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Bjorn Borg

Trained With Sweden's Best

The following summer, his playing caught the eye of Sweden's leading tennis coach of the day, Percy Rosberg. Rosberg was in Sodertalje to observe the skills of two 13-year-olds, Peter Abrink and Leif Johansson. Borg took the opportunity to hit for half an hour with Rosberg, who noted the young player's ability to return the ball consistently—and who invited the boy to train with him at the Salk Club in Stockholm.

For the next five years, young Borg stuck with a rigorous after-school schedule of commuting to Stockholm and training at the Salk Club. His parents supported their son's pursuit, even though his devotion to tennis was taking a toll on his schoolwork. Instead of studying for his classes, he was improving his shots.

In his first two years of playing, Borg held the racquet with both hands—even when he hit forehand shots—simply because the racquet was too heavy. As he continued playing, he grew stronger, and he also discovered that it was easier to hit the ball with topspin if he adopted a one-handed forehand. Yet he would keep the two-handed backhand for his entire tennis career, and this grip would become his signature style.

Borg won his first tournament at age 11, beating Lars Goran Nyman in the Sormland County championships. Over the next four years, he swept every junior championship in his age division. At 14, Borg was selected to represent Sweden in his first international tournament, a junior championship in Berlin, Germany. The same year, he gave up ice hockey and committed himself completely to tennis.

In March 1972, when Borg was 15, he took a leave from school to compete in the Madrid Grand Prix. The tournament was a turning point for Borg, who upset Jan Erik Lundquist, a Swedish tennis legend nearing the end of his career. The win qualified Borg for the Davis Cup team, which faced New Zealand in May. On the courts in the seaside resort town of Bastaad, Borg became the youngest player ever to win a Davis Cup match, triumphing over New Zealand's top player, Onny Parun. Although he was down in the first two sets, Borg took his captain's advice to switch to a lighter racquet mid-match. The result was a triumphant upset, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

It was at the Davis Cup games that Borg gained his reputation for remaining cool under pressure—so cool and reserved that he would earn the nickname "Ice Man." While most players argued with referees when they received bad calls, Borg let the calls pass and concentrated instead on the next point. The Swedish press declared that he had is i magen, "ice in the stomach." As Borg's career progressed, the press alternately chided him for what seemed like his stony lack of emotion, and praised him for his good sportsmanship. Yet this stoic athlete commanded respect, and he would receive it in excess from both the press and his fans.

Chronology

1956 Born June 6 in Sodertalje, Sweden, to Rune and Margarethe Borg
1965 Father wins tennis racquet in table-tennis tournament, and gives racquet to Borg
1965 Takes first tennis lessons
1966 Meets Percy Rosberg, top coach in Sweden; trains with Rosberg in Stockholm
1967 Wins first junior tournament
1970 Represents Sweden in junior tournament, Berlin
1972 Scores first major win, against national tennis star Jan Erik Lundquist
1972 Qualifies for Davis Cup team; meets coach Lennart Bergelin
1973 Debuts at Wimbledon
1974 Turns pro; becomes youngest player to win French Open
1975 Sets Davis Cup record winning streak of 19 singles matches, lifting Sweden to first Cup win against Czechoslovakia
1976 Wins second of six consecutive French Open titles
1976 Wins first of five consecutive Wimbledon titles
1977 Becomes number one player in world, August 23; holds ranking for two weeks
1979-80 Begins and ends year with number one ranking
1980 Marries Romanian tennis player Mariana Simionescu
1981 Loses Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles to John McEnroe
1983 Retires at age 26
1984 Divorces Simionescu
1987 Creates sports-apparel company, Bjorn Borg Design Groups
1989 Marries Italian rock singer Loredana Berte
1990 Begins training for tennis comeback
1991 Attempts comeback unsuccessfully
1992 Separates from Berte
1993 Joins over-35 circuit
2000 Retires from senior circuit; begins training young Swedish players
2002 Marries real-estate broker Patricia Ostfeldt

Additional topics

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