Tennis: Edberg finds his golden touch

John roberts reports from Paris
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The Independent Online
Stefan Edberg sprung a pleasant surprise at the French Open yesterday with a spectacular 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win against Spain's Carlos Moya, the only player who has beaten Thomas Muster, the defending champion, on clay this year.

Edberg's win guaranteed the 30-year-old Swede a special trip down memory lane to mark this latest stop on his retirement tour. "It is one of those days where everything I do turns to gold," said Edberg, playing in his 13th and final French Open. "It's great for me when it's hot and dry like it was today. It does benefit the guys who have big serves, playing offensive tennis.

He now plays the fourth-seeded Michael Chang, who defeated him in the 1989 final. Edberg, who led Chang by a service break in the fifth set, has often rued the opportunity he missed to strike a telling blow for attacking play. " Yesterday, Chang, out-rallied Australia's Richard Fromberg 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Edberg's performance underlined the very point Muster made when he generously offered encouragement to those of his challengers whose inclination is to attack rather than chisel points from the baseline.

The clay courts at Stade Roland Garros are fast enough not to disadvantage serve-volleyers, Muster argued, estimating the pace to be roughly the same as the rubberised concrete at the United States Open. "The difference is that here you have to slide and keep your balance.''

In particular, Muster had Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic, Richard Krajicek and Michael Stich in mind, and may have been as startled as Moya by Edberg's explosive performance.

Muster, who defeated the Frenchman Gerard Solves 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, made one proviso in his prognosis: the courts will only remain equitable if the weather stays as warm and sunny as it has been for the past three days. A glance at the forecast suggests sluggish conditions ahead.

Not that much that happens here from now on will concern Greg Rusedski, whose thoughts have already switched from clay to the slick grass of his adopted England and the groundwork necessary to tune his big-serving game for Wimbledon.

Rusedski was eliminated by Stich in the second round on the compact Court No 1 here yesterday - 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 - and at the same time was given a lesson by the No 15 seed in how to adapt a style good enough to triumph at Wimbledon, as the German did in 1991.

Stich was only under threat from Rusedski during the second set, in which the Briton had two break points in the third game and a couple more in the ninth. In each case, Stich asserted himself and served his way out of trouble.

The German's sharpness was surprising considering he nearly did not enter the tournament in view of his lack of match practice since having a foot operation in March.

Stich, whose 18 singles titles include clay-court victories in Hamburg and Stuttgart, sympathised with Rusedski. "Greg knows that his serve makes him a dangerous player on fast surfaces, but he's not sure how to play on clay," he said.

Rusedski is receiving plenty of advice from his new coach, Brian Teacher, who will continue to work with him through Wimbledon. "Brian has fixed up my backhand and he thinks that after two or three weeks of work everything is going to solidify. I'm going to jump on the grass court's at Queen's as fast as I can.''

Steffi Graf continued her defence of the women's singles title with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Australia's Nicole Bradtke. Graf, who has conceded only nine games in her two matches, will now play Petra Langrova, a Czech qualifier.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 27