Written by Staff Writer
Roger Federer once said before the 2006 Miami Open that he was in awe of his coach Stefan Edberg, the former Swedish tennis great.
“I’m not saying I can play like him, but I can play like him,” he said.
On Sunday Federer helped his mentor win the Cincinnati Masters, but also remembered their first encounter nearly a decade earlier.
Speaking to reporters after his 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Romania’s Marius Copil, the Swiss said he still couldn’t believe Edberg had died on Saturday aged 65, and he used the occasion to eulogize his former coach.
“Yesterday was kind of my first opportunity to speak after Stefan passed away. And I was really glad that I got to speak in the day before he passed away, so it was a good way to talk about Stefan,” Federer said.
“Because Stefan is one of the players who have given me so much. Definitely my utmost favorite player was Stefan Edberg. And obviously one of the most unbelievable, my favorite memories of my career was the first time I met him. I was really honored to work with him. It was just a great match, I think Stefan’s body just let go and took him away from us too quickly.”
According to Tennis.com, Federer first met Edberg during a tournament in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
“He had all his hair and he was a skinny guy. But he had big booming serves. A lot of times you do stuff in the training room. You build up your match fitness and you start warming up, you start making birdies or you start making 50 winners every match. I said, ‘OK, I am going to get my serve in before that.’
“And I looked at my trainer and said, ‘Listen, Stefan, I am not going to warm up for three more hours.’ And when I got on the court, I couldn’t find my serve and everything, but he totally forgot about it.
“He let go, and he was like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ I said, ‘Thank you for not worrying about it.’ And I left it in his hands. And for two or three hours I was like, ‘Wow, this guy can serve.’ He broke me twice. I went, ‘Hey, wait a minute. You know that you just found that out, right? You can maybe use it later in the match. Maybe we can change our strategy.'”
A third-round win at Miami followed in 2006, and the pair remained friends up until the Swede’s death.
“He could play. He could smash. It was unbelievable that the guy was so short and he had a big serve. One of my favorite memories is the first time I met him. Stefan was one of the most incredible players,” Federer said.
On Saturday he told reporters about his relationship with Edberg, saying “when we were growing up, Stefan was the one who kind of coached us in how to be better,” adding the Swede wanted him to be “absolutely best possible player.”