The coaching arrangements of the great and the good have been the subject of much debate at the Australian Open. Andy Murray’s partnership with Ivan Lendl started the new trend for celebrity coaches and under the old boy’s tutelage, Muzza has won two majors and an Olympic medal. Mmm. There must be something in this.
Still, trying to fathom how Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker are going to work together has been altogether trickier. Can they work together? What can Boris teach Novak? Will Novak listen? How long will it last?
But when it comes to the Roger Federer-Stefan Edberg combo, we here at the Australian Open website have the inside scoop.
Edberg has barely been seen since he retired in 1996 as, by his own admission, he had had enough of the tennis world and wanted a break. And 18 years seems like a reasonable length of time for a vacation, so now he is back to help the Fed reclaim his former glories.
The slight flaw in this set-up is that Edberg has no coaching experience other than helping his son, Christopher, with a bit of court craft. Could he persuade Christopher to serve and volley? Er, no. So, the coaching didn’t go that well then.
Still, Stefan is still the same charming, polite gent he always was – he has hardly changed a bit. And that, too, could be a bit of an issue. You see, our Stefan was not what you might call a demonstrative fellow. The stating of opinions was not really his style, and he spent most of his career perched on the fence in those immaculately-tailored shorts of his. As a coach, that may be something of a hindrance. As for his spending habits, they were always… well, shall we say, conservative? Keeping up with the absolutely minted Swiss GOAT may take some doing.
Anyway, in the name of hard-hitting, investigative journalism, we can bring you a fly-on-the-wall view of a Fedberg practice session. We paid our very own fly to go and spy on the two legends at work, and this is what he saw and heard.
Scene: a practice court at Melbourne Park. Roger Federer appears in RF hat, RF shirt, RF shorts, RF shoes and carrying an RF bag. Behind him is a blond bloke in a grey tee-shirt.
RF (for it is he): Come along Stefan; we need to make me perfect again. There is no time to waste.
SE: You are already quite good, I would say.
RF: I’ll be the judge of that. And quite good is not good enough. Other people have been winning my Grand Slam trophies for the past couple of years and Mirka is not happy. I only have 17 and the odd number makes the arrangement on the mantelpiece look lopsided. Another three would fix it.
SE: I could lend you a few of mine, if you like…
RF: I was telling my many fans in the media how much I enjoyed our cosy dinners together, chatting about the old days and how it was in your time. I think we should go out again tonight and discuss how I am going to beat Blaz Kavcic. How should I tackle him?
SE: It’s tough to say. You are paying tonight, right?
RF: What do you think I need to do to compete with these younger boys?
SE: Really, it’s tough to say. Have you thought about getting younger?
RF: Don’t be silly, Stefan. I have been 27 ever since I won my 15th slam at Wimbledon and broke Pete’s record. Age has nothing to do with it. Do you think my forehand is still as beautiful as it always was?
SE: It’s tough to say. But you might want to come to the net a bit more.
RF: I tried that against Lleyton in Brisbane and do you know what? He lobbed me. The cheek of it. No, I’m not serving and volleying.
SE: Those shirts of yours are really nice. Do you have any spares?
RF: Did you see where I put my phone?
SE: It’s tough to say. What about the shirts?
RF: See my people on the way out. Now – about Kavcic.
SE: It’s tough to say, but maybe if you move a little bit better and strike the ball a little bit better it might help.
RF: People will think I am trying to be like you…
SE: Not in those shorts. Where did you get them? They look like you are playing in your underwear. A Grand Slam champion needs a well-cut pair of shorts. Maybe that is what has been holding you back.
RF: Remind me again why I hired you?
SE: It’s tough to say ...