Attempted A Comeback
Amid the turbulence in his personal life, Borg made a startling decision. He would return to tennis. In August 1990 he started practicing seriously in diverse locations, including Milan, Buenos Aires, and London. Just a year earlier he had told the New York Times that he had no regrets about retiring ("I don't really miss [tennis]," he said). Rumors flew that Borg needed money, since his apparel company was having financial difficulties and he had recently sold his Stockholm apartment and Vikingshill estate. The tennis star explained that he sold the properties simply to be rid of Sweden. "For six years they [the Swedish media] tried to destroy me," he told the press in Monte Carlo, where he had relocated (quoted in Sports Illustrated). "I am happy to be out of Sweden."
Meanwhile, Borg had taken up with a new coach, 79-year-old Welshman Ron Thatcher, also known as Tia Honsai. A self-described martial arts master and mind-body fitness guru, Thatcher claimed to know nothing about tennis and seemed an odd choice for Borg's mentor. In another ill-fated decision, Borg stuck with his old Donnay wooden tennis racquet instead of switching to one of the lighter, wider, high-tech graphite models—the new racquets of choice for tennis stars of the 1990s.
Borg's return to the tour was to begin with the 1991 Monte Carlo Open, where he faced Spain's Jordi Arrese in the first round of play. The crowd, clearly moved to have the Swedish star back, roared welcomingly when Borg stepped onto the court. But the match was short-lived, as 26-year-old Arrese, then ranked only 52nd in the world, made quick work of Borg in a straight-set victory, 6-2, 6-3. Undeterred, Borg attempted another comeback the following year, to the same effect. In eight tournament tries in 1992 and three the following year, he was ousted in the first round. He played his last pro game at Moscow's Kremlin Cup in 1993, losing a close match to Aleksandr Volkov, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7).
In May 1993 Borg relinquished his desire to play the Grand Slams again. But he had found a new way to enjoy tennis—by joining the senior circuit. "Senior" meant over 35 years old, and the new Nuveen Tour, created by Jimmy Connors, was attracting large crowds. Borg happily revived his rivalry with both Connors and McEnroe, and the threesome attracted hordes of fans nostalgic for tennis stars of the 1970s and '80s. "Playing the senior circuit is fun," he told Robin Finn of the New York Times. "The other stuff isn't; the atmosphere really is not the same anymore. It just seems like the players are out there doing a job, like machines. There isn't the connection like I have with these other guys."
Borg retired from the circuit in late 2000, at 44, but he did not retire completely from tennis. By 2001, he was training a group of promising young Swedish players aged 14 to 17. "I hope to have some of them playing [professionally] next year," he told Rediff Sports. "I hope to give Swedish tennis some good players."
In the end, it is Borg's contribution to tennis, and not the tumult of his personal life, that sports fans will remember. With his contemporaries McEnroe and Connors, Borg lifted tennis to a higher level of play—and he remains one of the sport's most inspirational, larger-than-life heroes.