MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Glancing up at the legends of tennis can make 17-times grand slam champion Roger Federer push too hard for the “wow” factor, so new coach Stefan Edberg can expect a cold shoulder from the cool Swiss when watching from the stands.
Federer has hired Edberg, twice a winner at Melbourne Park, to help him win more slams and the new partnership began successfully on a baking hot Tuesday as the Swiss moved into the Australian Open second round with a 6-4 6-4 6-2 trouncing of local wildcard James Duckworth.
Six-times grand slam champion Edberg watched impassively from behind a pair of sunglasses, and sat in a shaded stand at Rod Laver Arena as his 32-year-old charge wrapped up proceedings in less than two hours to escape the heat.
Federer, unlike triple defending champion Novak Djokovic or Briton Andy Murray, has never been one for drawing comfort from the player’s box, and is unlikely to change for his “childhood hero”.
“I realize after a set I didn’t look up once yet,” Federer told reporters after notching his record 57th appearance in grand slams. “I better check if he’s actually sitting there. I did see him. He was wearing sunglasses. ‘Okay, he is there’.
“No, I don’t look up much. I stopped doing that way back when because I said you just can’t be dependent on these entire looks all the time.
“Being coached from the sidelines, that’s not how I grew up. I feel like it’s like in school, you know, you do your work. At home, you get ready for the test, and then the test, you don’t cheat and you try to do your best score.
“I see it the same way in tennis. Clearly when I did look up ... it’s nice seeing him sitting there. Even if he wouldn’t be my coach it would be nice. Plus he’s in my corner, it’s great.”
Federer said he had made a conscious decision to avoid glancing up at friends, family and former players for a number of years, having found his desire to impress them would throw him off his game.
“It usually used to be family and friends back home. Always felt strange when they were all sitting there,” he said.
“Normally you’d be sitting at dinner tables or coffee shops, and here you are now playing in front of them. It just felt awkward.
“Then it was when legends of the game came out to watch you play: Bjørn Borg, Rod Laver, Stefan, (Boris) Becker.
“You saw them around and you’re like, ‘Ah, these are the ones I used to look up to’. I want to make it extra special and I feel like I have to impress them ... just come up with something that they might think is ‘wow’.
“And then you realize it’s actually better to win the match than win a few ‘wow’ shots, so you go back to basics. That’s kind of where it’s hit me the most usually, when those kind of people have sat in the stadium.
“Today I’m a bit more laid back about it, thankfully.”
Edberg also showed himself to be relaxed about their relationship, filing out of the stadium as Federer, who will next play 99th-ranked Slovenian Blaz Kavcic, completed his courtside interview after dispatching Duckworth.
“We will probably go to dinner tonight and just see who else joins in, and then we will just watch some matches,” Federer said of his debriefing with the Swede later.
“I think he wants to see quite a few matches live, as well. He’s seen a lot on television but live is a different animal.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford