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Edberg adjusting to new role

Updated: 2014-01-15 07:21
By Associated Press in Melbourne ( China Daily)

Melbourne Park has changed so much in the 18 years since Stefan Edberg played his last match at the Australian Open that he found it a little disorienting to return this year as the newest member of Roger Federer's coaching team.

"I'm lost," he said on Monday, laughing. "I don't recognize the place."

Even though there are major differences from when Edberg was a player - he won his two Australian Open titles when the tournament was still played on grass courts at Kooyong in 1985 and 1987 and lost finals at Melbourne Park in 1992 and '93 - he looked comfortable in his new role as a coach as he watched the 17-time major winner hit serves on a practice court.

Edberg, a six-time major winner himself, watched Federer intently in their first formal training session together, offering the Swiss star occasional words of wisdom.

Former-players-turned-coaches has become the latest trend in men's tennis.

Not only are Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl back on the scene to mentor Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, respectively, but so are Goran Ivanisevic (coaching Marin Cilic), Michael Chang (Kei Nishikori) and Magnus Norman (Stanislas Wawrinka).

Edberg has been out of tennis for so long he wasn't sure if he wanted to upset his comfortable life to return to the grind of the tour.

But when Federer called asking for help, it didn't take him long to commit.

"It was a surprise. It's even a surprise for me to be here," Edberg said. "They just gave me a call to see what I was doing.

Coaching "was nothing that I thought about, but I think Roger is such a special person, both on and off the court, a person that I really respect, and I think because it was him, at least I would give it a thought".

Federer won his first Grand Slam match under Edberg with a straight sets victory on Tuesday, cruising past Australian wild card James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour, 46 minutes.

"It's great fun to be playing in front of him (Edberg) and it's been a dream come true for me," Federer said.

"I used to watch his matches and get inspired to play this great game so to have him in my corner through the year and this tournament is very special and I can't be thankful enough."

Federer will continue to be coached by Severin Luthi, who has been a part of his team for seven years, with Edberg joining them for at least 10 weeks.

For Federer, who is coming off a dismal 2013 and has dropped to No 6 in the rankings, recruiting his childhood hero could provide the spark he needs to get back to the top.

Edberg, who will turn 48 next week, said his motivation was the opportunity to help one of the greats of the sport win another Grand Slam.

"Tennis-wise, he is such a great player but there is always minor things you can work on," the Swedish great said.

"That's why I'm doing it, because I really think I can make a little difference and if I can make a little difference maybe that will take him back where he was."

It has been fun, too, seeing former foes like Becker and Lendl again.

But Edberg said they have all matured since their playing days and won't let old rivalries resurface from the stands.

"If we are going to compete, we are going to compete on the court - and I believe I have a chance there," he said.

(China Daily 01/15/2014 page23)