July 2, 1988
WIMBLEDON; EDBERG, DOWN 2 SETS, SCRAMBLES PAST MERCIR TO FINAL
By PETER ALFANO, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
LEAD: In a sport of overnight sensations and phenoms too young to attend R-rated movies, Stefan Edberg of Sweden was not progressing fast enough to suit his critics. He is No. 3 in the world and a two-time winner of the Australian Open, but is characterized as lacking determination, perhaps courage, when it really matters.
In a sport of overnight sensations and phenoms too young to attend R-rated movies, Stefan Edberg of Sweden was not progressing fast enough to suit his critics. He is No. 3 in the world and a two-time winner of the Australian Open, but is characterized as lacking determination, perhaps courage, when it really matters.
Edberg is only 22 years old, but he is constantly reminded that Boris Becker won Wimbledon at 17. ''Everyone has been knocking him, saying he has no guts, no fire in his belly,'' said Tony Pickard, the Englishman who is Edberg's coach. ''Now, they will all look silly.'' Playing in his fifth Wimbledon, Edberg is finally living up to expectations. On Sunday, he will play in his first final, having defeated Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, in a semifinal today.
In what may have been the most impressive match of his career -given the setting and its importance - Edberg was hoping he had buried a reputation he thought was undeserved. ''It's hard to believe I came back from so far off,'' he said. ''I got my act together and felt better and better. If I didn't have guts today, I wouldn't have won. I gutsed it out.'' The Perplexing Mecir
Mecir, who was seeded No. 9, is a perplexing player who has as much talent as anyone else on the tour. He is deceptively quick, covering the court effortlessly. He can serve and volley when he has to, although he prefers to play from the baseline, coming to the net when opponents least expect it.
He also has a wide variety of shots, each playing off the other. His return of serve demoralized Edberg in the first two sets today. Mecir appeared on the verge of a straight-set victory when he held three break points against Edberg in the seventh game of the third set.
''But I felt if he could come back there, the match would turn for him,'' Pickard said of Edberg's chances. ''Stefan had been serving well, but Mecir was demoralizing, hitting those return winners. No one else could have done that against Stefan's serve.''
Edberg made an adjustment, not tossing the ball so high on his serve, and hitting it with more spin. As a result, he saved those three break points and eventually broke Mecir in the 10th game to get back into the match. More Break Points
It would not be the last test of his fortitude. Mecir held break points in the third and fifth games of the fourth set, and four more in the seventh game. Edberg denied him every one. Then, in the eighth game, he broke Mecir to lead, 5-3, and closed out the set on his serve.
Mecir appeared to have the edge again in the final set, breaking Edberg in the fourth game to lead, 3-1. But Edberg broke back, hitting a pair of service-return winners, and he was virtually untouchable for the rest of the match, losing only one point in his last three service games. When he broke Mecir in the seventh game, he was finally in control.
Edberg credited his success to a similar five-set Davis Cup victory against Mecir in the spring. ''If I hadn't won that match,'' he said, ''I wouldn't have won this one. It was important for me to know how to come back in these type of matches.''
When he ran down a lob on match point, hitting a forehand that Mecir volleyed into the net, Edberg thrust his arms in a rare display of emotion.
''I'm very excited to be in the Wimbledon final,'' he said. ''It doesn't happen every year.''