Tennis Prose



Memories of Jeff Borowiak

Jeff Borowiak was a top 20 player in the ATP Golden Era of the 1970’s and 80’s. He turned pro in 1968, won the NCAA title as the first singles player for UCLA in 1970 (Jimmy Connors played the third slot) and later the six-foot, four inch native of Berkeley, CA would win five ATP singles titles and three more in doubles.

Borowiak, an aggressive, attacking player with economic strokes and a one hand backhand and superb volley skills, was known as a “giant killer”, posting career wins over Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Dick Stockton, Vitas Gerulaitis, Bjorn Borg, Brian Gottfried, Jose Luis Clerc, Jan Kodes, Fred Stolle, Adriano Panatta, Tom Okker, Cliff Drysdale and Andres Gimeno. As a 21 year old, “Boro” made the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1971 and then again 1981. He also reached the fourth round at AO and third round in French Open and US Open.

1977 was Jeff’s best year – he won three titles in Gstaad, Toronto and Dayton. In August of 1977, Jeff reached his career high ranking of no. 20.

Borowiak is also well remembered as a unique, free-spirited, kind hearted, friendly player who got along well with his peers and rivals.

Jeff, now 72 and living in California, was before my time as a tennis fan and writer but a funny anecdote in Peter Bodo’s book “Inside Tennis” is why Jeff first hit my radar:

Borowiak lost the first set to Panatta at 1978 Roland Garros but then won the next three by attacking net more. After the match Borowiak told reporters, “One of the ball boys kept telling me to be aggressive, to go in…”

“A ball boy?!” an astonished reporter interrupted.

“Yeah, I was talking to him through the whole match. He was from the States. Later on, he said be more aggressive, go to the net more. It sounded like a good idea, so that’s what I did.”

Borowiak beat Panatta that day in the second round or French Open, 57 61 64 64.

More people from the tennis world shared comments on the former ATP champion Jeff Borowiak…

Steven Krulevitz: The Big Bruin UCLA horse. NCAA champion and top 20 in the world. We used to practiced together at the Berkeley Tennis Club in California. During one practice session Jeff stopped to get what I thought was a bottle of water out of his tennis bag. But instead it was a flute and he played for about ten minutes like the professional he was. Beautiful songs. Played piano also. Very talented.

Noel Callaghan: Jeff Borowiak was a terrific player. Had the pleasure of playing doubles with him at a tournament in Tahiti, such a nice guy.

Bob Christianson: Piano player also, I think? And he would talk with the linespersons between points on occasion about non-tennis subjects. Always thought he was quite intelligent. A multi-faceted guy.

Johan Kriek: It rained in Nashville and he walked up to a piano in the lobby of the hotel and started playing classical music….I could sit and listen to piano for months. Borowiak was a very interesting guy. I didn’t know him well but he was one of those ‘rare breeds.’ A loner perhaps but he was very fascinating… likeable. Mysterious… whimsical….

Bill Koegler: He practiced at the Sunset Courts at UCLA sometimes. as did Jeff Austin and Jimmy Connors.

Bill McKinnon: I consider myself very fortunate to have met both Jeff Borowiak and Rod Frawley. I was there to have watched both these gentleman go at it in a thrillingly, close match in Australia in 1982. Rod won this see-saw of a battle 4-6 7-6 7-6. Even though both fellas were totally buggered, both were happy to have given this then young aspiring player their autographs. I didn’t get them both at the same time, but when I did get each autograph, it was interesting what each said to me. Both asked me if I enjoyed the match and if I played tennis also, to which I told them I absolutely did, and Jeff even said, “Yeah, it was a great match eh, but Rod was just too good in the end.” What a great sport he was… you’d naturally think one would be down and/or pissed at having lost such a close match. But no, he was genuinely gracious. Rod pretty much asked me the same questions that Jeff had asked me, and then he just shook his head with a wry grin and said, “I still don’t know how I got outta that one mate! Ever see a movie called The Great Escape?” Both were terrific gentlemen! Gracious, pleasant and damn fine tennis players!

John Alexander: Jeff was fortunate to play at a time when being yourself was welcomed. Great bloke, great player.

Bob Lutz: My roomie at UCLA. He’s giving a few lessons. Just living in his van which he doesn’t seem to mind. Living the carefree life and doesn’t answer to anyone. Still extremely fit and when I talked to him last year, living in Berkeley.

Jacek Luba: The only time I saw Jeff Borowiak live was in February 1976 in Lagos, Nigeria when he played the semifinal vs Arthur Ashe. The match was stopped by armed soldiers who ordered players and spectators to leave the stadium and supported their request with whips and rifle butts. Bob Lutz and Tom Okker were also there.

Robert Phillips: Sad how little money these guys made compared to the overpaid players of today. Take Jeff’s results and put them in today’s world and he’d be worth tens of millions.

Rod Frawley: Jeff … top player and person! Had the pleasure of practicing with Jeff and Chris Lewis for the week proceeding Wimbledon 1981. Wish I had spent more time with Boro, he taught me a lot.

William Brown: Great guy, only got to play him once at Mission Hills in 1976. Beautiful backhand. Class guy, always very kind to me. After that match with Jeff at Mission Hills I was crushed again by Bob Lutz.

Carlton Jones: I would hit with Jeff once a week last summer. In Berkeley where I teach. Good hands! Still fit, nice guy! His brother Scott runs tennis travel tours.

Jeff Borowiak retired from tennis in 1986.

· · · ·


  • Ramon Danganan · July 28, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Saw him several times at the sunset courts at their campus (I was a Trojan, but loved to watch good players)…I was fascinated by his unique mystical attitude and I heard he played piano (I think that he was a music major?)such a cool guy….

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 28, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    Ramon, it sounds like Jeff is a unique tennis character certainly worthy of a book. Or at least a longer feature article. Thanks for your comments. Five ATP singles titles in that era is a very good achievement. Wish I saw him play or even practice.

  • George Dieffenbach · July 28, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you for the excellent article on Borowiak. Interesting read. I am a USPTA pro who has a great interest in tennis and boxing, like you. Please email me, I would like to discuss similarities between these terrific sports. Thanks, George Dieffenbach

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2021 at 8:37 am

    Hi George, will do and welcome to the site.



Find it!

Copyright 2010
To top