Björn Rune Borg, the former world No. 1 tennis player widely considered to be one of the greatest in the history of the sport, has set several records that still stand. Here are some known and unknown facts about Swedish tennis player:
He was born Bjorn Rune Borg, on June 06, 1956, in Stockholm, Sweden, as the only child of Margarethe and Rune, a cloth shop assistant.
His father was fine Ping-Pong player whose prize for winning a competition was adult tennis racket which he gave to nine year old Borg. He used to spend hours hitting the ball at a garage wall with the racket that was for too heavy for him.
He was suspended for six months by Sweden’s tennis authorities, banned even from practicing at his club. Behind that cool detached calm young man often regarded as automation, called a robot, lies a real nutcase, who swore, threw racket around and also cheated in his youth.
He goes by many nicknames. He is called the ‘Martian’ for his indifferent attitude toward win and loss. They also called him the ‘ice man’ for cool expression. He was tennis’s ‘King of Kings.’
Borg was spotted by the tennis coach Percy Rosberg and began making regular three-hour round trip train journey for practice. He won his first tournament at the age of 11 and was soon dominating the junior section.
In pursuit of tennis profession he quit school as a teenager. He won the 13 and 14 year old division titles at the Swedish National Junior Championship when he was just 13 years.
Borg had slow pulse rate and had the great gift for an athlete of being able to doze off in airport or locker rooms. He needed nine to ten hours of sleep not because he is tired but to recharge the nervous cells.
He maintained his weight around 73 kilos during the tournaments and was superstitious with his routines. During Wimbledon fortnight he stayed in the same suite in the same Hampstead hotel each year, was driven across London on the same route, practiced on the same court for two hours each morning. He neither shaved nor indulged in sex as long as he kept winning.
Borg liked his racket strung at 80lbs pressure, which was too tight to achieve without breaking a string or twisting the frame. He trusted one stringer in the world, a fellow Swede called Mats Laftman. At such pressure they were vulnerable and Borg broke 60 strings during a French open.
At the age of 15, he made his Davis Cup debut for Sweden and won his first singles against Onny Parun of New Zealand in May 1972. In the same year he won the Wimbledon Boy’s singles title defeating Buster Mottram of U.K, 6-3,4-6, 7-5 and the Orange Bowl International tennis Championship for Boy’s 18 and under title defeating Vitas Gerulaitisin the finals.
In 1973, he reached the fourth round of French Open before losing to Adriano Panattaand at Wimbledon he reached the quarter-finals where he lost to Roger Taylor in five sets. He was seeded sixth after many boycottedin protest against the suspension of Nikola Pilic.
He ended the year 1973 by reaching the finals of Pacific Coast Open, at San Francisco, the Stockholm Open and the South American Open at Buenos Aires. His performances throughout the year helped him improve his ranking to 18th as on December 14, 1073, aged 17 years.
Although he won his first career singles title at the 1974 New Zealand Open, it was at the Italian Open in the same year where he won his first top level singles title defeating Ilie Nastase, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. In the process he became the youngest winner just before his 18th birthday.
On June 16, 1974, Borg won his first career grand slam title at the French Open, defeating Manuel Orantes of Spain, in five sets. He was the youngest winner until Michael Chang came along.
He played a major part in Sweden winning its maiden Davis Cup title in 1975. He won both his singles matches and the doubles rubber in the finals against Czechoslovakia. With this singles result, he had won 19 consecutive Davis Cup singles matches since 1973, a record then. He held the record 33 straight singles victories in Davis Cup, until it was broken by Marcos Baghdatis in 2016.
After winning the World Championship Tennis, the WCT Finals in Dallas, Borg went on to win his first Wimbledon title in 1976, defeating the favorite Ili Nastase in the finals in three sets. He was then the youngest champ at 20 years before Boris Becker won it aged 17 years in 1985.
In February 1977, the WCT sued Borg and his management company ‘IMG’ for committing a breach of contract in electing to participate in a Grand Prix circuit. Finally an out of court settlement was reached with commitment to play six or eight WCT events in the following year.
Borg attained the world ranking of # 1,for a week in August 23, 1977, after winning his second Wimbledon Championship title, overcoming Jimmy Connors in five sets.
In 1978, he won the French Open with a win over Guillermo Vilas 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 and the Wimbledon Championship dominating Connors in the finals with straight set win. But the U.S Open title eluded him once again when he faltered in the final to Connors.
On April 09, 1979, he overtook Connors to the top of the world ranking, and established himself with number of major titles including French Open and the Wimbledon Championship. He also won the Grand Prix Super Series finals at Tokyo, Monte Carlo, Toronto and Las Vegas and the Masters at New York.
His title conquests match at 1980 Wimbledon finals when he defeated John McEnroe for his fifth championship was heralded as the greatest match ever played. Borg took the title with 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 and 8-6. The match was ranked 10th by the ESPN Sports Century’s Ten Greatest Games of the 20th century in 1999.
In 1981 he won the French Open title yet again, defeating Ivan Lendl in a five sets final to record his sixth title at Roland-Garros. The record was bettered by Rafael Nadal in 2012.
His record 41 matches winning streak at the All England Club came to an end at the 1981 finals when he was defeated by McEnroe in four sets. He almost won his sixth Wimbledon title but the desire to play was gone, remarked Borg years later.
After losing his 1981 U.S Open once again to McEnroe, Borg walked off the court and the stadium before the ceremonies and the press conference had begun. It was reported that he received threats after his semi-final win over Connors. The U.S Open remained just a dream after ten tries including four finals.
Despite being world number one ranked player for over 109 weeks, he has never won the Australian Open and the Unites States Open. In fact he has made only one appearance at the Australian Open, just at the start of his career.
After idling throughout 1982, with just one tournament, he shocked the world by announcing his retirement at the age of 26, in January 1983. However he attempted a comeback and played few matches without any success.
Borg married Mariana Simionescu, from Romania on July 24, 1980, in Bucharest. He divorced her in 1984 and married an Italian singer Loredana Berte in 1989, which lasted until 1993. He married for a third time in 2002 to Swede Patricia Oestfeldt.
In March 2006, he attempted to auction his Wimbledon trophies and two of his winning rackets through Bonhams Auction house in London. He was forced into the situation after several failed financial ventures. He was talked out of it by many players including Connors and Agassi.
With 11 Grand Slam Singles Titles to his credit, he was honored with ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2006 by BBC. He was inducted into the ‘International Tennis Hall of Fame’ in 1987.
Borg won the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal in 1974 and again in 1978. In 1979, he was elected as the best Swedish sportsman ever by a jury in his country.