Edberg ends frustration at least-expected time


NEW YORK -- He lost his Wimbledon title. He lost his No. 1 ranking. He lost a lot of matches.

This was a strange season of tennis for Stefan Edberg. Accustomed to triumphs and titles, he absorbed defeats. Suddenly, it was late summer, and he had to focus on a tournament that tortured his knees and wrecked his serve-and-volley game.

It was no secret that Edberg was allergic to the U.S. Open. He hated the traffic in Manhattan. He wilted in the heat. He became unhinged on the hard courts.

"I still kept very positive in my own mind," Edberg said. "I havbeen struggling a little bit. I haven't played that consistent. I have played some good matches, then I have had a bad one. So, you know, the Open became more and more important."

Edberg showed yesterday just how important the Open became to his season. He entered Louis Armstrong Stadium for a quarterfinal match and overwhelmed Javier Sanchez, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Edberg, the No. 2 seed, advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1987. Saturday, he'll meet the winner of last night's rain-suspended quarterfinal between Wimbledon champion Michael Stich and Ivan Lendl. Stich was leading, 3-6, 6-3, 4-3, 40-15, when the match was postponed. It was scheduled to resume today no earlier than 2 p.m.

"This is great," Edberg said. "That is all I can say, because, you know, I actually played a few good matches here. I am happy. I am looking forward to the next match. Everything is going really well at the moment."

Last year, Edberg entered the Open with a four-tournament winning streak, the Wimbledon crown and the No. 1 ranking. He was due, some say overdue, for a fall. It came in a first-round upset loss against Alexander Volkov of the Soviet Union.

"I got the No. 1 spot and I kept playing, kept winning," Edberg said. "And when you have a winning streak, it is just a matter of time before you are going to lose it. It happened in the first round of the Open last year, so I have tried to aim to play better at the Open this year. I have gone through five matches here, and I have sort of lifted my game to where I want it right now."

Edberg changed his preparation for this year's Open. After losing to Stich on three tie-breakers in the Wimbledon semifinals, he took time off and rebuilt his effortless serve-and-volley style.

"I think the day I lost to Stich, I didn't take it that badly," he said. "I sort of could accept it. But the more I thought about it, the tougher a loss I thought it was because I really couldn't see how I could lose the match without losing my serve. And looking at the statistics, I won more points than he did. But I still lost the match because I played a few bad points here and there. That really NTC was the difference, the tie-breakers."

Despite the loss, Edberg kept working. He toured the U.S. hard-court circuit and reached the final at the Hamlet Challenge.

"I was struggling the first few rounds here," he said. "But I have played better and better the last few matches."

Edberg said he has found peace of mind by deciding to stay in a house on Long Island, rather than commute to Flushing Meadow from a hotel in Manhattan.

"It is a good move," he said. "Because this is probably my eighth or ninth time here at the Open. I have stayed in town every time. Sometimes it is sort of nice to do something different from what you have done in the past and see some new cities and some new things."

Edberg's coach, Tony Picard, said the new setting has helped. Edberg is rested and ready to play.

"I'm pleased with his transformation," he said. "Everything is better for him. Last year, after he won Wimbledon, we couldn't have come in any better. And this year, we couldn't have come in any worse. But Stefan is improving, and improving very quickly."

Can Edberg win the Open?

"We'll see," Edberg said. "I am doing everything I can to try to win it. I'm trying to make the best effort. It's not that I haven't put down a good effort before. I have always come here to try, and in the last five or six years, I felt that I at least had a chance to win. But this year, you know, it becomes more and more important to try and win it at least once."

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