Wimbledon Flashback: Bjorn Borg wins title without losing a set

Tennis - The Swede claimed his first Wimbledon crown in 1976 at 20

by Jovica Ilic
Wimbledon Flashback: Bjorn Borg wins title without losing a set

Bjorn Borg was only 11 when the Open era started in April 1968. He did not need too much time to make a name for himself and become one of the world's best players. The Swede made his Wimbledon debut shortly after turning 17 in 1973 and turned it into an instant success.

He reached the quarter-final as by far the youngest player in the Open era. Also, Bjorn became the crowd's favorite, especially among the young girls who went crazy for the long-haired and handsome Norseman. A home player Roger Taylor halted him 7-5 in the fifth set, and Borg suffered another quarter-final loss two years later, this time against the eventual champion Arthur Ashe in four sets.

Bjorn was ready to take the next step in 1976, embracing his fourth Wimbledon at 20 and winning the title without losing a set, as the first player since Chuck McKinley in 1963! A few weeks earlier, Bjorn failed to defend the Roland Garros crown, losing to Adriano Panatta in four sets.

He headed to Wimbledon eager to claim his third Major crown and the first on grass despite playing with severe stomach muscle pain that required injections to keep him on the court. One of the reasons behind his commanding triumph stood in the serve.

The Swede improved the initial shot in the last couple of months after working with Ilie Nastase and added that extra element to his already perfectly-balanced baseline game that proved to be the winning formula. It was not an easy road for Bjorn by any means.

He beat Brian Gottfried, Guillermo Vilas and Roscoe Tanner (defeated Connors in the quarters but could not keep his backhand safe against Borg) to get to the title match. Battling for the trophy, the youngster ousted Ilie Nastase 6-4, 6-2, 9-7 on July 3 to become the youngest Wimbledon champion since Sidney Wood in 1931!

Like Bjorn, Ilie reached the final without dropping a set. Still, he stood no chance against the youngster who crossed the finish line in an hour and 47 minutes, with a real battle only in the third set. The Swede had 32 service winners in comparison to the Romanian's 22.

Bjorn also had the upper hand from his backhand wing, one of the critical elements of his victory besides serve. They had a similar number of smash and volley winners, creating ten break chances. Borg converted six and lost serve just twice to generate the crucial difference.

The more experienced Romanian defended a break point in the encounter's opening game and brought it home after a service winner. He broke Bjorn at 15 in game two after a backhand down the line winner that gave him the initial advantage.

Ilie played against another break point in game three, hitting a volley winner to get out of jail and closing it with a forehand winner that sent him 3-0 up. Bjorn was yet to find his range and was in an even bigger problem when Nastase created another break chance in game four that would have delivered the opening set for him.

The youngster saved it with a service winner and repelled two more to put his name on the scoreboard and gain momentum.

Bjorn Borg claimed the 1976 Wimbledon title without losing a set.

A forehand winner in game five pulled the break back for Bjorn, who was back on level terms with his rival after a nice hold in game six.

The Swede overcame a slow start and took his first lead when Nastase sent a volley long in game nine, allowing Borg to serve for the set. That tenth game went to deuce before Borg wrapped it up with a service winner for 6-4, rattling off six of the last seven games for a massive mental advantage.

Nastase squandered three break points in the second set's second game. Bjorn broke in the next one after Ilie's loose forehand to take control over the scoreboard. A smash winner gave Borg a 3-1 lead, and he gained a 5-2 advantage when Nastase netted a smash in game seven.

Serving for the set in the next one, Bjorn fired four winners to open a 6-4, 6-2 gap, marching towards the finish line and the first Wimbledon title. Nastase's game fell apart in those moments, and he missed an easy volley in the third set's opening game to experience another break and drift further away from the trophy.

Borg cemented the break with a hold at love in game two and repeated that in the fourth for 3-1. The youngster opened a 4-2 gap with a volley winner in game six, dropping only one point behind the initial shot so far in the set and hoping to seal the deal in the next 20 minutes.

Ilie stayed in contention in his games and created two break chances in the eighth game. Bjorn denied them to keep his serve intact and served for the title at 5-4. Nastase repelled a match point and seized the third opportunity to pull the break back and lock the result at 5-5.

The Romanian claimed the third game in a row to open a 6-5 lead and force the rival to serve to stay in the set. Feeling no pressure, Borg delivered a comfortable hold for 6-6 and earned the pivotal break at 15 three games later after Nastase's terrible volley.

Bjorn served for the Wimbledon title at 8-7 in one of the most important games of his early career. In a manner of a true champion, he held at love with a service winner to grab the set 9-7 and seal the deal. The young Swiss celebrated his first Wimbledon title and marked the beginning of his domination at the All England Club.

Wimbledon Bjorn Borg