It is no secret that my inspiration to play the game stemmed from my affection towards one country in particular, Sweden. This small Scandinavian Country produced a string of champion players , Borg, Wilander, Edberg, plus some lesser known players.
When Borg retired he actually did what not too many players have ever done, left the game as a defending Grand Slam Champion, as he did in 1981. Mats Wilander kept the French Open Men's Single's Title in Swedish hands with an amazing run as a 17 year old in '82 that gave Sweden the title for five years running. Wilander won it on two more occasions following in Borg's footsteps who won it six times giving Sweden a total of nine French Open Singles titles between 1974 and 1988.
The Swedes could have had an even more dominant hold on the title in Paris but had to be content with three runner up performances. Wilander lost in the final in '83 and '87 and Stefan Edberg could've completed a career Grand Slam had he converted break points in '89. Edberg lead two sets to one against 17 year old Michael Chang and at 4 games all in the fourth had break point opportunities. He lost the fourth 4-6 but broke Chang in the opening game of the fifth yet he only won one more game.
In Men's Doubles the Swede's were also prominent in the 80's and 90's which all started in 1983 with a young pair by the name of Anders Jarryd and Hans Simonsson. These two surprised the tennis world as an unseeded pair and even won the final in straight sets against the Australian / American pairing of Edmondson and Stewart.
Jarryd went on to win the Men's Doubles title in Paris on two more occasions, in '87 with American Rob Seguso and in '91 with Australian John Fitzgerald. From memory I believe that Jarryd and Fitgerald were in fact the first Men's Doubles team to win a million dollars in prize money in one year.
The Swedes love affair with Paris from the first title won by Borg in 1974 to the victory by Jarryd in '91 with 'Fitzy' netted them nine singles titles, three doubles crowns, three singles runner ups plus three doubles finals appearances. Putting it into perspective, this means that Sweden produced a Men's Singles finalist fifty percent of the time over a period of 18 years, that is quite remarkable. In Men's Doubles over the same time span the Swedes averaged at least one player in the final every three years.
So why the success at The French Open for the Swedes? Bjorn Borg inspired a new generation of players from Scandinavia and he taught them a way of playing that was simple yet effective. Not one of the above mentioned players had a real weapon, except maybe for Edberg who's serve and volley was exceptional. So what made their games so effective? They didn't miss .
They developed their ground strokes on the same surface as the French Open which was like playing in their own back yards . Their shots weren't overwhelming but they hit so few errors that playing against them was like hitting against a wall. This way of playing was proven to be a winning style as Borg's game was a model of consistency, a proven way of winning. Borg would not hit a winner unless he was pressured by a net rusher, he was simply content to out rally his opponents , that takes a strong mind and body.
The Swedes in Paris were inspiring in a golden era for their country and they were as much a part of the tournament back then as Paris in the Spring is part of folklore.....