Text by: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The mythic Swedish tennis player Bjorn Borg, winner of 11 Grand Slam titles (6 Roland Garros and 5 Wimbledons) is considered as one of the best all time players in this sport and undoubtedly the most revolutionary and influential.
Until his appearance, the world tennis had been swayed over in the fifties, sixties and beginning of the seventies by the great American and Australian specialists with fast and powerful service and volley play, whose tennis conception was based on a battle for the net and a predominance of the flat and sliced strokes.
That was the case with the renowned Australians Lewis Hoad, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Tony Roche, etc, and the USA players Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales and Stan Smith.
The irruption of the Swede Bjorn Borg in the ATP world circus entailed a huge cataclism and breaking of patterns in this sport schemes.
To begin with, his play was from the base line and above all, he never hit a flat stroke but both with the drive and with innovative two handed backhand, he impacted tremendous lifted strokes with a very strong topspin effect, very harshly ´combing ´ the ball, which described its trajectory spinning forwards.
It rendered possible Borg to have a greater ball control from the base line, because his fabulous lifted drives and backhands, the ball, though maintaining an enormous speed, started a descending course just on passing over the net, unlike the classic strong flat strokes with a rectilinear course, which could pass at their best 12 or 14 cm over the net ribbon, much more difficult to control and with a bigger risk margin.

The panic started when in 1974, Borg won the Roma Open, beating Manuel Orantes in the final match.
It was obvious that he was already the world number one on slow clay surface. He had displayed a power of strokes from the base line only equalled by Jimmy Connors, but his accuracy and control in limit situations were unknown until then. And besides, Borg was already at that period the best athlete that has ever grabbed a tennis racket, with physical conditions superior to some Olympic specialists (43 heart strokes/minute in fifth set) and a movements speed and physical resistance to weariness, which made that he competed for every point of his matches, from the first to the last one, with the same energy and above all, he was able to reach all the balls hit by his rivals, however difficult they could be, always situated in the most suitable position to hit his fabulous passing-shots from the baseline, opening incredible angles that completely bewildered the attack players in the net.
And besides, Borg attacked from the base line.
In the same way, his image broke patterns in the ATP circuit, with his long blonde hair, tied to his forehead with a rubber tape, his vertical striped Fila shirt and his unique craftsmanship manufactured Donnay racket, made in Belgium with three wood layers (beech, oak and ash), very long grip for its frightening two-handed backhand and Victor Imperial cord, drawn up to 32 kg (he broke 26 racket cords within a week and a half time lapse).
In 1975, he was the main player responsible for the triumph of Sweden in the Davis Cup.
In 1976, Borg won his first Wimbledon, beating the Romanian genius Ilie Nastase in three sets in the Final, with a considerable improvement of his sliced service.

But it was in 1977 when the turning point in Bjorn Borg´s professional life arrived, on the occasion of the 1977 Borg-Connors Wimbledon Final. This was to be the touchstone for his promotion to the world tennis number 1, occupied since 1974 by Jimmy Connors, for many experts the most spectacular tennis player in history, thanks to his remarkable and exclusive ´poker player tennis´, with his impressive flat strokes of great violence, both with his drive and his two-handed backhand, constantly aiming at the rival lines from the base line, besides having a very versatile play of attack in the net and exceptional volleys, a product of the lessons by the great teacher Pancho Segura.
The atmosphere is saturated with an unbearable stress. Jimmy Connors goes on being number 1 in the world and his demolishing play from the base line, with his Wilson T2000 Wilson racket, was considered the best until the appearance of Bjorn Borg. The specialist journalists, rest of players and learned audience, know that it is much more than the Final of the most important tennis tournament in the world. They are present to watch live the confrontations between two worlds and playing styles. It´s the flat stroke King against the monarch and pioneer of lifted tennis.
With these preliminaries, the Bjorn Borg-Jimmy Connors 1977 Wimbledon Final began, becoming the most superlative tennis Stalingrad in the racket sport history and whose remembrance shall remain indelible in the memory of the good tennis enthusiasts.
For three hours and a half of fierce no quarter battle, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg were the main characters of an utterly furious titans clash, disputed almost in a 90% from the base line, at a frenzied pace, both of them attacking each other with flat and lifted strokes of brutal virulence and speed, with lavishness of consecutive shots touching the lines, reaching impossible balls as to the tennis manuals, wild countersense shots and unimaginable prompt passing-shots, at never imagined speeds.

This second Wimbledon triumph of Bjorn Borg would be followed by three others: in 1978 (vs Jimmy Connors), 1979 (vs cannonball player Roscoe Tanner) and in 1980 (for many knowledgeable experts the best match in tennis history, against John McEnroe, with an unforgettable tiebreak 18-16 of twenty minutes in the fourth set for McEnroe and victory and tournament for Borg 8-6 in the fifth one, his 35th successive victory in Wimbledon.
Besides, Bjorn won six Roland Garros titles in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981, facing such famous players as Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, etc, and also winning three US Pro Championships in Indianapolis.
Bjorn Borg, perhaps the best tennis player in history together with Pate Sampras, was always the undisputed number one on clay court and lawn court and his versatility, class and great physical gifts let him be also on top in the tournaments with quickest surfaces as even concrete or decoturf II, a unique in history adaptability, and everything with a wood racket, in a period in which the modern and rather powerful glassfiber, boron and graphite rackets were still undeveloped, except in very concrete instances as the Prince prototype of the inimitable Gene Meyer.
The Swede Bjorn Borg was the established of a lifted style of playing which would be adopted in future by racket celebrities as important as Guillermo Vilas, Aaron Krickstein (from Nick´s Bolletieri School), Hans Gildemeister, Mats Wilander, Gustavo Kuerten, etc.

© Copyright Text: José Manuel Serrano Esparza