By Steve Keating
TORONTO, July 29 (Reuters) - Roger Federer's backhand has been described as a thing of beauty and perhaps the most exquisite stroke the tennis world has seen, but his coach Stefan Edberg feels his was a little better.
When asked on Tuesday who possessed the better backhand, the former world number one said he would have to give himself the edge in that category.
"A lot of the other strokes I think he does a lot better than I did but I'll give myself a bit of favour with my backhand," Edberg said on a conference call ahead of the Aug. 2-10 Rogers Cup in Toronto where Federer will launch his North American hardcourt season.
"I had one of the better backhands in the game when I was playing, I could use it offensively or defensively, a lot of variations. It was a key shot for me."
If Federer and Edberg were to debate the matter it would surely produce the ultimate gentlemen's argument.
Edberg was brought on board last December to help revive Federer's flagging career, and the stylish Swede has proven to be the ideal complement to the Swiss maestro, both men being of similar unflustered temperament and demeanor.
During a brilliant playing career Edberg used his graceful backhand to great effect helping him to six grand slam singles titles, two each at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Australian Open.
The one-hander has also been a key weapon in Federer's arsenal of shots and no player has produced better results with it than the Swiss amassing a record 17 grand slam crowns.
With more and more players opting for raw two-fisted power, the elegant one-handed backhand that Federer and Edberg helped raise to an art form is slowly going the way of the dinosaur.
While Edberg rates his backhand ahead of Federer's he is unlikely to offer any tips on how to improve that shot but the Swede has provided a lift in other areas after the former world number one struggled through a disappointing 2013 that saw him fail to reach a grand slam final for the first time since 2002.
Fit and healthy with his back troubles of last year behind him, the 32-year-old Swiss has climbed back up to number three in the rankings while collecting a pair of titles and reaching six finals, including Wimbledon where he lost another epic battle with Novak Djokovic.
Federer will launch his hardcourt campaign in Toronto as part of the buildup to next month's U.S. Open, where he will make a bid for an 18th grand slam title.
"As we all know Roger had a really tough season last year," said Edberg, who will be inducted into the Rogers Tennis Hall of Fame on Aug. 4. "He was struggling physically with his back but he has put in a lot of work over the last nine months, I think he is fit now and a lot better than he was in the past.
"It showed in Wimbledon, he was very, very close to winning Wimbledon.
"He's back playing some really good tennis. The way he is playing now it is as good as anyone out on the tennis court I believe." (Editing by Frank Pingue)