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Edberg and Joe Kneipp-
2003 Dan Kneipp)
times Wimbledon champions Stefan Edberg decided to give Joe Kneipp a game
of squash today. There were two very obvious highlights to the match.
The first was Edberg reminding everyone
that he was one of the greatest volleyers in the history of tennis as
he lunged onto a back hand volley for a drop shot winner against Kneipp.
Edberg’s overwhelming serve and volley tennis game transferred beautifully
onto the squash court, with his immediate urge in each rally to get to
the T and volley the ball at every opportunity. The second highlight of
the match was after less than ten minutes of play seeing Edberg gasping
for air as he rested against the side wall with his hands on his knees
and his shirt drenched with sweat. Not something you see too often in
a tennis match with all of the breaks between serves, points, games and
Edberg was playing Joe Kneipp as part
of the Catella Swedish Open ProAm. Tournament sponsors got a chance to
have a game with some of the world’s best players including John
White, Stewart Boswell, Kneipp and Olli Touminen. The event was held at
the same venue as the qualifying tournament, a separate venue from the
main draw with the portable court.
Edberg isn’t new to squash. Even
during his tennis days he would play as a way to get a good run and add
a little variety into his training programme. Even though he has been
retired for a few years, he is still involved in tennis, coaching some
of the top Swedish juniors. Typically during a week he will play tennis
three times and squash twice. He obviously enjoys the game and it shows
in the standard of play he has reached. He would be competitive against
the top player of any club (if not beating them).
shows his tennis overhead smash skills on the squash court.
(photo © 2003 Dan Kneipp)
Edberg works well with his base
of tennis skills to play squash. His backhand is a noticeable tennis slice
swing, but it’s not as pronounced as you’d expect. He knows
the bounces and angles of the walls well and nearly wrong footed Kneipp
with a reverse boast. He also gave Stewart Boswell at game, with Bozza starting
out very slow to accommodate Edberg’s level of play, not knowing how
good he was. When Edberg hit a back hand cross court nick winner off the
serve, and followed it up with two well earned points, Bozza realised he
wasn’t playing a beginner and picked up the pace accordingly.
Edberg has played in squash tournaments
and ProAms before and welcomed any advice on how to improve his game (he’s
very friendly and approachable). At one stage Joe hit a good length on
the back hand so that the ball only just bounced off the back wall. Edberg
realised he had no room to swing the racquet and tried to do a two handed
scoop-like shot to retrieve it. After the game I pointed out to him that
his only option when the ball is that close to the back wall, is to hit
a back wall boast, and that with his standard of racquet skills he would
have no trouble doing it and would be able to keep the rally going. It’s
common at most squash clubs to see beginners who have just learnt how
to do the back wall boast going absolutely crazy and hitting the shots
at absurd and unnecessary times. But it’s rare to see a better quality
player not using the shot when it’s crucial. Edberg said he was
actually aware of the shot, but it was such a foreign concept of a shot
to him that during games it never occurred to use it. I guess it’s
hard enough for a player with a lifetime of tennis to learn to leave the
ball so that it hits the back wall, let alone turn around and whack it
in the opposite direction, away from the tennis net, your opponent and
over the tennis court behind you. I played a game of tennis with Sarah
Fitz-gerald in France last year and she said she’d been in the middle
of a tennis game once and let the ball go, intending to hit it once it
came off the back wall. Not so easy on a tennis court.
We’ve interviewed Edberg on his
opinion of the difference between playing squash and tennis and will have
that in a future article.
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