After 'best,' Edberg wears smile, crown

September 09, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

NEW YORK -- Stefan Edberg has left little doubt why he is No 1 in the world of men's tennis today.

He achieved that ranking yesterday, in one of the most precisannihilations in U.S. Open history.

Edberg, on his way to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Jim Courier, losjust 15 points on his serve in the entire match.

He made Courier, the French Open champion who had nodropped a set on his road to this final, look like a plodding baseliner with feet of clay.

He turned Courier's power game into something that looked likit belonged in junior league.

"I was hitting some great shots," Courier said. "But he wacoming up with shots that made mine look like I don't know what. I'd hit solid returns right at his feet and he would come in and hit back an angled winner."

Edberg was the Michelangelo of center court, painting masterpiece.

For one glorious afternoon in the sun, Stefan Edberg waperfection -- hitting baseline winners, showing his deft and delicate touch at the net, pounding the lines with his exacting serves.

"The best I've ever played," he said, stating the immodest truth. "It was almost like a dream. The further into the match we went, the more comfortable I felt. I felt like I could do almost anything."

This is Edberg's first U.S. Open win, and it comes the year aftehe was upset in the first round by Alexander Volkov.

"Some of his shots," said Courier, "well, when he hit that onbackhand that dropped in the corner and spun away from me, I found myself looking at a guy in the stands and he sort of shrugged, like, 'What can you do?' and all I could do was say, 'Wow!' "


It wasn't Jimmy Connors' blood and guts. It was cleaner thathat. It was surgical. Courier never felt a thing.

"Wow!" was almost all he could say. "I've been pummeled beforebut this is the worst," he said. "I didn't play badly. He was simply all over me."

So cool, so calm, this Swede who likes to tell Norwegian jokes:

"Why did the Norwegian take the car door into the desert?" hwill ask. "So he could roll down the window if it got too hot."

It is a side the public seldom sees, given his low-key, gentloff-court manners.

But there were emotions yesterday. As the crowd cheered hirare errors in hopes of encouraging Courier, Edberg felt inspired.

"I know what it takes to win here," Edberg said. "It takes a lot oguts, concentration and hard work. And it's my hard work that paid off. I was one step ahead of Jim all day."

For 13 days this Open belonged to another Jim, Jimmy ConnorsAnd it may forever be remembered as the Open in which Connors made his unfathomable march to the semifinals. Edberg doesn't care.

"I do not mind the attention Jimmy has gotten," he said. "WhaJimmy has done is interest a lot of people in our game and it has been good for our game. But, 50 years from now, when you look in the record books, it is my name you'll see."

Edberg, his blond hair bristling with sweat, continued smilingEvery time anyone asked him how he felt about having won this Open, he smiled even more.

He had reason.

At the Australian Open this year, he double-faulted on matcpoint and lost the semifinals to Ivan Lendl, the man he ousted in the semifinals here. At the French, he lost in the quarterfinals to Courier and at Wimbledon, he lost to eventual champion Michael Stich, in an incredible, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-7 semifinal.

When he came in here, he wasn't playing his best tennis. But hifourth-round match against Michael Chang, a match he won 7-6, 7-5, 6-3,got his "rhythm" going and forced his tennis to a higher level.

"You never know when you're going to be able to pick up yougame or for how long you are going to have that touch," said the new U.S. Open champion. "You always have the fear it will go away. But the last four matches here, and especially the last two, I was at my peak. I was perfect. And you are looking at one happy man."

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