Edberg and the Australian Open: An eternal love-affair
Stefan Edberg turned 45 today.
Nothing so special about it; the birthday that is!
What is special though is his eternal presence at the year's first major -- the Australian Open.
The tournament's logo is the distinctive serve of the Swede.
The fact remains that Edberg's love affair with the Australian Open started in 1983 and continues to this day.
The Swede won the boys' singles title that year en route to completing a junior Grand Slam.
Two years later, he came from behind to beat Ivan Lendl 9-7 in the fifth, and then upset defending champion and fellow-Swede Mats Wilander in straight sets to win his first Australian Open title. It was his first major triumph as well.
In 1987 -- when the event was advanced to January (in 1986 it wasn't played) -- the genial Swede defended his title with aplomb, beating home favourite Pat Cash in five sets. He also won the doubles title that year, partnering compatriot Anders Jarryd.
Both of Edberg's Australian Open triumphs came on grass courts -- the tournament was then played at Kooyong.
However, the Swede continued his impressive run even at the new venue -- the hard courts of Flinders Park.
In 1990, he reached the final (against Lendl) but an injury forced his withdrawal. In 1992-93 he lost successive finals to American Jim Courier.
And in 1996, his final year on the circuit, Edberg partnered Czech Petr Korda to win his second doubles title and end his career Down Under on a winning note.
However, now, even 15 years after his retirement, the Swede continues to grace the courts at Melbourne.
It has been mentioned above that his distinctive serve (that renowned kicker) is being used as the logo of the tournament for years now.
What also is imperative to mention here is the fact that his singles record (56-10) at Melbourne Park continues to remain a tournament record -- the best by a player in the Open Era.
In this era power tennis, there are times when one misses a certain degree of subtlety, a gentleman's demeanor and the sight of a true artist at work.
With the courts being dominated by big serves and even bigger returns, one searches for the type of dedication given to the craft by the players of yore.
In an age when players have become increasingly aggressive, one misses a player with an unblemished reputation and unquestioned sportsmanship
Modern tennis clearly misses a player named Stefan Edberg.
However, the Australian Open ensures we still keep remembering him.
Image: Former Australian Open Champion, Sweden's Stefan Edberg holds up gifts from the Kooyong Tennis Club January 13 in honour of his two Open victories at the Kooyong grass courts in 1985 and 1987. Edberg has announced he will retire from the tour at the end of 1996