The previous chapter was about the great Swede Bjorn Borg and his greatest ever rival John McEnroe in a role reversal that saw Borg given two point penalties for apparent 'time wasting'. Borg toward the end of his career was starting to get a little more fiery than usual, perhaps he knew deep down that his career was coming to an end . Here's two brief stories regarding the great man , one that saw him do something quite unusual, the other , well it seemed that he had just had enough of the game altogether, read on;
At the Hilton Head Championships in the US in 1976 a rarely seen event was into the final set , Bjorn Borg was playing a game of doubles. He had partnered up with Romanian bad boy Ilie Nastase and it seemed that some of The Romanian's bad manners were in fact rubbing off on the Swede. The match was against two legends of the game, Australian Rod 'Rocket' Laver and American Arthur Ashe and the match was rather entertaining to say the least.
The match had everything including questioned line calls from both teams and even some funny stuff that you just don't see now days. On one occasion when Ashe walks to the net to see if he can see the mark where he thinks his serve landed Nastase walks up to the area and rubs the line with his shoe , what mark??! Later the roles are reversed as Nastase makes his way to the net to see if he can see where his volley had landed. 'Rocket' does what any man with a sense of humour would have done and that was to scuff the mark out with his shoe , just as Nastase had done to them. The match was played on American clay, a surface that left a tell tale mark and one that caused many an argument between players and linesmen.
At 2 games all in the third set there is a rather lengthy delay while words are exchanged to linesmen and umpires which infuriated the 'Ice man' Borg. What he does next I believe has not been repeated much in World tennis over the years, it would bring a rather expensive fine. The Swede grabs a ball and tees off , just like you would with a 5 iron in golf looking for that green 150 metres away. The ball travels out of the stadium, never to be seen again, but the funny thing was he didn't receive even a word from the umpire. Perhaps they had a crystal ball, Borg's future issues with officialdom could be counted on the fingers on one hand.
The other instance that Bjorn Borg could claim some notoriety was in fact in the final of the US Open in 1981 , the Swede's last ever Grand Slam final. Borg in this match served for a 5-3 lead in the third set at one set all but failed to take the advantage and won just three more games in the match. As if to signal the end of his career Borg did not even hang around for the presentation as he picked up his bag and left the stadium. Perhaps though in fairness to Borg, in an unconfirmed report he apparently received a threat on his life after his win over Connors in their semi final. He did however later apologize to Mac for not staying while he received the trophy. His loss at the '81 US Open , his fourth defeat at the final hurdle was something that he talks about in his biography with regret. He had chances , two against Connors and two against Mac but failed to convert them .
His walk out of the stadium on that final occasion could in some ways be justified as if to signal his walking from the game altogether. He only played one more tournament, Monte Carlo in 1982 before announcing his retirement.
I remember as a kid asking for my racket to be strung at 80 pounds , just like Borg famously did throughout his career, possibly the reason why the frame warped after 12 months. Borg had an aura about the way he played and acted on court, an intensity that perhaps now days has only been rivalled by Nadal, he was an inspiration........