve/ volley player. He was the culmination of what Jack Kramer started in the late 40's and was refined by the likes of Pancho Gonsalez, Rod Laver, and John McEnroe. While Edberg didn't have the mesmerizing volleys of John McEnroe, he possessed something that McEnroe never had, a good head. McEnroe love to hit the impossible; Edberg loved to play strong tactical tennis. Edberg never moved like he was 6'2", more like he was under 6', but we've kinda covered that.
     
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  16. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    These post about Edberg tempt me to watch 1989or92 Wimbledon finals Edberg vs Becker. I always wanted to play like Stepan but could never get as much kick on my server or get into the net so quickly or ... Stefan sets such a great example in winning, loosing & living :!:
     
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  17. Frankc

    Frankc Semi-Pro

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    Just a fine post, Rabbit... appreciated ... I have to be careful and not watch my old Edberg tapes too often. His artistry and all-around athleticism and the variety to his match-ups ruins me for today's tennis
     
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  18. Matt Riordan

    Matt Riordan New User

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    Don't know if anyone caught this but Edberg adn Becker played an exhibition long set at Queens last year (Becker won 8-6). It brough back a lot of memories - we really don't see that kind of tennis any more...
     
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