Björn Borg

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Björn Borg
Country Sweden
Residence Monte Carlo, Monaco
Date of birth June 6, 1956
Place of birth Stockholm, Sweden
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 72 kg (160 lb)
Turned Pro 1973 (international debut in 1971)
Retired 1984 (unsuccessful comeback from 1991 to 1993)
Plays Right; Two-handed backhand
Career Prize Money US$ 3,655,751
Career record: 576-124
Career titles: 77 (including 61 listed by the ATP)
Highest ranking: 1 ( August 23, 1977)
Grand Slam results
Australian Open 3R (1974)
French Open W (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981)
Wimbledon W (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980)
U.S. Open F (1976, 1978, 1980, 1981)
Career record: 86-81
Career titles: 4
Highest ranking: 890 ( March 22, 1993)

Infobox last updated on: March 24, 2007.

Björn Rune Borg   (born June 6, 1956, in Stockholm, Sweden) is a former World No. 1 tennis player from Sweden regarded by some observers and tennis players as the greatest player in the sport's history. During a 9-year career, he won 41 percent of the Grand Slam singles tournaments he entered (11 of 27) and 89.8 percent of the Grand Slam singles matches he played. Both are male open era records. In addition, Borg's six French Open singles titles are an all-time record. . He is the only player to have won in three consecutive years both Wimbledon and the French Open.

Career overview

As a child growing up in Södertälje, a town near Stockholm, Borg became fascinated by a golden tennis racquet that his father had won as a prize at a ping pong tournament. His father gave him the racquet, beginning one of the brightest careers in tennis history.

In 1972, at the age of 15, Borg became one of the youngest players ever to represent his country in the Davis Cup and won his debut singles rubber in five sets against seasoned professional Onny Parun of New Zealand. Later that year, he won the Wimbledon junior singles title.

In 1973, Borg reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in his first attempt.

In 1974, aged 17 years and 11 months, Borg won his first top-level singles title at the Italian Open. Two weeks later, he won his first Grand Slam title at the French Open, coming back from two sets down in the final to defeat Manuel Orantes 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Barely 18 at the time, Borg was the youngest-ever male French Open champion (the record has since been lowered by Mats Wilander in 1982 and Michael Chang in 1989).

In early 1975, Borg played Rod Laver, then 36 years old, in a semifinal of the World Championship Tennis (WCT) finals in Dallas, Texas, which Borg won 7-6, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. Borg lost to Arthur Ashe, another veteran of the tour, in the final.

Borg retained his French Open title in 1975, beating Guillermo Vilas in the final in straight sets. Borg then reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals, where he lost in four sets to Ashe, the eventual champion.

Borg also helped Sweden to win its first ever Davis Cup title in 1975. He won two singles and one doubles rubber in the final as Sweden beat Czechoslovakia 3-2. With his two singles wins in the final, Borg had put together a run of 19 consecutive wins in Davis Cup singles rubbers going back to 1973. That was already a record at the time. But Borg never lost another Davis Cup singles rubber, and, by the end of his career, he had stretched that winning streak to 33 – a Davis Cup record that still stands.

Borg swept through Wimbledon in 1976 without losing a set, defeating the much-favoured Ilie Năstase in the final. Borg became the youngest male Wimbledon champion of the modern era at 20 years and 1 month (a record broken by Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon aged 17 in 1985). Some speculate that Borg's surviving the first week of Wimbledon, when the courts were slick and fast, was the key to his success. This might have been due to the unusually hot conditions that summer. The courts played slower in the second week, which suited Borg's baseline game. Borg also reached the final of the 1976 U.S. Open, which was now being played on clay courts. Borg lost in four sets to world #1 Jimmy Connors.

Borg repeated his Wimbledon triumph in 1977, although this time he was pushed much harder. He won a close match over his good friend Vitas Gerulaitis in a semifinal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 . In the final, Borg was pushed to five sets for the third time in the tournament, this time by Connors. The win propelled Borg to the #1 ranking on the computer, albeit for just one week in August.

Borg was at the height of his career from 1978 through 1980, winning the French Open and Wimbledon all three years.

In 1978, Borg won straight-set finals over Vilas at the French Open and Connors at Wimbledon but was defeated in straight sets by Connors in the final of the U.S. Open, now held on hard courts in Flushing Meadow, New York. That autumn, Borg faced John McEnroe for the first time in a semifinal of the Stockholm Open (in the city of his birth) and was upset in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

Borg lost to McEnroe again in four sets in the final of the 1979 WCT Finals but was now overtaking Connors for the top ranking. Borg established himself firmly in the top spot with his fourth French Open singles title and fourth straight Wimbledon singles title, defeating Connors in a straight-set semifinal at the latter tournament. At the French Open, Borg defeated big-serving Victor Pecci in a four-set final, and at Wimbledon, Borg took five sets to overcome an even bigger server, Roscoe Tanner. Borg was upset by Tanner at the U.S. Open, in a four-set quarterfinal played under the lights.

At the season-ending Masters tournament in January 1980, Borg survived a close semifinal against McEnroe 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 (7-3). He then beat Gerulaitis in straight sets, winning his first Masters and first title in New York. In June, he overcame Gerulaitis, again in straight sets, for his fifth French Open title.

Borg won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon singles title in 1980 by defeating McEnroe in a five-set match often listed among the best Wimbledon finals ever played. In the fourth-set tiebreak, McEnroe saved five match points and Borg six set points before McEnroe won the set. Borg then won 19 straight points on serve in the deciding set and prevailed after 3 hours, 53 minutes.

Borg lost to McEnroe in another five-set final, this one lasting 4 hours and 13 minutes, at the 1980 U.S. Open. He then defeated McEnroe in the final of the Stockholm Open, 6-3, 6-4, and faced him one more time that season, in the round-robin portion of the year-end Masters, played in January 1981. With 19,103 fans in attendance, Borg won a deciding third-set tiebreak for the second year in a row, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6(3). Borg then defeated Ivan Lendl for his second Masters title, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Borg won what turned out to be his last Grand Slam title at the French Open in 1981, defeating Lendl in a five-set final. Borg's six French Open singles titles remains a record for a male player.

In reaching the Wimbledon final in 1981, Borg stretched his winning streak at the All England Club to a record 41 matches. In a semifinal, Borg was down to Connors by two sets to none before coming back to win the match 0-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4. Borg's streak was brought to an end by McEnroe, who beat him in four sets.

Borg's last Grand Slam final was a four set loss to McEnroe at the 1981 U.S. Open.

The spark seemed to have burned out of Borg's game by the end of 1981, and he was on the brink of burn-out. But Borg's announcement in the spring of 1983 that he was retiring from the game at the age of just 26 was a shock to the tennis world.

Borg was ranked the World No. 1 in six different stretches between 1977 and 1981, totaling 109 weeks. Tennis commentators considered him as the best player from 1977 through 1980. During his career, he won a total of 77 (61 listed on the Association of Tennis Professionals website) top-level singles and 4 doubles titles.

Borg won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award in 1979.

Borg was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.

After retiring, Borg suffered a drug overdose, was rumoured to have attempted suicide (which he has denied), and had a turbulent relationship with his then-wife, the Italian singer Loredana Bertè. He later bounced back as the owner of the Björn Borg fashion label, whose most noted advertising campaigns asked Swedes (from the pages of a leading national newspaper) to "Fuck for the Future."

In the early- 1990s, Borg attempted a comeback on the men's professional tennis tour. This time around, however, he was completely unsuccessful. Playing with his old wooden rackets in an attempt to regain his once-indomitable touch, he lost his first comeback match in 1991 to Jordi Arrese at the Monte Carlo Open. A series of first-round losses to lowly-ranked players followed over the next two years. The closest he came to winning a match was in 1993 in Moscow, when he pushed Alexander Volkov to three sets and lost a final-set tie-breaker 9-7. After that match, he retired from the tour for good and confined himself to playing on the senior tour, with modern rackets, where he delighted crowds by renewing his old rivalries with McEnroe, Connors, and Vilas.

In March 2006, Bonhams Auction House in London announced that it would auction Borg's Wimbledon trophies and two of his winning rackets on June 21, 2006. Several players then called Borg wondering what he was thinking, but only McEnroe was able to make Borg reconsider. According to Dagens Nyheter – who had talked to Borg – McEnroe called from New York and asked, "What's up? Have you gone mad?" The conversation apparently persuaded Borg to buy out the trophies from Bonhams at an undisclosed amount.

On December 10, 2006, the British Broadcasting Corporation gave Borg a Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Boris Becker.

Place among the all-time greats

Aside from his records, the French-Wimbledon double he achieved three times consecutively was called by Wimbledon officials "the most difficult double in tennis" and "a feat considered impossible among today's players." No player has managed to achieve his double since (and indeed Andre Agassi is the only male player since Borg to win both the French Open and Wimbledon men's singles titles over the course of his career).

The major blemishes in Borg's Grand Slam record are that he failed to win either the U.S. Open or the Australian Open during his career. He reached the final four times at the U.S. Open but never won. Borg chose to make the journey to the Australian Open only once, in 1974, where he lost in the third round. Borg has stated publicly that he would have attempted to complete the calendar year Grand Slam and played in the Australian Open had he succeeded in winning the first three Grand Slam tournaments of the year, which he never did. (The Australian Open was held in December from 1977 to 1985.)

In 2006, Sergio Cruz, the former Portuguese national champion who coached Jim Courier, explained why he believed Borg was the "undisputed best player ever."

In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, included Borg in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.

Kramer considered the best player ever to have been either Don Budge (for consistent play) or Ellsworth Vines (at the height of his game). The next four best were, chronologically, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales. After these six came the "second echelon" of Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Gottfried von Cramm, Ted Schroeder, Jack Crawford, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Björn Borg, and Jimmy Connors. He felt unable to rank Henri Cochet and René Lacoste accurately but felt they were among the very best.

In 2003, Bud Collins chose Borg as one of his top-five male players of all time.

Playing style

Borg played from the baseline, with powerful ground-strokes and a two-handed backhand (very rare at the time and unorthodox). His calm court demeanor earned him the nickname of the "Ice Man" or "Ice-Borg". He hit the ball hard and high from the back of the court and brought it down with considerable top-spin.

Borg is credited with developing the style of play that has come to dominate the game today.

Grand Slam singles finals

Wins (11)

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1974 French Open Flag of Spain Manuel Orantes 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1
1975 French Open (2) Flag of Argentina Guillermo Vilas 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
1976 Wimbledon Flag of Romania Ilie Năstase 6-4, 6-2, 9-7
1977 Wimbledon (2) Flag of United States Jimmy Connors 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
1978 French Open (3) Flag of Argentina Guillermo Vilas 6-1, 6-1, 6-3
1978 Wimbledon (3) Flag of United States Jimmy Connors 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
1979 French Open (4) Flag of Paraguay Victor Pecci 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 6-4
1979 Wimbledon (4) Flag of United States Roscoe Tanner 6-7, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
1980 French Open (5) Flag of United States Vitas Gerulaitis 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
1980 Wimbledon (5) Flag of United States John McEnroe 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(16), 8-6
1981 French Open (6) Flag of Czechoslovakia Ivan Lendl 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1

Runner-ups (5)

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1976 U.S. Open Flag of United States Jimmy Connors 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
1978 U.S. Open Flag of United States Jimmy Connors 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
1980 U.S. Open Flag of United States John McEnroe 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4
1981 Wimbledon Flag of United States John McEnroe 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4
1981 U.S. Open Flag of United States John McEnroe 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3

Career singles titles (77)

Titles listed by the Association of Tennis Professionals (61)

  • 1974 (7) - Adelaide, Bastad, Boston, London World Championship Tennis (WCT), French Open, Italian Open, São Paulo WCT
  • 1975 (5) - Barcelona, Bologna WCT, Boston, Richmond WCT, French Open
  • 1976 (6) - Boston, Dallas WCT, Dusseldorf, São Paulo WCT, Toronto Indoor WCT, Wimbledon
  • 1977 (11) - Barcelona, Basel, Cologne, Denver, Madrid, Memphis, Monte Carlo WCT, Nice, Pepsi Grand Slam, Wembley, Wimbledon
  • 1978 (9) - Bastad, Birmingham WCT, Las Vegas WCT, Milan WCT, Pepsi Grand Slam, French Open, Italian Open, Tokyo Indoor, Wimbledon
  • 1979 (12) - Bastad, Las Vegas, Masters, Monte Carlo, Toronto, Palermo, Pepsi Grand Slam, Richmond WCT, French Open, Rotterdam, Tokyo Indoor, Wimbledon
  • 1980 (8) - Las Vegas, Masters, Monte Carlo, Nice, Pepsi Grand Slam, French Open, Stockholm, Wimbledon
  • 1981 (3) - Geneva, French Open, Stuttgart Outdoor

Other singles titles, including invitational tournament titles (16)

Here are Borg's tournament wins that are not included in the statistics on the Association of Tennis Professionals website. The website has some omissions for tournaments held since 1971.

  • 1973 (1) - Helsinki
  • 1974 (2) - Auckland, Oslo
  • 1976 (2) - Mexican Round Robin (invitational tournament), World Invitational Tennis Classic (WITC) at Hilton Head (4-man tournament)
  • 1977 (1) - WITC at Hilton Head (4-man invitational tournament)
  • 1978 (1) - Tokyo Suntory Cup (invitational tournament)
  • 1979 (5) - Montreal World Championship Tennis (WCT), Marbella (invitational tournament), Rotterdam (4-man invitational tournament), Milan (invitational tournament), Frankfurt (invitational tournament)
  • 1980 (1) - Salisbury WCT
  • 1981 (1) - Edmonton (invitational tournament)
  • 1982 (2) - Tokyo Suntory Cup (invitational tournament), Sydney (invitational tournament)

Grand Slam and Masters singles tournament timeline

Tournament 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Career SR
Australian Open A 3R A A A A A A A 0 / 1
French Open 4R W W QF A W W W W 6 / 8
Wimbledon QF 3R QF W W W W W F 5 / 9
US Open 4R 2R SF F 4R F QF F F 0 / 9
Grand Slam SR 0 / 3 1 / 4 1 / 3 1 / 3 1 / 2 2 / 3 2 / 3 2 / 3 1 / 3 11 / 27
The Masters1 A RR F A F A W W A 2 / 5

A = did not participate in the tournament

SR = the ratio of the number of singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played

1The Masters tournaments for calendar years 1977, 1979, and 1980 were actually held in January of the following year. In this table, however, the year of the tournament is listed for the preceding year.

Records and trivia

Grand Slam records

  • Borg won more Grand Slam singles titles in the open era (11) than any player until Pete Sampras (14). Borg competed in the Australian Open only once and retired after nine years.
  • Borg won more French Open singles titles (6) than any other male player in tennis history.
  • Borg won more Wimbledon singles titles (5) than any other male player since the abolition of the Challenge Round in 1922 until Sampras (7).
  • Borg won four consecutive French Open singles championships, an all-time record. He retired while on a winning streak of 28 consecutive matches at the French Open.
  • Borg won more consecutive Wimbledon singles titles (5) than any man under modern rules. Only William Renshaw won more consecutive titles there (1881-86). In Renshaw's day, the defending champion played only one match, the Challenge Round. After the adoption of the current rules, Fred Perry established a record of three consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1934 through 1936, until Borg equalled it in 1978.
  • Borg's 41 consecutive match winning streak at Wimbledon remains an all-time record. Sampras came closest to this record with four consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1997 through 2000 (and 31 consecutive match wins). From 2003 through 2006, Federer also won 4 consecutive titles.
  • Borg played in six consecutive Wimbledon singles finals, still a record since the abolition of the Challenge Round in 1922.
  • Borg played in four consecutive French Open singles finals, a men's open era record. Ivan Lendl tied this mark.
  • Borg played in 16 Grand Slam singles finals, a male record for the open era (and second in tennis history only to 17 by Rod Laver). This record was broken by Lendl, who played in 19, and Sampras, who played in 18.
  • Borg won at least one Grand Slam singles title for eight consecutive years (1974–1981), an all-time men's record. Only Sampras has matched this (1993–2000).
  • Borg defeated more players (9) in Grand Slam singles finals than any male player in history. Sampras tied this mark.
  • Borg won 11 Grand Slam singles titles out of 27 tournaments played, giving him a male open era record 41 percent winning rate. ( Margaret Court won 24 of the 47 Grand Slam singles tournaments she played during her career (51 percent), which spanned both the amateur and open eras. Considering just Court's performances during the open era, she won 11 of 21 Grand Slam singles events (52 percent). Steffi Graf won 22 of the 54 Grand Slam singles tournaments she played during her career, which was entirely during the open era, matching Borg's winning percentage.)
  • In Grand Slam singles tournaments, Borg's match record is 141–16, giving him an 89.8 winning percentage, better than any male player ever. The only other male players in the open era with winning percentages over 80 are Federer (85), John McEnroe (82), Jimmy Connors (81.9), and Lendl (81.8).
  • Borg's 11 Grand Slam singles titles ties him at third with Laver on the all-time list, behind Sampras (14) and Roy Emerson (12).

Youngest to win

  • In 1972, Borg became the youngest-ever winner of a Davis Cup match, at age 15.
  • In 1974, one month before his 18th birthday, Borg became the youngest winner of the Italian Open. That record has since been broken.
  • In 1974, only days after his 18th birthday, Borg became the youngest man ever to hold a Grand Slam singles title. He retained that distinction until another Swede, Mats Wilander, won the French Open in 1982.
  • At 18, he was the youngest winner of the U.S. Professional Championships until Aaron Krickstein won in 1983.
  • In 1976 at age 20, Borg became the youngest winner of Wimbledon during the open era until Boris Becker became the youngest Grand Slam winner of all time by taking Wimbledon at age 17 years, 7 months in 1985 (a record broken by Michael Chang who won the French Open when he was 17 years, 3 months in 1989).
  • Borg won his 11th Grand Slam singles title in 1981 at age 25, the youngest male to reach that number of titles. By comparison, Pete Sampras won his 11th at almost age 27, Roy Emerson at age 30, and Rod Laver at age 31.

Match competition

  • Borg compiled a 576-124 win-loss singles record, winning more than 82 percent of the matches he played. By comparison, Pete Sampras won 77 percent during his career.
  • Borg won 14 consecutive five-set singles matches before losing to John McEnroe at the 1980 U.S. Open, a record for the open era.
  • In career five-set matches, Borg was 24-4. His 85.7 winning percentage was unrivalled in the open era, with Aaron Krickstein in second place at 75.7 percent (28-9). Five of Borg's wins were in Grand Slam finals, a mark that surpassed Bill Tilden (who won four) and has remained unequalled.
  • In 1980, Borg won the longest-ever Wimbledon singles final to that time, 3 hours and 53 minutes (the record stood until 1982). That year, he also lost the longest-ever U.S. Open final to that time, 4 hours and 13 minutes (the record stood until 1988).
  • Borg won the longest tiebreak of the open era, 20-18 in the third set of his first round match at the 1973 Wimbledon -- a mark that has been tied four times (by Roger Federer, Goran Ivanišević, José Acasuso, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
  • Borg won 19 consecutive points on serve in the fifth set on two occasions: his 1980 Wimbledon final against McEnroe and his 1980 U.S. Open quarterfinal against Roscoe Tanner.

Career winning streaks

  • On the list of open era winning streaks, Borg is third (43 consecutive tour matches in 1978). The only other men with winning streaks of at least 40 matches are Guillermo Vilas (46), Ivan Lendl (44), John McEnroe (42), and Roger Federer (41) (ongoing as of March 3, 2007).
  • Borg previously held the record for most consecutive wins on grass, with 41 victories (all at Wimbledon). Federer, who customarily plays a lesser grass tournament in Halle in addition to Wimbledon, has a 48 match winning streak on grass (2003 through 2006).
  • Borg holds the Davis Cup record singles winning streak at 33 consecutive victories.
  • Borg holds third place for most consecutive wins on clay, with 46 victories in 1977-79. Only Rafael Nadal with 62 (ongoing through 2006) and Vilas with 53 have won more consecutive clay court matches.
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