Saturday, 2 May 2015


 I was going to title this one 'Monte Carlo' however I have already done that one, possibly my most cherished memory of Europe in 1991. Instead I won't confuse the chapters statistician and I will simply refer to this as 'Monaco', you guys know better though.
Now when you get off a train on the French Riviera you don't just get out and start walking, you almost count your  steps, it's like one of those great privileges in life that you should be taking notes on. All I really remember from that day in May all those years ago was that I was in a place that I was sure only really existed on a postcard.
When you commence your walk of 'importance' over the other side of the World you are 100 per cent certain that your walk is one that everyone else around you should also be taking because you are heading to the 'Holy Grail'. Tennis to me as a kid began at Monte Carlo because Bjorn Borg lived there, he owned a sports store there and he won the tournament on three occasions.
In fact Bjorn Borg may just own the record for games against at Monte Carlo as from 1977 to 1980 he lost just 17 games in three finals which back then were best of five sets. To put that into perspective the great man from Sweden won 54 games, you do the sums on that.
So to be heading to the Monte Carlo Country Club on cobble stones past views of the harbour and million dollar cruise liners it was a walk that perhaps was out of a Hollywood movie as opposed to real life.
Have you ever seen 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' starring Steve Martin ? That movie from memory was shot on location not far from Monte Carlo, Villefranche-sur-Mer I believe, another ridiculously magnificent French town built on the side of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean ocean. Well if you had the pleasure of watching that rather silly movie you will appreciate the stunning way in which the French people live, everyday life would be a pleasure.
So it was a rather surreal feeling when I finally made it through the gates at the Country Club where the great man played his final tennis match in a career that defied logic and one that ceased all too prematurely at age 26. If he had played until he was Roger Federer's age who knows what his record may have looked like but maybe it's what makes Borg's eleven Grand Slam victories even more outrageously brilliant. By age 26 I don't believe there have been too many better Grand Slam records and I believe that only Federer's record surpasses it, I may be wrong but not by too much.
So to the Monte Carlo Country Club, it's a place of tranquillity and a place of Hollywood movie status where every step you take is one of respect toward not only the game of tennis but to your inspiration to play the game. Yes I was inspired by two tennis players from Sweden but Borg was my hero in life before he was my hero in tennis, I loved what he did and he did it with a calmness that I have not seen since. Mats Wilander replaced Borg for me as someone to follow in tennis but he would never replace the aura that surrounded Borg.
I will never forget the way he waved to his wife Mariana when the going was getting real tough in a Wimbledon final, it was his way of letting her know that he was in control despite the score line. He was known as the 'Ice Man' but that gesture was his way of showing that he had a human side to his almost robot like mannerisms on court.
I have said just recently that this site is all about my spur of the moment thoughts on the game of tennis, this chapter is no different. The Monte Carlo Tournament has just been played and won by Novak Djokovic, another robot of the modern game of tennis. The difference however between him and Bjorn Borg is that Novak has to win at all costs, he is oblivious to anything else around him, the crowd, ball kids and opponents. Borg perhaps owned a robotic style also but he did it with grace and he owned a conscience.
Monte Carlo, Monaco and Bjorn Borg are as big a part of tennis to me now as it was when I first hit a ball as a 12 or 13 year old, it inspired me to eventually visit the French Riviera. If it weren't for Borg I would never have played tennis and I would never have visited a place that I still regard as a 'postcard'. It is a part of the World that has been sculptured out of a mountain overlooking the water where the rich and famous spend their spare time.
Tennis can give you a hard time mentally however it can also take you places, literally.........

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