Bjorn Borg: The man who revolutionised tennis

The Swede’s unrivalled success and unique style helped him propel the rising popularity of the sport.

Bjorn Borg file photo; Credit: Wimbledon Twitter page

Many superstars have graced the tennis courts, but very few ring in the memory of fans forever. Bjorn Borg is one of the latter! His unparalleled success on the court made him the best in his generation. He is credited with creating a style of play which has become extremely dominant in the modern game. Borg revolutionised the way tennis was played, making him an instant favourite among the fans.

The Swede took the game by storm at a very young age. Known for his double dominance – Wimbledon and French Open – Bjorn has five grass court slam titles and six clay court slams to his name. He became the first man in the Open Era to bag 11 Grand Slam singles titles. It elevated him to a position beyond legend. But he was not able to continue at the top level for long as Borg retired at 26 due to burnout.

Unique playing style

The Swede became an instant superstar, thanks to his humongous success. What worked in Borg’s favour was his distinctive style of play. His powerful groundstrokes from the baseline made life difficult for his opponents. It was his unusual backhand which caught the eye.

Holding the racket with two hands, he hit the ball hard from the baseline as it came down with considerable topspin. It was not that Borg was the only one to play in this style. Other players used topspin but it was mainly done to mix their game to keep the opponents guessing. Bjorn Borg, however, was one of the few who used heavy topspin consistently with his shots.

Fitness was another major aspect in his game. He was surprisingly fitter compared to the other players on the tour. He can survive in tougher conditions far longer than many as he had phenomenal stamina. With quick movements across the court, Bjorn was a handful for any opponent.

Path to success

There are very few players who set the ground running at a very young age and Bjorn Borg was one of them. He represented Sweden in the 1972 Davis Cup at the tender age of 15. Two years later he bagged his first singles title at the New Zealand Open.

His major breakthrough came months later. In 1974, Borg won his first Grand Slam title – the French Open. He retained the title a year later. However, Bjorn had to wait till 1976 for his maiden Wimbledon title. He stunned the favourite Ilie Nastase in the final to register his first Slam victory in the grass court.

It was from 1978 to 1980, he completed a hat-trick of Wimbledon-French Open double. The incredible double victories made him bigger than any player in the sport at that point. His ability to stay calm under pressure earned him the nicknames – the “Ice Man” or “Ice-Borg.”

Among his many achievements, Bjorn will be fondly remembered for bringing a playing style that changed the game. He served as a role model to budding young players, who followed his trait in making the sport what it is today. His unprecedented success helped improve the popularity of tennis in the 1970s as Borg became bigger than the sport in his prime.

Karthik Raman

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