Other people watch "It's a Wonderful Life", the movie,
around holidays. For me, whenever I need a pick-me-up, I turn to my
Edberg tape library.
I collected Edberg tapes out of necessity. Since I discovered
him late in his career, it was through the good grace of others
that I obtained tapes of his matches and thereby
relived the thrills of his greatest victories.
Years after his retirement in 1996, I dusted off the tapes
one day and watched the 1991 US Open matches again, and was
instantly hooked again. In retrospect, one can better appreciate
the circumstances and the artistry of tennis in those times,
and the beauty of Edberg's special blend of tennis is as
enthralling as ever. Perhaps more so now, as his style
is unlikely to be replicated ever, due to the dominance
of powerplay in today's pro-tennis.
Another thing that set Stefan's best
matches apart is the drama they presented. Even at the
peak of his game, Stefan was not one who blew his opponent off
the court. Because his willowy figure looked deceptively fragile,
because his game hinged on such fine precision, you sense that
he was always vulnerable, that his finely tuned game
could go out at any moment. And he often was, such as when he lost to Lendl
in the 1991 Australian Open. But there is unimaginable exhilaration when
he did pull it off, such as in the 1988 Wimbledon semi-final and then final, and,
against all odds, in his 1992 epic USO five-setters. I especially enjoy the
moments when he had to play clutch points, to calmly stare down defeat, sometimes
in spite of a partisan crowd, as in the 1986 Australian Open final and the
1991/1992 US Opens.
Alison Muscatine of the Washington Post said it best:
"There is nothing more beautiful or more breathtaking than
Stefan Edberg's tennis game when he is on. Every stroke is poetic,
every movement lyrical." You have to see it to appreciate it.
Following are some matches that I highly recommend: Unfortunately, my
are not of good enough quality for duplication. Read on for other
sources where you may obtain copies.
1987 Australian Open final vs. Pat Cash: one of those hard-frought
five-set wins that I cherish. Cash was the Australian national
hero and Stefan was trying to defend his AO title. Stefan's early
two-set lead dwindled to nothing in the Australian sun, and
it was through a supreme display of wills that he managed
to pull off a victory in this end. This match
is a preview of his 1990 Wimbledon final victory.
1987 Super Seiko final: This is a tapes that I
got from a U.S. source (see below) that was recorded in SP mode
and hence of unusual good quality. I had no idea that this was
such a high quality match until I viewed it. As I watched this
battle on tape, I was glued to my
seat, just as the sold-out Japanese crowd did at the time that
this match was played in a splendid Tokyo arena. Lendl and Edberg
were then the #1 and #2 ranked players, and both were favorites
of the Japanese crowd. This match, along with Stefan's 1991
USO match against Chang, is a supreme example of how engaging
tennis can be when a defensive player (Lendl or Chang) is
pitted against an offensive player, when both
players are on. In this Tokyo match, a young 20-year old
Stefan was the underdog against the then invincible Ivan
Lendl. Ivan's formidable inside-out forehand and
powerful ground strokes
required a spectacular display of Stefan's net play for Edberg
to secure a narrow victory. Stefan also played some great
cross-court shots (backhand and running forehands), and got
some help from some line calls that irked Lendl. But what's
really precious about this tape is the special camera angle
that the Japanese TV film crew employed. A camera was mounted
in the center of the net to give the viewers a close-up look
of the players (mostly Stefan) as they approach the net. Especially
spectacular is one point in the last set where Stefan, at net,
was drilled by Ivan three times. Three times the ball went
at full force right at Edberg's body, and he volleyed back
in reflex. The athleticism of Edberg, shown at that angle,
is simply breathtaking.
1988 Wimbledon semi-final against Miloslav Mecir -- then
known as the "Swedes killer" for his tendency to befuddle
Swedish players, especially Mats Wilander. Stefan was down and out by
two sets and came back from the brink of defeat, The match
point was a "play of the day" highlight, and a closeup shot
of the shy smile flashed by a radiant young Stefan (at 22 year
old) as he turned around to see Mecir unexpectedly
dump the last ball into the net is priceless.
1988 Wimbledon final: A delightful match of Stefan
upsetting favorite three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker.
Along with his 1991 final, this is one of the matches where
Stefan's game was "on song" and the radiance of his
being exudes an
aura of invincibility. Stefan wore his hairs long then,
and was not as lean as in later years.
To Edberg fans, this was a true feast for the eyes.
The full ceremony coverage is a true bonus.
1989 Wimbledon semi-final against John McEnroe. It was the first
time that these two
virtuosos finally met on grass. Stefan was at his prime,
John, a Wimbledon crowd favorite, was on a streak on his
comeback trail after his marriage. Keenly aware of
the formidable task at hand, a very tense Stefan
barely held McEnroe at bay on the strength of his serve
and the firmness and precision of his volleys. This
is a priceless collection of two masters - Rex Bellamy of
the London Times summed up the match nicely:
"This contest between the inscrutable Swede and the scrutably artistic anti-hero was mostly conducted in terse, strong terms. But there were sporadic rallies in which both men deftly explored the possibilities for finesse, usually in the forecourt. One says ``usually'' because Edberg in particular also played some teasing lobs. McEnroe entertained us with a rich variety of volleys: some like arrows, others like feathers. What a glorious touch he has. The personalities were interesting, too. One saw Edberg as a composed, elegant gunfighter and McEnroe as the type who emerges wild-eyed from back-street bars, looking for trouble and well able to deal with it. Edberg was tall, erect, willowy: McEnroe, on the other hand, looked rather rumpled and fidgety, as if he had dressed in a hurry.
McEnroe often looked slightly the more flexible in his control of the racket head and the technical diversity he commanded. But Edberg kept pounding away, volleying to the corners, and slamming every door McEnroe tried to open. Edberg's emotional response to the ebb and flow of the match was seldom evident: except for his shuffling hop of pleasure whenever he had done something clever. McEnroe is not the kind to give even that much indication that he is happy. His feelings became clear only in a gloomy way: when he had fallen short in his ceaseless pursuit of perfection. In his time, he has been closer than most men to attaining that unattainable goal."
1990 Wimbledon final: famous five-setter against Becker. Stefan,
looking leaner and very tense,
played unbelievable tennis in the first two sets, only to
lose steam in the next two. A lob in the fifth set salvaged
the match and elicited an emotional reaction from Stefan
as the world seldom saw. Especially memorable is the
affection shown by Boris, who climbed over the net to
Stefan and gave him a hug. Stefan's shy smile on as he
embraced Becker is unforgettable.
Three 1991 US Open matches – Stefan at his finest, fittest, and the most handsome. Some
of these matches are described in articles that I collected, see
4th round match against Michael Chang: This, in my opinion,
was Stefan's best match, a virtuoso performance.
It was not as one-sided as his final victory. And it
was a rare night match. Stefan played and looked sensational.
I especially admire the calm and control displayed by
Stefan at crunch points, including overcoming a break point
at the end of the match. Michael Chang had beaten John
McEnroe in the previous round, and was finally getting the
support that he deserved from the crowd. Supposedly Michael
was asked, after the match, if he had ever played so well and
still lost. Stefan won in straight-sets: 7-6, 7-5, 6-3, but
it was an extremely close match that was often breathbreaking. Both players struck the ball cleanly and shots were hit with pin-point accuracy. An incredible and unforgettable match.
Several points when both players ran back and forth many time, side to side.
Stefan hit a drop shot at the net and bounced around a little (“using some body English”).
Stefan knelt at the net, willing a net ball to bounce over to the other side, which it did, after bouncing on the net twice.
Michael Chen picked up the ball and, in mock disgust,
gently tossed it at Stefan, who looked up in surprise and then
with a shy smile. The ball did hit Edberg too.
Semi-final against Ivan Lendl – straight-set win: After a
tentative start, Stefan continued his fine form and won
effortlessly. Not as entertaining as the previous match, as Ivan was not playing at his best.
A behind-the-back, winning shot by each player. Ivan pulled the stunt first, and,
several games later, Stefan returned the favor and broke into a grin as he did – the
crowd went wild. Ivan then said loudly: “I guess anyone can make that shot these days”,
to the cheers of the crowd.
At the end of the match, a fantastic looking Stefan, hardly sweaty, signed for the crowd.
The final – a sweet victory,
a straight-set win over Courier: Edberg considers
this his best match ever. Stefan put on a superb display
of tennis, with great poise and confidence that overcame
a stadium (25,000 people) full of audience mostly rooting
for his American opponent.
The highlight of the match was in the last game of the
second set. Arthur Ashe wrote in a New York Times column
Edberg had been in the so-called "zone" (when an athlete can do no wrong) since the fourth round, when he dispatched Michael Chang in straight sets. In this mind-set, he believed he could do anything at any time. He tried shots that usually qualify as risky, and they worked.
Edberg started the match serving down the middle to crowd Courier. Several serves were so well-placed that Courier's return was more self-defense than forehand or backhand. Courier tried moving his return position up, back, to the left, to the right. Nothing worked. There was one opening at 4-4, 15-30, Edberg serving in the second set. Called for a first-serve foot-fault, Edberg spun in a second serve to Courier's two-handed backhand, which he nailed cross-court. From knee-high level, Edberg deftly side-spun a backhand volley just inside Courier's forehand sideline for a clean winner. Courier just smiled the smile of resignation.
On the next point, Edberg was again called for a first-serve foot-fault. Again, he won the point at the net on the second volley. It was Courier's last stand. He didn't win another game."
And a sweet bonus: At the end of the match, Edberg ran into the stands to embrace a radiant Annette, and to receive a fatherly tousling of his hairs by Coach Tony Pickard. I watch this tape regularly, especially around holidays.
1992 USOpen. Some
of these matches are described in articles that I collected, see
While not playing his best, Stefan was at his most admirable in 3 back-to-back 5-setters
in each of which he came back from the brink of defeat. Down a break in the final set,
Stefan prevailed over, in succession, Krajicek, Lendl, and, in a 5-hour and 30-minutes
match, Michael Chang. I have tapes of the the Krajicek and Chang matches,
although neither one is in very good condition. Just seeing Edberg keeping his poise and
calmly serving out the final game after an incredibly trying match is a treat.
Unforgettable display of sportsmanship, will, and occasional brilliance.
And I melt everytime when the tape showed Stefan, after the match was finally over,
mouthing "I will"
to an ATP trainer who was probably offering some medical advice (such as "drink fluid".)
Edberg vs. Chang, Roland Garros, 1996.
An unexpected win in front of an adoring French Open crowd.
Numerous articles on this match -- see
the articles section.
1996 USO matches:
In his last US Open, Stefan had full-crowd support when he
opened the tournament with an upset over then Wimbledon
Champion Richard Krajicek, then went on to win three more
matches before losing to
Edberg vs. Muster, Vienna, 1996,
a little known match that had high-drama, as Stefan defeated
Thomas Muster on his home turf yet once more, to maintain
a unblemished record. Read my posting
to rec.sports.tennis about this match, a tape of which
I finally obtained in 2001.
Other matches that I have on tape include:
1992 Grand Slam Cup, Stich d. Edberg
1993 Monte Carlo Edberg d. Medvedef 6-3, 6-4
1993 Edberg d. Filipi, French Open
1993 Edberg d. Jonathan Stark, French Open
1993 Edberg d. Krickstein, French Open
1993 Edberg d. Hlasek, Cincinnati
1993 Chang d. Edberg, Cincinnati final
1993 Edberg d. Stich, Paris 1993
1994 Edberg defeats countryman Jonsson in Round of 16, Australian
1994 Sampras d. Edberg, Indian Wells Semifinal
1994 Legg Mason final, Edberg d. Stotenberg + awards ceremony.
1994 Edberg d. Krajicek, Indianapolis
1994 USO R2 Edberg d. Tarrango.
1995 Davis Cup Sweden vs. USA
1996 Edberg vs. Vacek; Edberg-Korda doubles-title victory celebration
1996 French Open Edberg defeat Alami in straight set (not a full
match, but one of Stefan's last good matches on clay - this
culminated in his trimph over Chang in the round of 16, but
Stefan was better in this match.)
1996 USO Edberg d. Harrhus, one of his last victories at Flushing
1996 Edberg exits the Los Angeles Open, losing to Chang.
1996 Edberg exits Rome Open
1996 Edberg exits the French Open
1996 Edberg exits Wimbledon
1996 Edberg exits USO
1996 Wimbledon first round, Edberg d. Forget
1996 USO Edberg vs. Krajicek(1R), vs. Karbacher(2R)
I appreciate people who know well enough to seek tapes
of Edberg's matches, and I am glad to be of help.
The following tapes are available at a reasonable cost from a source whose email
address I can provide if you write to
1985 Australian Open Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def Ivan Lendl,
6-7, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7. 2 tape set
1985 Davis Cup Finals. Boris Becker def Stefan Edberg,
6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 8-6. Two greats meet as teenagers!
1986 U.S. Open Semifinals. Ivan lendl def Stefan Edberg,
7-6, 6-2, 6-3
1986 Nabisco Masters. Stefan Edberg def Yannick Noah,
4-6, 6-3, 7-6
1987 Australian Open Finals. Stefan Edberg def Pat Cash,
6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3. 2 tape set
1987 Thriftway ATP Finals. Stefan Edberg def Boris Becker,
6-4, 6-1. Edberg is flawless
1987 Canadian Open Finals. Ivan lendl def Stefan Edberg,
1987 U.S. Open Semifinals. Mats Wilander def Stefan Edberg,
6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
1987 Seko Super Tennis Finals. Stefan Edberg def Ivan Lendl,
6-7, 6-4, 6-4
1987 WCT Semifinals. John McEnroe def Stefan Edberg,
7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4
1988 Wimbledon Finals. Stefan Edberg def Boris Becker,
4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2
1989 Volvo Los Angeles Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def
Pete Sampras, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1
1989 Wimbledon Semifinals. Stephan Edberg def.
John McEnroe, 7-5, 7-5, 7-6. 2 tape set
1989 Wimbledon Finals. Boris Becker def Stefan Edberg,
6-0, 7-6, 6-4. Becker's third Wimbledon title.
1989 Masters Finals. Stefan Edberg def Boris Becker,
4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-1. 2 tape set
1989 ATP Championship Finals. Brad Gilbert def Stefan
Edberg, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6
1990 Australian Open Finals. Ivan Lendl def Stefan Edberg,
4-6, 7-6, 5-2, ret. inj.
1990 Wimbledon Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def Ivan Lendl,
6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Edberg at the height of his powers
1990 Wimbledon Finals. Stefan Edberg def Boris Becker,
6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4. Edberg turns the tables
1991 U.S. Open Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def Ivan Lendl,
6-3, 6-3, 6-4
1991 U.S. Open Finals. Stefan Edberg def Jim Courier,
6-2, 6-4, 6-0
1991 Japan Open Finals. Stefan Edberg def Ivan Lendl,
6-1, 7-5, 6-0
1992 Australian Open Finals. Jim Courier def Stefan Edberg,
6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. 2 tape set
1992 U.S. Open Fourth Round. Stefan Edberg def Richard
Krajicek, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. 2 tape set
1992 U.S. Open Quarterfinals. Stefan Edberg def Ivan Lendl,
6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6. 2 tape set
1992 U.S. Open Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def Michael Chang,
6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. 2 tape set
1992 U.S. Open Finals. Stephan Edberg def Pete Sampras,
3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2
1992 Davis Cup. United States vs Sweeden. McEnroe/Sampras
def Edberg, Jarryd, 6-1, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Match is
joined in progress at 6-1, 1-0.
1993 Australian Open Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def
Pete Sampras, 7-6, 6-3, 7-6
1993 Australian Open Finals. Jim Courier def Stefan Edberg,
6-2, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5
1994 Indian Wells Semifinals. Pete Sampras def Stefan
Edberg, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
1995 U.S. Open 3rd Round. Andre Agassi def Stefan Edberg,
6-4, 6-3, 6-1
1995 Legg Mason Semifinals. Stefan Edberg def Patrick
Rafter, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2
1995 Legg Mason Finals. Andre Agassi def Stefan Edberg,
6-4, 2-6, 7-5
1996 French Open 3rd Rnd. Stefan Edberg def Michael Chang
4-6, 7-5, 6-0, 7-6. Unseeded Edberg near end of career upsets #4
Also there is a source in Italy,
who has 300 tapes of Stefan's matches, supposedly.
Unfortunately they are not in English and they are in
European format and needs to be transcribed. I have
obtained a tape from him, and, other than the additional
expenses involved, the tape was of good quality.