Björn Rune Borg (Swedish pronunciation: [bjœːɳ bɔrj] born 6 June 1956) is a former World No. 1 tennis player from Sweden. Between 1974 and 1981 he won 11 Grand Slam singles titles. He won five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles and six French Open singles titles (an Open Erarecord second only to Rafael Nadal). He is considered by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
During his relatively brief pro career, Borg won 41% of the Grand Slam singles tournaments he entered (11 of 27) and 89.81% (141–16) of the Grand Slam singles matches he played. His winning rate across all surfaces (carpet, clay, hard, and grass) was 82.72% (608–127), and his winning percentage at Wimbledon was 92.73% (51–4); all are records for an entire career. He is one of four players in the open era to win both Wimbledon and the French Open in the same year and the only player to do so for three consecutive years. He is the only player to win three majors without dropping a set. He is the first male player to win more than 10 majors during the open era (since surpassed by Pete Sampras‘s 14, Roger Federer‘s 17, and tied with Rafael Nadal‘s 11 titles). He also won three year-end championship titles, including two Masters Grand Prix titles and one WCT Final title. In addition, he won 15 Championship Series titles (1974–1980) the precursors to the current Masters 1000.
Borg was the first “rock star” of professional tennis and first player to earn more than one million dollars in prize money in a single season (1979).
Borg was born in Södertälje, Sweden. As a child, Borg became fascinated with a golden tennis racquet that his father won at a table-tennistournament. His father gave him the racquet, beginning his tennis career.
A player of great athleticism and endurance, he had a distinctive style and appearance—bowlegged, yet very fast. His muscularity allowed him to put heavy topspin on both his forehand and two-handed backhand. He followed Jimmy Connors in using the two-handed backhand. By the time he was 13 he was beating the best of Sweden’s under-18 players, and Davis Cup captain Lennart Bergelin cautioned against anyone trying to change Borg’s rough-looking, jerky strokes. They were effective.
Borg joined the professional circuit at age 14. 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, recovering from a 5–2 deficit in the final set to overcome Britain’s Buster Mottram.
In 1973, Borg reached the Wimbledon main draw quarterfinals in his first attempt. Just before his 18th birthday in 1974, Borg won his first top-level singles title at the Italian Open, becoming its youngest winner. Two weeks later he became the then-youngest winner of the French Open defeatingManuel Orantes in the final, 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 defeated the great Rod Laver, then 36 years old, in a semifinal of the World Championship Tennis (WCT) finals in Dallas, Texas, 7–6, 3–6, 5–7, 7–6, 6–2. Borg subsequently lost to Arthur Ashe 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 to eventual champion Ashe, 6–2, 4–6, 6–8, 1–6. Borg did not lose another match at Wimbledon until 1981.
Borg won two singles and one doubles rubber in the 1975 Davis Cup final, as Sweden beat Czechoslovakia 3–2. With these singles wins, Borg had won 19 consecutive Davis Cup singles rubbers since 1973. That was already a record at the time. However, 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.
In early 1976, Borg won the World Championship Tennis year-end WCT Finals in Dallas, Texas with a four-set victory over Guillermo Vilas in the final.
At the 1976 French Open, Borg lost to the Italian Adriano Panatta, who remains the only player to defeat Borg at this tournament. Panatta did it twice: in the fourth round in 1973 (7–6, 2–6, 7–5, 7–6), and in the 1976 quarterfinals (6–3, 6–3, 2–6, 7–6).
Borg won Wimbledon in 1976 without losing a set, defeating the favored Ilie Năstase in the final. Borg became the youngest male Wimbledon champion of the modern era at 20 years and 1 month (a record subsequently broken by Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon aged 17 in 1985). It would be the last time Borg played Wimbledon as an underdog. Năstase later exclaimed, “We’re playing tennis, he’s [Borg] playing something else.”
Borg also reached the final of the 1976 US Open, which was then being played on clay courts. Borg lost in four sets to world no. 1 Jimmy Connors.
Borg skipped the French Open in 1977 because he was under contract with WTT, but he repeated his Wimbledon triumph, although this time he was pushed much harder. He defeated 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 no. 1 ranking on the computer, albeit for just one week in August.
Through 1977, he had never lost to a player younger than himself.
Borg was at the height of his career from 1978 through 1980, completing the difficult French Open-Wimbledon double all three years.
In 1978, Borg won the French Open with a win over Vilas in the final. Borg did not drop a set during the tournament, a feat only he, Năstase (in 1973), and Rafael Nadal (in 2008 and 2010) have accomplished at the French Open during the open era.
Borg defeated Connors in straight sets at the 1978 Wimbledon. At the US Open, now held on hard courts in Flushing Meadow, New York, he lost the final in straight sets to Connors. That autumn, Borg faced John McEnroe for the first time in a semifinal of the Stockholm Open and was upset, 3–6, 4–6.
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 US 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, 6–7, 6–3, 7–6(1). 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. Again, he did not drop a set.
Borg won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon singles title, the 1980 Wimbledon Men’s Singles final, by defeating McEnroe in a five-set match, often cited as the best Wimbledon final ever played – the only comparable match being the Federer – Nadal final in 2008. Having lost the opening set 6–1 to an all-out McEnroe assault, Borg took the next two 7–5, 6–3 and had two championship points at 5–4 in the fourth. However, McEnroe averted disaster and went on to level the match in Wimbledon’s most memorable 34-point tiebreaker, which he won 18–16. In the fourth-set tiebreak, McEnroe saved five match points, and Borg six set points, before McEnroe won the set. Bjorn served first to begin the 5th set and fell behind 15–40. Borg then won 19 straight points on serve in the deciding set and prevailed after 3 hours, 53 minutes. Borg himself commented years later that this was the first time that he was afraid that he would lose, as well as feeling that it was the beginning of the end of his dominance.
He defeated McEnroe in the final of the 1980 Stockholm Open, 6–3, 6–4, and faced him one more time that year, 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 tie-break for the second year in a row, 6–4, 6–7, 7–6(2). Borg then defeated Ivan Lendl for his second Masters title, 6–4, 6–2, 6–2.
Borg won his last Grand Slam title at the French Open in 1981, defeating Lendl in a five-set final. Borg has a six French Open Grand Slam titles record bettered only by Rafael Nadal in 2012.
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 love, before coming back to win the match, 0–6, 4–6, 6–3, 6–0, 6–4. However, Borg’s streak was brought to an end by McEnroe, who defeated him in four sets, 6–4, 6–7, 6–7, 4–6.
Borg went on to lose to McEnroe at the 1981 US Open, 6–4, 2–6, 4–6, 3–6. After that defeat, Borg walked off the court and out of the stadium before the ceremonies and press conference had begun. There are reports that Borg received threats after his semifinal win over Connors. In later years, Borg apologized to McEnroe. The 1981 US Open would be the Swede’s last Grand Slam final. Major tournaments and tour organizers were enforcing a new rule by 1982, that players had to play at least 10 official tournaments per year. However, Borg wanted to curtail his schedule after many years of winning so often. Although he felt in good condition physically, he recognized that the relentless drive to win and defy tour organizers had begun to fade.
Borg failed to win the US Open in 10 tries, losing four finals, 1976 and 1978 to Jimmy Connors, and 1980 and 1981 to McEnroe. He played on hard courts at the US Open from 1978 to 1981 and reached the final there on three occasions, in 1978, 1980, and 1981. He led 3–2 in the fifth set of the 1980 final, before losing. That match followed Borg’s classic encounter with McEnroe at the 1980 Wimbledon. In 1978, 1979 and 1980, Borg was halfway to a Grand Slam after victories at the French and Wimbledon (the Australian Open being the last Grand Slam tournament of each year at the time) only to falter at Flushing Meadow, lefty Tanner his conqueror in 1979.
He appeared only once at the Australian Open, at the age of 17, at which he lost in an early round.
In 1982, Borg played only one tournament, losing to Yannick Noah in the quarterfinals of Monte Carlo in April. Nevertheless, Borg’s announcement in January 1983 that he was retiring from the game at the age of 26 was a shock to the tennis world. McEnroe tried unsuccessfully to persuade Borg to continue. (He did, however, play Monte Carlo again in March 1983, reaching the second round, and Stuttgart in July 1984.)
When he retired, Borg had a choice of homes, a penthouse in Monte Carlo, not far from his successful pro shop, and a small island off the Swedish coast. His marriage to the tennis playerMariana Simionescu ended in divorce, he fathered a child by the Swedish model Jannike Björling, and he was briefly married to the Italian singer Loredana Bertè. There were rumours of a drug overdose and an attempted suicide, yet Borg laughs them off as silly rumours. He states that he only took sleeping pills, yet the Italian press reported it as a suicide attempt, and he narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy due to bad business partners.
Borg 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.” His label has since become extremely successful second only to Calvin Klein in his home country.