KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- The microphone isn't working, so chairs are pulled closer and the reporters are scarcely breathing in order to hear every word. Stefan Edberg, hair still damp from the shower, is at the snug center of the media circle, chatting sociably, looking smaller and slimmer than he does on the court.
Edberg, the No. 2-ranked tennis player in the world, perhaps only a tournament away from regaining the No. 1 position that he held for 66 weeks, doesn't look imposing enough, or sound arrogant enough, to convince you that he's entangled in a battle to be the best in the world.
But the desire is there.
With only 33 points separating Edberg and the new No. 1 Jim Courier, Edberg could retake the lead at the Lipton International Players Championships, which begins tomorrow at the International Tennis Center on Key Biscayne. In fact, if Edberg collects enough bonus points by beating ranked players, he could lose to Courier in the final and still become No. 1.
"It's important to me. I have been the No. 1 player the last two years in the end-of-the-year rankings," he said. "I want to try to achieve that for the third year in a row."
Edberg lost the top ranking to Courier in February, and he would very much like to have it back. He may be soft-spoken, but he's not soft. He's not content with being second-best when he spent more than a year at the top.
"When I wasn't really close to being No. 1, at that time winning the Grand Slams was far more important," he said. "Once I got the smell of it, it became more important. Not many players are going to get to No. 1."
Edberg and Courier seem to have little in common besides their proximity to the top of the rankings. Courier can get emotional during matches, grimacing, shaking fists, protesting calls. Edberg rarely utters a word. Edberg plays an elegant serve-and-volley game. Courier just goes out there and crushes the ball. Courier often sports baseball caps. Edberg, even on the court, wears his short hair combed neatly back.
"In order to be No. 1, you need to be very consistent, which I've always been since I started playing tennis," Edberg said. "That's a great help."