“My life turned into a circus that I couldn’t handle,” Bjorn Borg said in an interview.

interview with Bjorn Borg: After winning five Wimbledon titles and six Roland Garros crowns, he announced his retirement from professional tennis at the age of 26. a surprise to supporters and adversaries. Bjorn Borg was relieved: “It was nice at first to be asked for pictures and autographs, but after a while it got to be too much.” I retired at a young age because of this.

“One hundred people were waiting for me when I got to the hotel. I was followed by twenty-five photographers when I went to a restaurant. I desired a typical life. Even though they are far better protected, champions nonetheless experience the same thrill today. However, it was quite insane at the time, and that was one of the main reasons I threw in the towel,” says the Swedish tennis player.

Regarded as one of the most influential individuals in tennis history, he has been increasingly active in the public arena over the past five years as a result of his appointment as captain of the European Laver Cup team and his accompanying of his 19-year-old son Leo Borg, who participates in the Futures and Challenger circuits.

His fondest memories are summarised in this interview, which was first published in French for Tennis Magazine.

Borg’s career’s little-known anecdotes are revealed during the chat. For example, how much he regrets playing in a little event, or how he was disqualified for his doubles partner Ion Tiriac’s bad behaviour when he was John McEnroe’s ball boy in his first professional match.

– Tell me an anecdote that is not so well known from your time as a professional.

I was in the locker room waiting to go the court to play against (Harold) Solomon on the day of the 1980 Roland Garros semifinals, I believe. Prior to that, there was a match between Vitas Gerulaitis and Jimmy Connors. After defeating Jimmy 6-4 in the fifth game, Vitas approached me in the locker room, gave me a hug, and said, “You’re lucky, you’re going to play me in the final and not Jimmy.” After I defeated Solomon (6-2, 6-2, 6-0), Vitas and I had dinner together the following day. Vitas laughed and said, “Hey, you’re going to have a tough match tomorrow!” as we were close friends. Having defeated Jimmy made him extremely happy.

Editor’s note: (Borg won the final 6-4, 6-1, 6-2).

– Gerulaitis was certainly a very particular character.

– I have another anecdote about my friend Vitas to share with you. I prevailed in a five-set marathon of a Wimbledon semi-final that we played in 1977. I was training for the final the following day in Hurlingham, at a club outside of London. After losing 8–6 in the fifth set the day before, Vitas approached me at the club and said, “Björn, if you need a training partner, I’m always willing!” If there wasn’t anything else for him to do, I considered telling him. I don’t know, take a trip, be down on yourself, do whatever (laughs).

– I go back in time…Do you remember the day you realized you hated loosing?

– It was my birthdate! (laughs). I’ve always detested losing, whether it was in badminton, board games, or tennis. Furthermore, I’ve always like winning (laughs).

– The day you felt embarrassed on a tennis court.

– I’ve never felt ashamed. Yes, I do recall playing doubles in Madrid with Ion Tiriac. Against Tom Okker and Ilie Nastase. The issue was Tiriac’s extremely poor behaviour, even if the match was good and we even had a match point. So awful that we were ultimately disqualified by the referee. I think that was the only occasion I ever felt uncomfortable in front of a judge. And the one occasion that I didn’t qualify.

– Your first match on the professional tour.

– US Open 1972 against Roy Emerson. I remember the moment we were walking to the court and I thought, “Wow, that’s Roy Emerson you’re going to play against.” That’s not a small business. He wasn’t playing much anymore, but he was a legend! I lost that game, but you know what the funniest thing is? Guess who was on our court as a ball boy… John McEnroe! He was the one who told me years later. It’s unbelievable.

– Unbelievable. A twist of fate. Then in Båstad you played your first Davis Cup match in 1972. At the age of 15 against a top player, Onny Parun.

– Yes, that’s right, but at the beginning I wasn’t considered to play that match. Shortly before, in Madrid, in the second or third round I beat Jan-Erik Lundqvist in two sets. He was the one who was considered to play Parun. When he saw that match, Lennart Bergelin who was the captain, thought this guy can play. He picked me and I beat Parun, who ended up furious about losing to a kid. Really angry. It’s true that losing to a 15-year-old is not easy to accept, especially when you’re the ninth best player in the world!

– The year you won your first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 1974.

I defeated (Ilie) Nastase in the competition final the week before when I competed in Rome. After that, I spent a few days returning to Stockholm before taking a plane to Paris. There, I faced Frenchman Jean-François Caujolle in the opening round. Since we had played with multiple times as juniors, I knew him well. In the third set, he was up 4-1 and two breaks ahead (editor’s note: the earlier rounds were then best of three sets). When I eventually gathered enough resources to win that match, I told myself, “That’s it, I’m back.” I was confident that I could win two or three more matches, but I wasn’t sure I could win them all. Even so, I overcame (Manuel) Orantes in the championship match despite trailing two sets to none. I was in Paris by myself that year. I was alone with the Swedish journalists. “What are we doing tonight?,” I asked a friend of mine who worked for the Expressen newspaper after we won the championship. “Why don’t we visit the Eiffel Tower? I won in Paris.” We carried out that action. We celebrated my win with a fantastic meal and a trip to the summit.

 

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