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Rediff.com  » Sports » Round One goes to Federer and Edberg!

Round One goes to Federer and Edberg!

January 28, 2014 06:01 IST

Round One goes to Federer and Edberg!

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Bikash Mohapatra

The Australian Open provided Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl the opportunity to renew rivalries as coaches. At the end of it, Bikash Mohapatra believes it was the Swede who went away with the bragging rights.

The 2014 Australian Open, besides having all the top names competing, also pitted three legends of the game against each other.

The tournament provided Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl, who shared six titles (two apiece) between them at Melbourne in the 1980s and 1990s and memorable rivalries to boot, the opportunity to renew their battle, albeit off the court.

And it was Edberg who won this time around.


Image: Roger Federer of Switzerland and his coach Stefan Edberg
Photographs: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

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Lendl had positive impact on Murray's career

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Bikash Mohapatra

Of the three, Lendl is coach of three-time finalist Andy Murray for the past two years. The Czech-born American, to his credit, has turned the Scot’s prospects around for good, helping him complete his journey from a consistent performer to champion.

Murray’s triumphs at the 2012 US Open and Wimbledon last year -- he became the first British player to win in 77 years, as also his gold medal feat at the 2012 London Olympics -- can all be attributed to Lendl’s guidance.

Lendl, whose brand of attrition tennis ensured him a phenomenal haul of 94 singles titles – second best behind Connors (109) on the all-time list and more than double of Becker and Edberg combined – has definitely had a positive impact on Murray’s career, the Scot’s early exit in Melbourne notwithstanding.


Image: Ivan Lendl watches Andy Murray during a practice session
Photographs: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

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Becker is not 'coach' material

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Bikash Mohapatra

Djokovic, who started and finished 2013 on a strong note, surprised everyone by adding Becker to his coaching staff in the off-season.

Even in his otherwise illustrious career, Becker’s haul of 49 titles and six majors are well below the mark. A player of his talent should have achieved more. However, consistency wasn’t exactly his hallmark.

Despite his phenomenal talent, the German is not ‘coach’ material. He neither had the temperament nor patience, two pre-requisites of being a good coach.

Besides, his obsession to be in the limelight is something of a put-off. Little is known about Edberg or Lendl’s lives post their retirement. However, the German regularly made the headlines.

It is something that Djokovic could certainly do without.


Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia and his coach Boris Becker
Photographs: Matt King/Getty Images

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Becker is hardly a solution

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Bikash Mohapatra

The Serb already has a strong all-round game, and probably needed someone who could have helped improve upon his mental strength.

Becker is hardly a solution.

Having won three of the four majors, only the French Open is left for Djokovic to win. And if that was his criteria while selecting the coach, the German is the worst choice. Forget winning at Roland Garros, Becker never won a title on the red dirt in his 15-year career.

As things stand, their debut tournament together was a disaster. Djokovic, going for fourth straight title at MelbournePark, succumbed to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. The Serb hadn’t lost in his previous 14 meeting with the Swiss, winning the mental battle in case the game went the distance.

However, in this case Wawrinka got the better of him. If Becker’s job was to help with the mental aspect of Djokovic’s game, this was definitely not the right start.


Image: Boris Becker (back) of Germany, coach of Novak Djokovic of Serbia
Photographs: Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

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Edberg isn't the coach of Federer but more of a mentor

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Bikash Mohapatra

Soon after Djokovic’s announcement last December, came one from Federer. The Swiss had a forgettable last year, and with age not on his side (he is 32), he needed that extra fillip to reinvigorate his career.

He sought the help of his childhood hero.

Edberg, like Lendl and Becker, had no previous coaching experience.

However, he was more consistent and definitely the coolest of the trio. Having been ranked No.1 in both singles and doubles – the only other player to achieve the feat being John McEnroe -- the Swede won major titles in both the disciplines and was known for his attacking tennis.

Technically, he isn’t the coach of Federer but more of a mentor. And, to his credit, he has made an immediate impact on Federer’s game.


Image: Roger Federer of Switzerland trains in a practice session as his coach, Stefan Edberg watches
Photographs: Matt King/Getty Images

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'By April I'm going to be 100 per cent again'

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Bikash Mohapatra

Those who watched the Swiss play in Melbourne this season would have noticed him use the backhand a lot more, venture to the net more often than he ever did and employ the volley to good effect. Generally, he played more attacking tennis, as opposed to the usual baseline slugfest that has become the bane of modern tennis.

The backhand, the volley and aggression were the three most important aspects of the Swede’s game and he ensured Federer benefitted from the same.

Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the fourth round, and Murray, in the quarter-finals, Federer played some of the best tennis ever to notch fairly one-sided victories. The latter meant Edberg went one-up on Lendl as a coach.

The Swiss may have come up short against Nadal in the semi-finals, his first major semi-final in a year, but that is more to do with the mental aspect than his game per se. The Spaniard is, without doubt, Federer’s nemesis; the Swiss has always struggled against him, even when he has won.

And that is definitely Edberg’s next challenge.

For the moment, though, the duo can bask on the successful start to their partnership and look forward to the year in eager anticipation. The Swiss is already showing the confidence of yore.

‘This is a very good start to the season. I played some really good tennis,’ Federer was quoted as saying about his performance in Melbourne.

‘I still feel my best tennis is only ahead of me right now and, hopefully, by April I’m going to be 100 per cent again.’


Image: Roger Federer
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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