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Borg

Style icon, just as cool on and off the court and highly supersticious, who caused such Beatles-like hysteria, that the Swedish tennis player coined a new term — “Borgasm”.

By Marcus Joons

Say the name Björn Borg and most people think about the tennis star’s cool on and off the court. If John McEnroe was Fire, then Borg, to paraphrase the title of the HBO documentary about the two rivals, was Ice.

During the five Wimbledon Championships that he won between 1976 and 1980, Borg stayed in the same suite at the same hotel (Holiday Inn), and trained on the same court (a grass court at a local tennis club in West Hampstead) each time. His coach Lennart Bergelin drove him to and from his matches in the exact same car — a sponsored Saab. No matter which FILA tennis polos he chose to wear the rest of the year, at Wimbledon, Borg always wore the same white polo shirts with the thin stripes that he wore when he won the championship in 1976.

Borg’s parents, Rune and Margareta were in the crowd to watch their son win his second Wimbledon title. This led to Björn only allowing his parents to attend Wimbledon in odd years. Superstition ran in the family. Margareta ate sweets during her son’s matches at the tournament as, according to her, this would bring him luck. During the thrilling 1979 final against American Roscoe Tanner, Björn Borg had Tanner at 40—0 in the 5th set and three match points. Margareta thought that the match was over and spat out the sweet that she had been eating. Tanner came back to level the match at 40—40. Margareta swiftly popped a new piece of candy in her mouth and…game set and match — to Borg. He had won two straight points and subsequently the whole tournament.

Björn Borg made his debut as a 15-year-old on the Swedish Davis Cup team against New Zealand, and he quickly made a name for himself by defeating the New Zealand number one, Onny Parun. Only 18 years old Borg won the French Open, the youngest winner of the tournament at that time. The following year proved that he planned to stay at the top by defending his title on clay. As the years progressed he became more iconic and idolised: people wanted to play like him, look like him — and date him. When Borg came to Wimbledon during his glory years on Centre Court, newspapers wrote about the Beatles-like hysteria that the Swedish tennis player caused wherever he went and coined a new term — “Borgasm”.

After five straight wins at Wimbledon, six titles at the French Open and $3.6 million in prize winnings ($19 million in total assets) Björn Borg shocked the sports world in February 1983 by announcing that, at 26 years old, he had decided to retire. Many have speculated about what it was that prompted him to make the decision. Many other sports stars reach their peak around that age. The simplest answer is the one that probably is closest to the truth.

Björn Borg debuted early, achieved his goal of being the best in the world, and no longer thought that it was fun to play tennis any longer.

After his tennis career was over, Borg entered the business world and started promoting Swedish tourism and Scandinavian Airlines. He tried his hand at property development and, in 1987, he created the fashion brand Björn Borg Design Group. When conflicts with the board and cash flow problems came to the surface, Borg decided to close the company. He agreed to a royalty deal to lend his name to the Björn Borg brand, which is best known for its underwear and shoes. Today Björn Borg lives on Värmdö outside of Stockholm. He still plays tennis occasionally and participates in exhibition matches around the world.

The style icon Björn Borg, circa 1980, in New York.
Iconic moment. After defeating John McEnroe in the Men's Singles Final in Wimbledon, July 1980.
Bjorn Borg raising the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy after winning the 1981 French Open over Ivan Lendl.