I have written more than one chapter regarding my European tour of 1991 with my buddies from Perth, Brett and Pete and the quite remarkable timing of the comeback of my hero Bjorn Borg. That particular initial match by Borg was played at the Monte Carlo Country Club, a place of such magnificence that the setting really does defy logic.
We all watched on from the sporting club in Bordeaux, France where we were playing an insignificant little tournament that would never even register on anyone's 'important' tennis calendar. Every player who was playing that tournament knew of Borg and it showed as the club was full by the time the match commenced. Unfortunately Borg's return to the game after 10 years of absence did not give the sentimental tennis purest the fairy-tale result.
I do not quite remember my reaction to the loss but it was probably not as devastating as it first was when Borg retired at age 26 when I was a lad of 13 or 14 who relied on my hero for inspiration. Looking back I suppose the loss to Arrese in Monte Carlo was to be expected yet when it comes to a legend you tend to expect a miracle even if it wasn't realistic. James Bond could get himself out of any situation, Borg to me was 007, he had that sort of appeal, he just couldn't find a way out of that impossible situation.
In 1992 Borg again contested Monte Carlo and lost to Wayne Ferreira of South Africa by the score of 7-6, 6-2. Putting that performance into perspective Borg was 36, Ferreira 21 and the South African had made the semi finals of the Australian Open that year defeating John McEnroe in straight sets in the quarter finals.
So was Borg's comeback really a failure or was he just a whisker away from being competitive once again despite his age and his ten years of retirement ? The following result I believe says it all.
The Kremlin Cup of 1993 saw Borg granted a wildcard into the main draw where unfortunately he drew the number 2 seed Alexander Volkov. As one of my previous chapters stated Volkov almost changed tennis history when he lead the eventual Wimbledon champion of 1991 Michael Stich 5-3, 30-15 in the fifth set, unlucky to lose with a net cord shot against him.
The tournament in Moscow was the third year of Borg's comeback though he did not play many tournaments, he simply picked a few that appealed to him and did his best to prepare against guys almost half his age. Volkov at the time was ranked World number 14, his highest ever ranking and was age 26. Surely Volkov would beat Borg with ease and put and end to any doubts about a 37 year old matching it with the World's best tennis players after a decade out of the game.
For history's sake Alexander Volkov defeated Bjorn Borg 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 and the final set tie break score was 9-7. You tell me whether Borg still had ability at age 37 and with ten years out of the sport. The interesting fact about this result was that Volkov did not in fact play his next match, he withdrew without a ball being hit and it proved to be Borg's final comeback attempt. Did the 'old' guy wear the young guy out ?
Volkov won this tournament the very next year.
Personally I believe that Bjorn Borg was three to five years late on his comeback attempt though the highlights that you can see on Youtube in Monte Carlo against Ferreira show a remarkably fit looking Borg at age 36. Not many players can maintain that sort of fitness and perform that well in singles at that age, if any. Connors was possibly the only exception in the past 25 years with his semi final performance at the US Open in 1991.
Borg's comeback had no real heroics involved however if nothing else he proved that he could still play at a remarkably high level against the World's top players.
I am probably one of many who just wished that he had done it a lot sooner........