Though New York City and noted Swedish introvert Stefan Edberg have never been the most compatible of pairs, it was no shock last week to find the 1996 U.S. Open transformed into a loving farewell. Edberg had announced that he would retire from the pro tennis tour at the end of this year, and the folks at Flushing Meadow make a habit of sending off their champions in style. However, with victories over Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek, Germany's Bernd Karbacher and Holland's Paul Haarhuis, as. of Sunday, Edberg had yet to say goodbye.
The encomiums tossed at Edberg almost invariably centered on his steady personality, his unblemished reputation, his role as the sport's antibrat. Andre Agassi: "He only adds to the game. His image and his person are impeccable." Pete Sampras: "If you're looking for a role model for kids, he's your guy. He didn't say a lot of controversial things; he just let his racket do the talking."
But it's the 30-year-old Edberg's elegant, increasingly rare chip-and-charge style of play that will be missed most, even by the world's No. 1 player. "Edberg is really the last true serve-and-volley player," says Sampras. In this age of high-tech rackets and topspin returns that snap over the net and plummet to court, serve-and-volleyers like Edberg risk getting undressed by any teenager with a souped-up Wilson. Players like Krajicek, Sampras and Boris Becker have the skills to serve and volley, and do so in varying degrees, but today's game doesn't allow for the kind of dedication Edberg gave to his craft. "You can't just do one thing well and expect to win," says Agassi. "If you just sound the horn—I'm coming forward!—it's tough to really compete with the best of them."
Still, for a long time—a record 54 straight Grand Slam appearances—Edberg did just that. He won two Wimbledons, two Australian and two U.S. Opens. His second championship at Flushing Meadow, a magnificent and grueling grind through the 1992 field, proved his enduring greatness. But he has spent the last four years bewildered by his growing lack of motivation. He sank as low as 55th in the world this year before recovering to his current No. 28, which isn't good enough for him. "If I'm going to be out there, I want to be in the top 10 and really have a chance of winning a Grand Slam," says Edberg. "I've been on the tour for many, many years. It's time for me to go now, before it's too late."
And when he finally does go—he was scheduled to play Tim Henman on Tuesday—he will be missed. The sight of Edberg serving with full command and ranging along the net to drop one soft, perfectly angled volley after another just beyond his opponent's reach was a beautiful one. It was also a sad one, like watching some glassblower fashion piece after flawless piece, plying a trade that the world seems intent on leaving behind.
The Right Man
Over the last three years veteran NBA backcourtman Vernon Maxwell has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession; been sentenced to 90 days in jail after failing to complete rehab and undergo drug testing ordered by the court as a result of that plea (his lawyers are appealing); been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for unlawfully carrying a weapon and allegedly waving a handgun at a motorist (he paid a fine and then performed community service); been arrested and charged with resisting arrest after a fight with a nightclub bouncer; and been suspended for 10 games and fined $20,000 for punching a heckler in Portland. After Mad Max signed a free-agent contract with the San Antonio Spurs last week, coach Bob Hill said, "I want him to be feisty. I want him to punch somebody."
Rarely has one player been so likely to live up to a coach's expectations.
Longtime Yale football coach Carm Cozza is expected to announce his retirement next week, some three decades after senior writer Leigh Montville first "retired" him Here's how Montville remembers that low point of his journalistic career: