Class of 2004
World No. 1 (1990)
Grand Slam Results
9-time major champion, 7-time finalist
Overall Record: 1084-423
Singles Record: 801-270
Doubles Record: 283-153
ATP World Tour Championships
Winner of the Men’s Singles Exhibition Tennis Tournament at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games
Bronze Medal in Men’s Singles at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games
Bronze Medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games
Member of the Swedish Davis Cup Team 1984-1996
Member of the Swedish Championship Davis Cup Team 1984-1985, 1987, 1994
Overall Record 47-23
Singles Record 35-15
Doubles Record 12-8
A single tennis stroke doesn’t necessarily equate to becoming a major champion, but in Edberg’s case, his proficiency as a superb serve-and-volley player, particularly on the backhand side, led him to six major singles championships and an additional three titles in men’s doubles.
Edberg’s volleying acumen was pure beauty; and while dominating net play was the hallmark of many great tennis players, few in any, were as polished and technically savvy as the Swede. With the abundance of talent on the men’s pro tour during his era (1983-96), Edberg’s game stood out for how he was able to win two Australian (1985, 1987), Wimbledon (1988, 1990) and US Open (1991, 1992) championships with a game not built on power or pace, but with precision and what many consider perfect serve-and-volley tennis. “Nobody does it (serve and volley) these days, so there is hardly any variation in the style of play,” Edberg said following his playing days. “I would love to see players serve and volley more. It’s a very sad aspect of the game that the art has vanished.”
When his technique is broken down into its individual components, his efficiency from ball toss to attacking the net was nearly perfect. His big kick-serve or wicked slice serve were fast and viciously spun, which compensated for not being thunderous like his counterparts. His one-handed backhand – a big departure from his idol and fellow Swede Björn Borg who slapped his two-handed backhand hockey-style – was a huge weapon that won him many critical points. In fact, it was stronger and better than his forehand. Edberg had quick feet and reflexes and total control of his body. It was rare that he would be caught hitting a shot in no-man’s land, out-of-position, or unprepared.
Edberg had the misfortune, or opportunity as many suggested, in succeeding his countryman Borg. The two were entirely different players in all styles, though they did share great athleticism, court demeanor, and approach to competition. Edberg, like Borg, was immensely focused and not prone to displaying his emotions. His temperament was smooth, just like his game. “I’ve always been used to keeping it all inside, but it was all tactics,” Edberg said, “because, as when you play poker, you have to show as little as possible to your opponent, you don’t have to bring your weaknesses to exploit his.”
Like his childhood idol Borg, Edberg began playing tennis at a young age. At age 7 in 1973, he first hit the courts. Ten years later, in 1983, he became the first and only player to win a junior singles Grand Slam. At the Australian and US Opens, he defeated Australian Simon Youl for two legs of the four major titles he earned as a junior. As a professional he won 41 singles and 18 doubles titles. He won 801 singles matches, seventh best in history, and ranks fifth all-time in winning percentage at the Australian Open (85 percent). In major tournament play, Edberg won 178 matches, eighth best all-time.
Edberg joined the pro tour in 1983 and it took him less than two years to win his first ATP tournament. It came on March 25, 1984 in Milan, Italy over fellow Swede Mats Wilander, 6-4, 6-2. He won Olympic honors before winning a major championship, defeating Mexico’s Francisco Maciel, 6-1, 7-6 at the 1984 Games that were conducted as a demonstration sport in Los Angeles. He won Bronze Medals at the 1988 Games played in Seoul, South Korea in both singles and doubles. Until Edberg won in Memphis in late January 1985, he hadn’t yet made a complete mark on the men’s game. But that championship included a 6-4, 6-2 win over Brad Gilbert in the quarterfinals, a 6-1, 6-4 thrashing of Jimmy Connors in the semifinals, and a 6-1, 6-0 blitz over Yannick Noah in the finals. That string of wins caught everyone’s attention.
Fast surfaces were tailored made for Edberg’s game – he won all of his major singles and doubles titles on hard courts. He never won the French Open, though he did advance to the 1989 final, falling to 17-year-old Michael Chang, who became the youngest male major champion in history, on the slow red clay at Roland Garros, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Statistically at least, the Australian Open was his favored venue. He played in five finals from 1985-93, tied with Roger Federer for the second most in history. On the way to winning the 1985 and 1987 titles and advancing to three additional finals, Edberg compiled a 56-10 record (85 percent winning mark) in Melbourne. As the No. 5 seed in 1985, Edberg played a dazzling five-set match in defeating Lendl in the semifinals (6-7, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7). Fellow Swede Wilander was unable to counterattack Edberg’s masterful serve-and-volley game in the final, losing 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Edberg’s 1987 championship had an easier semifinal win (6-2, 6-4, 7-6 over Aussie Wally Masur), but the championship match was an arduous back-and-forth tussle against Pat Cash that Edberg captured in five sets, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3. He lost to Lendl in 1990 and to Jim Courier in both the 1992 and 1993 finals that saw the ecstatic Courier jump in the muddy Yarra River.
Edberg’s fiercest rival – outside of the Courier defeats in Australia – was German Boris Becker, who Edberg defeated to win the 1988 and 1990 Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles Championships. Both matches were massive serving and volleying efforts by both players, Edberg winning 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 in 1988 and 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 in 1990. Becker convincingly defeated Edberg at Wimbledon in 1989, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4. The pair played 35 times, with Becker holding a 25-10 advantage. At the 1987 Wimbledon Championships, Edberg advanced to the semifinals before being defeated by Lendl in four sets, but in his opening round match against Stefan Eriksson, he defeated his fellow Swede 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, becoming one of only six players in history to earn a triple bagel victory.
In ten meetings versus Edberg, Courier won six, but one of Edberg’s four victories came on a sweltering 90-plus degree day at the 1991 US Open, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0, and those the odds weren’t in his favor. Edberg seemed destined to follow the same unfortunate snake-bitten path as Borg, who failed to win the US Open in ten attempts. Going into the 1991 final against Courier, Edberg had been stymied in eight previous trips to New York. But he was crisp throughout the tournament, winning five of his seven matches that year in straight sets and dispensed Lendl, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals. “I remember walking off the court knowing there was no way I could have beaten him on that day,” Courier told the media afterwards. “He played a nearly flawless match.” Edberg confirmed he was in the zone that afternoon at Flushing Meadows. “Lifting the trophy after beating Courier was the best match of my life.”
The Swede successfully defended his US Open title in 1992 with a neat 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 win over Pete Sampras, a player he lost to in eight of 14 tournaments, but never in a major event (he defeated Sampras in the semifinals of the 1993 Australian). Throughout his career, Edberg held his own and then some against the world’s best, facing nine players who were current- or former-No. 1 players nine times. “I was lucky to play in the era of great players,” Edberg told atpworldtour.com.
Edberg’s singles proficiency spilled nicely into his doubles game where he joined John McEnroe as the only players in history to be ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles since the ATP computer rankings began, a feat he achieved in the 1986-87 season. He was ranked No. 1 in singles a total of 72 non-consecutive weeks during his career and No. 1 in doubles 11 weeks (June 9, 1986 to August 24, 1986). Edberg was ranked in world Top 10 in year-end rankings ten straight years (1985-1994), finishing in the Top 5 from 1985-1993. In major doubles competition, he and Swedish partner Anders Jarryd won the Australian and US Opens in 1987, and in 1996 Edberg teamed with Czech Petr Korda to win a second Australian doubles title.
Edberg represented Sweden in Davis Cup competition from 1984 to 1996, leading the team to championships in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1994.
Edberg, who was named the ATP Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, was honored by the organization five times with its Sportsmanship Award (1988-90, 1992, 1995). That distinction led the ATP to rename the award to the “Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award” in 1996. In its 40 Greatest Player of the TENNIS era, TENNIS Magazine ranked Edberg 14th overall and eighth on the men’s side.
Australian Open: W 1985, 1987
French Open: F 1989
Wimbledon: W 1988, 1990
US Open: W 1991, 1992
Australian Open: W 1987, 1996
French Open: F 1986
Wimbledon: SF 1987
US Open: W 1987