Tennis: Wimbledon '93 / Forgotten Edberg ready to reveal his true identity: Swede prepares to emerge from the shadows as the women's champion reaches another final

Click to follow
The Independent Online
STEFAN EDBERG is 27, tall, blond and Swedish and lives in London. He has twice held aloft the Wimbledon trophy, is seeded two this time and is a solid, thoroughly decent sort of chap.

The information - IBM and the Association of Tennis Professionals could supply a book on him if they thought anyone would want to read it - comes with the compliments of Edberg himself. Eleven days into one of the sporting calendar's most glamorous events he believes he is almost the forgotten man of Wimbledon. Forgotten not by his fellow players but by fans and headline writers alike.

After he had ended the hopes of the Frenchman, Cedric Pioline, in Wednesday's quarter- final Edberg pretended to be put out that he could walk to his local shop in South Kensington unnoticed. Not only that but he would have to search long and hard through the shelves for any reference to his match the previous day. He joked he would have to buy the Swedish editions to catch his name.

For most of the fortnight he has been an after-thought, down the page after Agassi and after Becker. Now, sans Andre, Edberg can at last make himself heard and should he overcome Jim Courier in today's semi-final he can be ignored no longer.

It is not through lack of visibility that Edberg, whose career was transformed when he joined forces in 1983 with his coach, the British Davis Cup captain, Tony Pickard, is not continually surrounded by bodyguards and autograph hunters. He is nearing the end of his 41st consecutive Grand Slam tournament, a remarkable tribute to his fitness and enthusiasm. Nobody does it more consistently and few have so firm a hand on their emotions and that is why some find it hard to warm to him.

When it is Edberg's turn for the interview room many journalists head for the exit. Those who bother to remain frequently return to the subject of how he moves seemingly unnoticed into the final stages of a tournament while the spotlight is trained elsewhere.

They were at it again this time prompting Edberg to say 'I love it when the attention is on Andre's chest. It's great to have guys like him around so I can just go out and do the business and play tennis.' His philosophy on life and fame is a simple one: 'I think ordinary people are much more happy than the jet-setters and celebrities. My parents, whom I respect as my greatest friends, taught me early that happiness is often a modest thing. It has nothing to do with money or fame.'

In Sweden there is resentment at the way Edberg is portrayed as a cold fish in his adopted country. Many Swedes believe the way the British turn away from him in search of more thrills elsewhere reflects poorly on them, although they do concede that even by their standards Edberg is quiet.

In Japan, however, it is a different story. There he is revered for his tennis and admired for his personality. the mention of 'Edbergsan' in the Ginza, Tokyo's busiest street, will guarantee a crowd.

'For the first time for a long while Stefan did not play in the Japan Open in April and although Courier, Sampras and Chang were there he was sorely missed,' Tadahiro Yoshimatsu, of Tokyo's Nikkan Sports newspaper, said. 'The Japanese have a lot of sympathy for him because he is quiet and shows little emotion. Whereas the British see that as boring in Japan it is a very positive trait.'

In today's other semi-final Pete Sampras, another who struggles to elevate his personality on to the same level as his ability, plays Boris Becker, who has super-charged his game while managing to put the brake on his emotions which were threatening to run away with his career. The German is the people's favourite in semi-finals, which, for the first time since 1927, feature the top four seeds.

------------------------------------------------------------------------ MEN'S SEMI-FINALS HEAD TO HEAD ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SAMPRAS v BECKER ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Year Venue Surface Round Winner Score 1990 Stockholm Carpet SF Becker 6-4 6-4 1991 Indianapolis Hard F Sampras 7-5 3-6 6-3 1991 Stockholm Carpet QF Becker 7-5 7-5 1991 ATP Finals Carpet round robin Becker 6-4 6-7 6-1 1992 Indianapolis Hard SF Sampras 6-7 6-2 7-6 1992 ATP Finals Carpet round robin Sampras 7-6 7-6 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ COURIER v EDBERG ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1989 Basle Carpet F Courier 7-6 3-6 2-6 6-0 7-5 1989 Stockholm Carpet QF Edberg 3-6 6-3 6-4 1990 Indian Wells Hard SF Edberg 6-4 6-1 1991 Australian Open Hard last 16 Edberg 4-6 6-0 6-4 5-7 6-2 1991 French Open Clay QF Courier 6-4 2-6 6-3 6-4 1991 US Open Hard F Edberg 6-2 6-4 6-0 1992 Australian Open Hard F Courier 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-2 1993 Australian Open Hard F Courier 6-2 6-1 2-6 7-5 ------------------------------------------------------------------------