Why did Edberg drop off so quickly from being a real contender starting in 93/94, particularly 94

I guess you could say 93 was the year of transitioning from being one of the games 2 or 3 dominant players (87-92) for 6 years to being an also ran (94-96), so it wasn't exactly immediate. It was pretty quick though. What was it that caused this. A variety of factors?
 

big ted

Hall of Fame
'95 seemed to be his drop off year... had a bad wimbledon and lost convincingly to agassi in 3rd rd of USO...
maybe back injuries affected his serve and volley? by that time he was on tour for 10 years tho and that
was a long time back then... i remember his debut at the USO against mcenroe in 1984. they made it a night
match and hyping it becuz edberg won the junior GS and mac was owning the tour at the time.. mac won 6-2, 6-0, 6-1
edberg was still green at the time lol...
 

Kralingen

Hall of Fame
Maybe it is a cultural thing. Mandy Swedish Stars flame out early and see their careers being cut short or at least their success dininishes. Edberg, Borg, Wilander, ABBA, Roxette, Harpo, the list goes on.
I think Foster Wallace wrote about there being a theorem that only one great Swedish player could be in their prime at once - Borg, Wilander, Edberg, then Enqvist (though he fell off). Enqvist was just coming into his own in 94/95 and the force would not allow it.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
He had a bad back. His serve suffered, and therefore the rest of his game did too. He was physically done.
This pretty much summarizes it. His serve, which wasn't the fastest to start with, but had a lot of kick, lost some of its action due to his back problems, and he faced stronger returns as a result. To compound it, he had lost a half yard of pace, so wasn't in as good a position as in the past on his first volley. The combination of both made for a much less effective game and a fast decline.
 

California

Semi-Pro
I have read the comments here and I agree with many of them, but I think the main reason for Stefan’s decline was motivation. He was married and had a daughter and seemed to not like the grind. Yes, a back injury caused him to change his service motion, and I don’t think later in his career he used his whole body and kinetic chain to get added pace and spin on his serve to the same extent as earlier in his career.

He still could play very well in patches but not consistently. His movement seemed fine, but sharpness and concentration seemed uneven. Good at times, but not always. Even after he retired it was reported that he would beat up on Henman and Rusedski in practice sets in London. I saw an interview where Pickard his coach, said he thought Stefan had 2 or 3 more years at the top of game if Stefan wanted to work and keep his nose to the grindstone and Stefan told him no, he wasn’t prepared to do that.

He had been on the tour a long time, traveled the world many times over, and had a ton of money. How can you blame him? Has to get old after a while.…
 

asifallasleep

Hall of Fame
I have read the comments here and I agree with many of them, but I think the main reason for Stefan’s decline was motivation. He was married and had a daughter and seemed to not like the grind. Yes, a back injury caused him to change his service motion, and I don’t think later in his career he used his whole body and kinetic chain to get added pace and spin on his serve to the same extent as earlier in his career.

He still could play very well in patches but not consistently. His movement seemed fine, but sharpness and concentration seemed uneven. Good at times, but not always. Even after he retired it was reported that he would beat up on Henman and Rusedski in practice sets in London. I saw an interview where Pickard his coach, said he thought Stefan had 2 or 3 more years at the top of game if Stefan wanted to work and keep his nose to the grindstone and Stefan told him no, he wasn’t prepared to do that.

He had been on the tour a long time, traveled the world many times over, and had a ton of money. How can you blame him? Has to get old after a while.…
At first I was thinking the bad back was the main cause, but being married and having kids myself, I can assure you that being married can do far far more damage than a bad back could ever do.
 

andreh

Professional
At first I was thinking the bad back was the main cause, but being married and having kids myself, I can assure you that being married can do far far more damage than a bad back could ever do.
He got married in 1992, also the last year he won a grandslam. First child 1994, I believe. Around the time he stopped advancing into the second week of the slams. I'm sure none of that is coincidental.
 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
Maybe it is a cultural thing. Mandy Swedish Stars flame out early and see their careers being cut short or at least their success dininishes. Edberg, Borg, Wilander, ABBA, Roxette, Harpo, the list goes on.
Not to mention Greta Garbo, one of the most infamous recluses in her later years.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I have noticed pure or traditional serve and volley players flame out pretty quickly when they start going downhill. I chalk it up to loss of step and at the time of Edbergs decline the baseline players could smoke balls past them off both wings.
This, plus guys like Edberg and Rafter rely heavily on an explosive leg-powered serve motion, which decays quickly with age (as opposed to serves like Karlovic’s, Isner’s, and Anderson’s, because height ages well).
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Kids, the last year Edberg finished in the top 10 in SGW% was '92. Last I checked poly wasn't a thing back then, and guess when he got hitched with his wifey of 29 years?

For the umpteenth time elite net daredevils of yore would just do fine in this era, if only because they're bound to win more than half of their net points. I mean if Djokovic can post 76% (144/190) at this year's Wimbledon you can bet your ass that Stefan would do at least as well on similar net approaches. (And yes, I understand full-time S&V wouldn't be as successful because it takes away the surprise factor, but let's say 60-65% which is a very reasonable estimate. If you think Stefan friggin' Edberg with that % wouldn't win his share of matches even vs. ATGs you're fooling yourself.)

One more thing:

Not to mention Greta Garbo, one of the most infamous recluses in her later years.
As Thomas Pynchon (correctly) said in a rare interview, "recluse" is a lazy term deployed by the press to pigeonhole anyone who doesn't talk to them. Contrary to popular belief Garbo was known for her daily strolls in her NY hood and had a small but close circle of friends. That loaded term better describes real hermits like Howard Hughes (perhaps the most infamous case) and Hedy Lamarr in her later years.
 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
As Thomas Pynchon (correctly) said in a rare interview, "recluse" is a lazy term deployed by the press to pigeonhole anyone who doesn't talk to them. Contrary to popular belief Garbo was known for her daily strolls in her NY hood and had a small but close circle of friends. That loaded term better describes real hermits like Howard Hughes (perhaps the most infamous case) and Hedy Lamarr in her later years.
Yeah, OK. My main point was that, much like the other Swedish stars being discussed, she retired from her career at an unusually early age and withdrew from the public gaze.
 

onehandbh

Legend
Once his back started deteriorating, his serve noticeably declined.

Edberg never had a high velocity first serve like Sampras. Even when he flattened it out a bit. He did, however, have one of the best kick serves, and it was an integral part of his net game and service holds. Also had one of the greatest backhand volleys of all time, closed the net very quickly and had impeccable footwork and positioning at the net.

Players whose games depend on explosiveness do not seem to have as much longevity.

This can be seen in other sports as well. The shorter distance sprinters usually cannot remain near the top as long as the longer distance runners.
 

urban

Legend
The fine tennis writer Eliot Berry has followed Edberg's late path in 1994/95 very closely in his book Topspin, one of the best tennis writings in the last 30 years. I think, and i will research it deeper in the book, that he rates back and shoulder problems as reasons for his decline. Prime Edberg had an extreme body arc in his service motion, which put much stress on his back. Berry describes a final against Agassi, maybe Edbergs last final, at Washington under extreme heat, when Agassi turned up in completely black clothes and after a while almost died on the court, while Edberg in white looked reatively fresh.
Many of the top players of the 90s had relatively short careers, and declined or retired early, see Sampras, Leconte, Becker, some had back problems, including Edberg or Stich. Lendl had extreme back problems and couldn't move anymore in 1994. Safin and Kuerten later had injury problems too. Often experts referred to the taxing hard courts as the main playing surface. If we see now the performance of mid 30s to late 30s players at the top, it seems that the medical and physiological assistance for the players has greatly improved.
 
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Frankc

Professional
Yes, agreed - Berry's "Topspin" is superb and full of insights for those who understand and love the game. Yes, great look at Edberg and others. I do remember that Berry watched carefully Edberg's leg tone at the start of each year - later fell short.
Edberg's explosive movement was beyond comprehension in 91-92 - just viewed both Edberg/Chang matches. The '91 match is particularly an ode to "explosive" movement.
 

BGod

Legend
Physically his back and just natural decline along with others coming up. His 92 USO is some legendary stuff with the grind and that was his last Slam, could have easily not won that. He was always a contender at AO but the 93 run was soft with only a young Sampras on route to the final. Same for soft draws in 93 WMB and 94 AO, losing to Todd Martin in the later when he should have won was a last hurrah. But I can't say after 92 USO he had a great chance of winning any of the proceeding Slams. And on paper his very last Slam 96USO was a good way to go out beating Krajicek and Henman making QF.
 
The fine tennis writer Eliot Berry has followed Edberg's late path in 1994/95 very closely in his book Topspin, one of the best tennis writings in the last 30 years. I think, and i will research it deeper in the book, that he rates back and shoulder problems as reasons for his decline. Prime Edberg had an extreme body arc in his service motion, which put much stress on his back. Berry describes a final against Agassi, maybe Edbergs last final, at Washington under extreme heat, when Agassi turned up in completely black clothes and after a while almost died on the court, while Edberg in white looked reatively fresh.
Many of the top players of the 90s had relatively short careers, and declined or retired early, see Sampras, Leconte, Becker, some had back problems, including Edberg or Stich. Lendl had extreme back problems and couldn't move anymore in 1994. Safin and Kuerten later had injury problems too. Often experts referred to the taxing hard courts as the main playing surface. If we see now the performance of mid 30s to late 30s players at the top, it seems that the medical and physiological assistance for the players has greatly improved.
Super analysis here. Thanks.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
The fine tennis writer Eliot Berry has followed Edberg's late path in 1994/95 very closely in his book Topspin, one of the best tennis writings in the last 30 years. I think, and i will research it deeper in the book, that he rates back and shoulder problems as reasons for his decline. Prime Edberg had an extreme body arc in his service motion, which put much stress on his back.
Yes, it was definitely back injuries. Even his last really good performance (1993 AO, where he lost to Courier in the final) had him struggling with back spasms throughout the tournament.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
Edberg never had a high velocity first serve like Sampras. Even when he flattened it out a bit. He did, however, have one of the best kick serves, and it was an integral part of his net game and service holds. Also had one of the greatest backhand volleys of all time, closed the net very quickly and had impeccable footwork and positioning at the net.
The kick serve, the volley (especially on the BH side) and the BH (both sliced and flat) were always the parts of his game I admired most, but his return of serve is generally massively underrated, certainly on fast courts.

This is an interesting read:

Stefan Edberg: The King of Returns
 
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big ted

Hall of Fame
maybe one more thing that did him in... the 2 handed backhand.
when he was #1 in 1990 there were only 2 players in the top 10 with a 2 handed backhand.
in 1995 7 out of 10 players had the 2 handed backhand..
the 2 handers handled his kick serve to the backhand better :)
 

andreh

Professional
A lot of comments about Edberg seem to suggest that the game somehow passed him by and that he became a relic of the past with an outdated game, yet his career followed the same pattern that almost every other great player did. Breakthrough in the late teens, peak at 24-25, then slow decline until 27 and then finally a bit steeper decline in the late twenties. Back then almost nobody did anything great after 28 or so. Edberg's decline is not noteworthy in any way (as this thread suggests).
 
The kick serve, the volley (especially on the BH side) and the BH (both sliced and flat) were always the parts of his game I admired most, but his return of serve is generally massively underrated, certainly on fast courts.

This is an interesting read:

Stefan Edberg: The King of Returns
He was one of the best returners of that era for sure, and it also enabled his super effective chip and charging on any 2nd serves when he felt the desire/need to, or even 1st serves that werent great. That said he still needed to be able to hold serve to be at the top, and that is where his service decline would come into play. No matter how great a volleyer he was, he needed his serve to be at its top effective to get into the net effectively on his serve games.
 
A lot of comments about Edberg seem to suggest that the game somehow passed him by and that he became a relic of the past with an outdated game, yet his career followed the same pattern that almost every other great player did. Breakthrough in the late teens, peak at 24-25, then slow decline until 27 and then finally a bit steeper decline in the late twenties. Back then almost nobody did anything great after 28 or so. Edberg's decline is not noteworthy in any way (as this thread suggests).
This is true. Some would stay near prime until almost 30 then, but you literally never had situations like today where people stay near prime until mid 30s, and can contend in late 30s if the field is poor enough. Even Agassi was a huge aberation back then.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
I have noticed pure or traditional serve and volley players flame out pretty quickly when they start going downhill. I chalk it up to loss of step and at the time of Edbergs decline the baseline players could smoke balls past them off both wings.
I generally agree with this. Becker could did play all-court when needed; Sampras had a huge serve, so both could have better results once they passed their peak. But the pure serve and volleyers like Edberg - the loss of a half-step, he loss of a little reaction time - it's brutal to their game because they can't reign it in like baseliners - who can go from being aggressive in certain situations to throwing up a lob or hitting a defensive slice once they lose some movement. There's really no way to play more measured, defensive, "safer" serve and volley and bide time waiting for opponent's errors.
 
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This is true. Some would stay near prime until almost 30 then, but you literally never had situations like today where people stay near prime until mid 30s, and can contend in late 30s if the field is poor enough. Even Agassi was a huge aberation back then.
Absolutely. Casual tennis fans or newer tennis fans (of the last 10 years or so) are unaware that for most of tennis history, players began peaking in their early early 20s (after a breakthrough as a late teen) and were basically retired by 28/29. The folks like Connors, Rosewall and Pancho Gonzales were extreme exceptions to the rule. Even by the early 00s, Agassi playing his best tennis at age 30+ was an extreme rarity. These days players play much longer and also start peaking later than in past eras (you rarely see teen phenoms anymore)
 

Thetouch

Professional
Marriage and new love or new girlfriends is something that has affected many players in the past. McEnroe, Connors, Edberg, Stich, Becker (he declined in 1992 once he met his future wife) and even Borg didn't win much once they said yes. Lendl got married in 1989 which was the last time he was on top of the rankings as well.
 

Christian Olsson

Professional
Maybe it is a cultural thing. Mandy Swedish Stars flame out early and see their careers being cut short or at least their success dininishes. Edberg, Borg, Wilander, ABBA, Roxette, Harpo, the list goes on.
Yeah. Swedes have short careers. We all go on retirement at 32 and let the rest of the EU pay for it.
 

Crazy Finn

Hall of Fame
In the pre-Big 3 era, from the 1970's through the mid 2000's most players had their peak from 22-28 or so.

Edberg got an early start, but he pretty much fits the typical mold back then. He won his slams at 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26.

Becker hung around a bit longer. Sampras as well. But frankly most of these guys aren't that different. Obviously, there's more to this than slam titles, but it's easiest to look at. Here are some of the ATGs and their ages of slam victories

Arthur Ashe: 25, 26, 31
Jan Kodes, 24, 25, 27
Gustavo Kuerten: 20, 23, 24
Andy Murray: 25, 26, 29
Stan Wawrinka: 28, 30, 31
Guillermo Vilas: 24, 25 (2), 26
Jim Courier: 20, 21 (2), 22
Stephan Edberg: 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26
Boris Becker: 17, 18, 21 (2), 23, 28
Mats Wilander: 17, 18, 19, 20, 23 (2), 24
John McEnroe: 20, 21, 22 (2), 24, 25 (2)
Jimmy Connors (birthday during USO): 21 (2), 22, 24, 26, 29, 30, 31
Ivan Lendl: 24, 25, 26 (2), 27 (2), 28, 29
Andre Agassi: 22, 24 (2), 29 (3), 30, 32
Bjorn Borg: 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (2), 23 (2), 24 (2), 25 (retired)
Pete Sampras: 19, 22, 23 (3), 23, 24, 25 (3), 26, 27, 28, 31

Laver and a few of the other Pre-Open and Open era ATGs have more varied ages, obviously. But, these are all of the Open-Era only, non Big 3 ATGs.

Obviously, there are some who won as teenagers, but most titles are won between 22-28, roughly. Only 8 titles between all these ATG were won when the player was 30 or older.
 

GuyForget

Rookie
unlike Becker, he didn't have the raw power to live with the next gen of massive hitters (be it servers like Pete, Goran, Stich etc or baseline sluggers like Jim+Andree), which is the main reason I consider Becker the greater player; Becker was 99.5% as good as Sampras indoors even in 96 (+ way ahead of anyone else) and number 3 for much of 95 (one of the best eras in the modern game for pure attacking tennis). He was brilliant in 91 tho, should have won Wimby as well
 
Injury problems plus finesse serve and volley players had a harder time anyway as plastic rackets got lighter, stiffer and bigger. Those rackets could be easier accelerated with a shorter backswing so players could take a bigger cut on their return of serve and hit more powerful and spinny returns.

Guys like Pete and Boris could still overpower guys with their serves until courts got slower and poly came up but edberg didn't have the option of "try to hit an ace and volley whatever comes back", he needed to set up his points which was harder against the modern rackets and also the more "wristy" swings that came with it.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
The fine tennis writer Eliot Berry has followed Edberg's late path in 1994/95 very closely in his book Topspin, one of the best tennis writings in the last 30 years. I think, and i will research it deeper in the book, that he rates back and shoulder problems as reasons for his decline. Prime Edberg had an extreme body arc in his service motion, which put much stress on his back. Berry describes a final against Agassi, maybe Edbergs last final, at Washington under extreme heat, when Agassi turned up in completely black clothes and after a while almost died on the court, while Edberg in white looked reatively fresh.
Many of the top players of the 90s had relatively short careers, and declined or retired early, see Sampras, Leconte, Becker, some had back problems, including Edberg or Stich. Lendl had extreme back problems and couldn't move anymore in 1994. Safin and Kuerten later had injury problems too. Often experts referred to the taxing hard courts as the main playing surface. If we see now the performance of mid 30s to late 30s players at the top, it seems that the medical and physiological assistance for the players has greatly improved.
But "hardcourts", which are hard rubber laid on concrete, have still taken a huge toll on recent players, examples being Canadians Raonic and Andreescu, and Nishikori.
 
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NonP

Hall of Fame
The fine tennis writer Eliot Berry has followed Edberg's late path in 1994/95 very closely in his book Topspin, one of the best tennis writings in the last 30 years. I think, and i will research it deeper in the book, that he rates back and shoulder problems as reasons for his decline. Prime Edberg had an extreme body arc in his service motion, which put much stress on his back. Berry describes a final against Agassi, maybe Edbergs last final, at Washington under extreme heat, when Agassi turned up in completely black clothes and after a while almost died on the court, while Edberg in white looked reatively fresh.
Many of the top players of the 90s had relatively short careers, and declined or retired early, see Sampras, Leconte, Becker, some had back problems, including Edberg or Stich. Lendl had extreme back problems and couldn't move anymore in 1994. Safin and Kuerten later had injury problems too. Often experts referred to the taxing hard courts as the main playing surface. If we see now the performance of mid 30s to late 30s players at the top, it seems that the medical and physiological assistance for the players has greatly improved.
Back in June @helterskelter and I were actually discussing (in a group convo) how Edberg's stressful service motion, as opposed to S&V, probably contributed to his early retirement, and also his amazing movement on the seniors tour which hardly seemed to have declined since then (though this was about 10 years ago). Now I wonder if he could've prolonged his career with lighter scheduling, especially since the Masters events weren't mandatory in the '90s.

Loving the film buff discussions. We need a forum to talk movies.
This thread is still active:


Since I discovered TCM last year I've been posting occasional watchlists with a capsule review or two thrown in, though I frankly doubt more than 7-8 people give a damn, LOL. Even in this pandemic most seem to be opting for the latest releases rather than exploring the endless library of classics that streaming has to offer.
 
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