A DAY IN THE LIFE OF STEFAN EDBERG
by Craig Gabriel
(from "Australian Tennis", Sept. 1988)
STEFAN EDBERG wants to be the best player in the world and he knows this is
a mission that demands a day in, day out routine. Most days are typical for
him during a tournament as he juggles the hours between practice sessions,
PR appearances and matches.
Edberg rises each morning at about 8.30 a.m., when he showers and eats
breakfast, which is never heavy. A fruit juice would be followed by cereal
and then toast and cold cuts of breakfast meat.
"I eat a meal depending on when I am going to play a match," said
Edberg. "I don't like to get loaded down with food before a match because it
feels uncomfortable on court and you find it difficult to move."
Edberg returned to the Graden Plaza Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, where
he was playing the Volvo Tennis/US Indoor, and did a couple of push-ups on
the floor of his room. He does not usually make use of the fitness centres
that more hotels are providing because he mostly likes to be on his own.
The 22-year-old Swede may play a game different from most other Swedes,
in that he prefers to serve-and-volley rather than sit on the back-fence and
drill groundstrokes from corner to corner in a battle of attrition, but
Stefan is still very much like his compatriots in his reserved manner.
This was a match-day for the world's number two ranked player. He was
the defending champion at the tournament and attempting to make the final
for the fourth consecutive year. It was a very attainable feat, because the
draw for the tournament was one of the weakest in the event's history.
Tony Pickard, a former Davis Cup player and Edberg's longtime coach
from England, was not with his charge this week, and Stefan was quite happy
to arrange most ot his own schedule. He is developing a more mature and
confident attitude. He called the Racquet Club of Memphis, where the
tournament was being played - it was almost next door to the hotel - and
made arrangements for a practice session.
Edberg flopped back onto his bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking how
most hotel rooms look the same after so many years on the pro tour. He had
taken off his shoes and t-shirt and was relaxing with his eyes closed when
the phone rang. It was his agent, Tom Ross, from Advantage International,
the Washington-based company, calling to say that he was in town. Ross
reminded Edberg about his commitments regarding appearances for the products
It was now 9.30 and the day was already an hour old for Edberg. As a
rule, he is not the type to waste time and he started to get things into
gear. "I have so many things that have to be done in a day that I don't have
time to relax or delay. People think we only play matches and then have the
rest of the day off. It is just not the case," he explained.
Tom Ross had made his way down to Edberg's room and said there was a
car waiting downstairs to take them to an Adidas reception. Adidas created
the "Stefan Edberg Collection" two years ago. The endorsement contract was
said to be worth millions of dollars, including royalties, so the more
appearances Stefan made the better for his bank balance. No matter how much
Edberg was prompted, he would not disclose any figures.
ON THE WAY to meet the buyers, a stop was made at the home of Lars Nilsson,
who is a Swede on a tennis scholarship in Memphis. He and Edberg were
friends back in Sweden and they came from the same town. Lars would be
Stefan's practice partner later in the day and his doubles partner for the
In the car, discussions were taking place about scheduling and where
Edberg would need to make appearances over the next few weeks and what
advance interviews would be needed, whether in person or over the phone.
His itinerary included tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati, which
would feature the likes of Becker, Wilander and Mecir, and then Japan, where
he was the defending champion. "I like going to Japan," said Edberg. "I have
won quite a few times there and I am always looked after so well. I look
forward to the trips there."
The Adidas function took about an hour, with the Edberg clothing range
on display around the room. He handled himself in his usual quiet manner and
then excused himself, explaining that he had to leave for a practice session
as he had a match that night.
"It is a great feeling to see my name on the clothes," said Edberg,
getting back into the car. "I feel very proud. I feel the same way when they
make the announcements on the courts to introduce me for a match."
Normally, wherever Edberg goes, he is followed by hordes of screaming
girls. His fair Scandinavian looks make him very attractive to the
teenyboppers, whether he is in Japan, Australia or the American midwest. On
this occasion, they were absent and Edberg probably felt a little relieved
about that because there is a time and place for everything.
As a promotion for the tournament, Edberg agreed to go to a city store
and sign autographs for half an hour. The event needed some attention.
There, he was almost besieged by the girls and he tried to oblige all
requests. He was constantly saying "thank you" in response to the dozens of
compliments that were paid to him. The smile never left his face.
"It is part of the job,"he said. "It is hard sometimes, but it has to
be done. There are so many things I like to do, such as going to the movies
or out to dinner, and I like listening to music."
It was a little after midday when he returned to his hotel room.
Racquets were piled up in one corner, shoes - about a dozen pairs -
somewhere else and packets of gut strings were spilling out of a bag. Even
so, the room looked relatively orderly for that of a tennis player.
Edberg's lovely girlfriend, Annette Olsson, Sweden's top model, was not
travelling with him. He took a little time to call her, but didn't say where
Room service was ordered for lunch, and again nothing too heavy was
chosen. He ordered pasta. He then did an interview by way of an interpreter,
for a tournament in Japan, and followed up with a one-on-one interview for a
newspaper in Memphis. By this time, lunch had arrived.
Edberg phoned Tony Pickard in London, where it was about 8 p.m. They
talked about the match that night against Damir Keretic, who has a solid
all-round game. The West German could be dangerous if Stefan was tired;
after all, Stefan had been in town only a day following his win at the
tournament at Rotterdam for the second consecutive year.
IT WAS now a little before 2 p.m. and Edberg decided to go to the courts a
little early and do some exercises. When he got to the courts, he took out a
skipping rope and used it for a few minutes to loosen up and "get myself on
my toes". He then did a couple of sprints up and down the sideline, and
various stretching exercises that most pros do as a protection against
pulled hamstrings or groin muscles, etc.
Hitting with Nilsson, the pace soon picked up. Edberg worked on his approach shot down the line. After 20 minutes, they stopped for a breather and a drink. For Edberg, even that is an endorsement, a sports drink called Pripps.
They returned to the court and Stefan slammed down his big serve and also his hard-to-handle kick second serve. They played a tiebreak, which the higher ranked Swede won hands down. After the set was over, Edberg did some wind sprints. He said he does not like to run distances on a track or road.
On returning to the hotel, the players took showers and Edberg got onto the phone once more, this time to call his family in Sweden. He calls his parents and brother about three times a week. His father is Bengt, his mother is Barbro, and his 15-year-old brother is Jan, a good player. "It is nice to call home," said Stefan. "When I call them, we talk about what is happening at home and how my matches are going. We talk about a whole lot of things."
Once the call is over, there is another meeting with Tom Ross to discuss more scheduling and business deals. Edberg likes to keep the Grand Slam weeks free from any distractions, such as interviews and endorsement appearances, so that he can just concentrate on his tennis.
"I keep an interest in where my money is going," he said. "I think it is important to know what is happening all the time and what is being done with my investments. I find it very interesting."
Edberg handles the unnatural lifestyle with ease. He took a bit of time to relax and lay on his bed with the television on. It was now about 5.30 p.m. and his match was in two hours, so he went back to the club for a warm-up practice session.
Match time. The stands around the main court had a capacity of 5,200 and were almost full as Edberg and Keretic walked out. Edberg was surrounded by three bodyguards, one a former secret service agent, as protection from the fans. For the multi-millionaire sportsman, this was not an uncommon practice.
Edberg won the match 7-5, 6-4, but he looked tired, and, once all the post-match interviews were finished, he went out to dinner with Lars Niisson. As he pointed out, there were no late nights for him because of his commitment to be always at his best. Although he wanted to go to see the movie, "Shoot to Kill", his busy schedule did not allow it.
"I know there are many sacrifices and plenty of special requests," he said. "I don't get to go sightseeing very often. I like to go shopping, but it can be difficult. I knew what I was getting into and I enjoy it with the travelling, but I also like to see my friends. "
It was now past midnight after a long day. And this was only the start of the week.