Bjorn Borg was the number one tennis player in the world during the peak of his career. Between the years 1977 to 1981 he held the number one title at six different points. The Swedish tennis player is regarded by many as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, mainly due to the age in which he entered and starting winning major championships and titles. Borg was also characterised for his style on court; good looking, with a head band and a wrist band on each arm.
As a young child, Borg became fascinated with tennis after his father gave him a racket. By the time he was 15, in 1972, he had become one of the youngest players to represent their country when he played in the Davis Cup and later the same year he won the junior singles title at Wimbledon.
The following year, on his first attempt, he reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. In 1974 at the Italian Open Borg won his first top-level singles championship, and then only two weeks later he also won the French Open which was his first Grand Slam title and came at the age of just 17 (making him the youngest ever French Open champion).
In 1975 Borg reached the semi-finals of the World Tennis Championships in Dallas, but was beaten by Arthur Ashe. However, the same year he won the French Open again and reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, but succumbed again to Ashe. Nevertheless, his form in the Davis Cup remained flawless, picking up two further singles and one doubles victory in 1975 on the way to Sweden’s victory that year and taking his victory tally to 19 singles rubbers, a new record for the game. Borg continued to win every singles rubber that he played at the Davis Cup until the end of his career.
1976 saw his first win at Wimbledon, making him the youngest male Wimbledon champion at only 20 years old, without losing a set in any of his games. The same year he reached the finals of the U.S. Open, but lost to Jimmy Connors. The following year he could not enter the French Open due to his contract, but entered Wimbledon and went on the save his title, which pushed him into the world number one ranking in August.
Björn reached the very peak of his career between 1978 and 1980 when he won both the French Open and Wimbledon for all three years. In 1978 he just missed out at the U.S. Open, when he lost the final to Connors. The 1978 French Open was decidedly different as he managed to win every set in all the matches he played, but elation was soon followed by disappointment as he was thrashed in the semi-final by John McEnroe in the Open held in his home country. This was the first time he met McEnroe, and inaugurated an epic rivalry.
In 1980 he managed to exact revenge on McEnroe at the semi-final of the Masters tournament, which he went on to win. That year also saw him prevail in a legendary encounter in the 1980 Wimbledon final against McEnroe. Borg appeared to be on the way to defeat in the deciding 5th set before going on to take 19 points in a row on serve to snatch victory. The U.S. Open of the same year was equally epic, with the final against McEnroe lasting 4 hours and 13 minutes but the outcome was different.
Borg won the next two Masters, and in 1981 he won the French Open which was his last Grand Slam title of his career. The six French Open titles that he won still remain a record for male tennis players. However, after this, his career started to take a fall, losing both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to McEnroe. By the end of this year Borg started to break down and only played one tournament that year, losing to Yannick Noah in Monte Carlo. He announced in 1983 that he was retiring from the game at the age of 26, causing shock around the tennis world.
After he retired, Borg suffered a drugs overdose which many thought was an attempted suicide. However, he later bounced back into the public eye but no longer as a tennis player. His style that had been so famous on the court led him to bringing out his own clothing label. In 1990 he did try once more to make it as a tennis player but was not successful, playing with wooden tennis rackets as an attempt to regain his previous edge, but finding that technology had pushed the game on. Today Borg focuses on his clothing label, which has had international success.
Björn Borg’s playing style was one of the most distinctive of his era, and is what characterised him on the court. He played with powerful ground-strokes and two-handed backhands from the baseline, bringing the ball down with incredible topspin. His fitness also meant that he was able to maintain some epic games, many of which have gone down in history as the longest in tennis. Although he had a dominant style he remained graceful on the pitch and always calm when under pressure, which earned him the nickname “Ice Man” or “Ice-Borg”.
As well as being a magnificent player in his time, Borg’s personality was one of the main highlights of his game that came through in his spirit on the court and his sensational dressing. This has caused him to win many sporting titles away from the tennis court:
- 1979 – BBC Sporting Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award
- 1987 – International Tennis Hall Of Fame
- 1997 – Tennis Magazine awarded him one of the top 10 tennis players of all time
- 2000 – Sports Personality of the Century by Sweden
- 2006 – BBC Lifetime Achievement Award – Presented by Boris Becker