Farewell to Greatness: Bjorn Borg's Historic Final Triumph

Bjorn Borg claimed his sixth and last Roland Garros title in 1981, never playing in Paris again

by Jovica Ilic
Farewell to Greatness: Bjorn Borg's Historic Final Triumph

The 1981 edition of Roland Garros produced nothing new regarding the last man standing. Bjorn Borg claimed his record-breaking sixth crown in Paris, becoming the most successful player in the history of this Major. The fantastic Swede overcame the challenge from the last year's junior champion Ivan Lendl, prevailing 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in three hours and 13 minutes.

What no one could predict at that moment, it would be Borg's last match in Paris, never returning to Roland Garros despite just turning 25! Lendl made his professional debut at this event three years earlier. He was already one of the world's finest clay courters, scoring two wins in six previous matches against Bjorn and hoping to win his first Major crown.

The Czech had to wait for three more years to achieve that, despite a massive effort against the dominant figure of this tournament. Lendl forced a decider with the fine display in the fourth set but could not follow Borg's pace in the decider to settle with the runner-up prize.

Bjorn hit fewer unforced errors and had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. It was a grueling baseline battle, and Borg found a way to impose his shots more efficiently. The more experienced player preserved energy for a decider and proved his spirit of a champion for the one last time, conquering his 11th and final Major crown.

Bjorn would reach the title clash at Wimbledon and the US Open, losing them to John McEnroe and leaving tennis a year later. It was a great battle right from the start, and Bjorn held in the opening game after numerous deuces when Lendl netted a forehand.

The Czech got his name on the scoreboard with a service winner in game two before the Swede drew first blood with a forehand down the line winner two games later for a break and 3-1. Lendl netted an easy forehand in game six to find himself 5-1 down.

In the next game, the young gun sprayed another backhand error to hand the set to Borg 6-1 in just over 30 minutes.

Bjorn Borg overpowered Ivan Lendl in the 1981 Roland Garros final.

Ivan needed a much better start in set number two, and he broke Bjorn for the first time in game two to forge a lead.

Lendl produced another quick hold at 2-0 with a service winner to cement the advantage and settle into a fine rhythm. Nonetheless, Borg bounced back and erased the deficit after Lendl's double fault in game five. A five-time champion leveled the score at 3-3 after the rival's forehand error, hoping for more in the rest of the set.

Instead, Lendl landed a smash winner in game seven for 4-3 and broke Borg in game ten after a marathon and the opponent's volley error to wrap up the set 6-4. The third set kicked off with four good holds before Bjorn grabbed a break after Lendl's forced error, cementing it and moving 4-2 in front.

The Swede was the dominant figure in those moments. His brilliant court coverage earned another break in game seven, opening a 5-2 gap and clinching the set a few minutes later on his serve for two sets to one advantage. Ivan had to raise his level to remain in touch, and he did that in set number four.

The Czech built a 3-1 advantage when the Swede hit a double fault before Borg pulled the break back in the next one with a forehand crosscourt winner. Lendl opened a 4-3 gap with a forehand down the line winner in game seven and grabbed a break in the next one after Borg's routine forehand mistake.

The young gun served for the set at 5-3 and closed it with a forehand down the line winner to force a decider after over two hours and 30 minutes. It was the first five-setter in the Roland Garros finals since 1974 when Bjorn claimed his first title!

The more experienced Swede opened the final set with a service winner and broke the youngster in game two when Lendl netted a forehand. Bjorn confirmed the break with a backhand winner in game three, and the match was entirely on his side after another break in game four.

He placed a running forehand that passed Ivan for a considerable advantage and one hand on the trophy. Lendl pulled one break back in game five after Borg's unforced error. However, the mountain he had to climb to return on the positive side was just too big for him.

Ivan sprayed a forehand error in game six to suffer another break and push the rival 5-1 in front. Bjorn held in game seven following another error from his opponent to cross the finish line and lift what turned out to be his 11th and last Major title.

Bjorn Borg Roland Garros