Tennis Players That Changed The Game: Bjorn Borg

R LSenior Analyst ISeptember 5, 2008

This series will highlight present, and former tennis players that changed the way the game is played. Whether it is a style, attitude, or a signature move, it will be discussed. Many of these individuals paved the way for the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, and many others like them.

We'll start with Bjorn Borg, the greatest Swedish tennis player of all time. His career was brief, but still produced many bright spots nonetheless. He won 11 Grand Slam singles titles between 1974 and 1981. All of the titles came at either the French Open, or Wimbledon.

The Swede won 11 of the 27 Grand Slam tournaments he entered (41 percent). Nobody has won more French Opens then Bjorn Borg. Borg was just 18-years-of age when he became the youngest player to ever win the French Open. The record has been broken twice since then. Adriano Panatta is the only player to ever defeat him at the French Open—on two occasions.

In 1976, Borg won Wimbledon without losing a set, and became the youngest player to ever win Wimbledon at just 20-years-of age. Boris Becker broke that record in 1985, winning the title at the age of 17. From 1978 to 1980, he won the French, and Wimbledon each year.

In the early 90s, Borg attempted to make a comeback on the professional tour. Wooden rackets were no longer used though, and Borg was unsuccessful. New rackets, new game. With 11 Grand Slam singles titles, Borg ranks fourth on the all-time list behind only Pete Sampras, Roy Emerson, and Roger Federer.

He brought a playing style that changed the game, and served as an example for many of today's players. Borg delivered powerful ground-strokes constantly, and used a two-handed backhand. It's similar to a slap shot in hockey—a game he watched as a child. He would hit the ball hard, and high from the baseline, bringing it down with a topspin.

These shots, and his fitness allowed him to dominate the French, and Wimbledon. Great strength, stamina, quickness, and coolness were all put into Borg's play. His calm manner on the court earned him the nickname "Ice Man". The Swede's physical conditioning was superb, and he was able to outlast most of his opponents in the worst conditions.

Borg served as a great model for today's top players with his unorthodox playing style. The game of tennis has improved greatly due to players like Bjorn Borg. Given more time, he could have possibly won more Grand Slam singles titles than Pete Sampras. Still, the "Ice Man" was able to make good of the time he was given.