Tennis Prose




Apr/21

5

Facing Bjorn Borg

LeRoy Neiman artwork.

By Scoop Malinowski

The Viking from Sweden was both beauty and beast personified on the tennis court… an unstoppable force at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, capturing eleven majors before the age of 26.  One of the most recognizable figures in the history of sport won 64 singles titles overall.

Borg competed on the ATP World Tour from 1972-1981 and later made a comeback in the late 1980s and early 1990s, accomplishing minimal success. The former dominant ATP No. 1 also reached the finals of the US Open four times.

The now 64 year old Borg has a 17 year old son Leo who competed this week at the Marbella, Spain Challenger as a wildcard in qualies (lost to Evgeny Donskoy).

I’m currently working on a Facing Bjorn Borg feature (or possible book?) and here is a short excerpt of the interview data collected so far…

Reid Sheftall: Borg once said: “I never try to hit a winner.”

John Lloyd:  Although I of course lost to Borg many times I did beat him once at Monte Carlo in the quarterfinal of a WCT event. Now before you pass out in disbelief, rumors were that he was out until 4 am the night before with a few ladies. Of course when I brag about the result I forget to mention that fact. Just between you and me.

Steve Krulevitz:  Practicing with Bjorn on clay was like running up a hill. I hit with him the second week of the French in 1980 and before his semi we played two sets. After he showered and went to Roland Garros for his match (defeated Harold Solomon 62 62 60). I went back to the hotel and took a nap. It was a great week hanging with Bjorn and coach Lennart Bergelin. We had a lot of laughs.

Marcos Manqueros: I played against him in an exhibition doubles in Hong Kong during his Seniors tour. Although I don’t remember him as blinding fast, what I do remember is that even in casual games, his eyes were as focused as a hawk on every ball, even.the easy ones.

Henner Lenhardt:  I was fortunate enough to meet a member of the Monte Carlo Country Club who asked me to be his personal pro in the summers and so was able to spend a month at the club for five years. In 1991 Borg was attempting a comeback and somehow I got a chance to practice with him. I was very excited and nervous at the same time. I don’t think I missed a ball the first 30 minutes. He wanted to play some games and he said he normally switches sides every three games. The first couple games were close and then I was absolutely spent. I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained with the excitement. He was very gracious and it is one of my favorite memories playing tennis.

Panamanian tennis pro Juan Coronel and Bjorn Borg

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