Undoubtedly, Bjorn Borg was the first teenage star of the modern tennis, bursting into the scene in 1972 and winning his first titles in 1974, including the Roland Garros. By the age of 22, at the end of 1978, Swede had already won almost 40 ATP titles and 6 Grand Slams, forging his way towards the tennis glory. At the end of 1980, Bjorn was a walking legend and one of the best players ever, despite turning only 24 in June, and one could only wonder what his career would look like when he turns 30! He was the dominant figure on both clay and grass, and one of the toughest players to beat on outdoor hard courts and indoor as well.
There was only one "minor" problem in that fairy tale, the fact that Bjorn was sick and tired of everything after 8 years of continuous traveling around the world, and that he needed a break from tennis badly.
ATP officials didn't like the idea at all, afraid of losing their biggest star, even for a half a year or with Bjorn's reduced schedule, and they warned him that he would be forced to play qualifications once he decides to come back. That was unacceptable for one of the sport's finest who raised the popularity of tennis to another level, and he participated in 10 ATP events in 1981, winning his last Grand Slam title in Paris and losing Wimbledon and US Open finals to John McEnroe, which increased his will to take a break even more! Great Swede claimed his 64th and last ATP title in Geneva, on September 27, 1981, still at the age of 25, and there was not a single person in the world of tennis who believed back then that this would be the last trophy he lifted! In the first round, Borg took down 17-year-old compatriot Mats Wilander, who will take the torch in the following years, together with Stefan Edberg and carry Borg's legacy, keeping Sweden as one of the top tennis nations during the 80's.
Clay court specialist and the winner of Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome and US Open, Manuel Orantes, took the set from Bjorn in the semis but Swede won the final set easily to advance to his 88th ATP final (he lost just 24).
There, he ousted Tomas Smid by 6-4 6-3 in an hour and 45 minutes to grab the title, coming from a break down in the second set to rattle off 4 games in succession and cross the finish line. A month later Borg played in Tokyo, losing to Tim Gullikson in the second round, and that was his last match of the season.
Despite the warnings, Bjorn stepped down from the scene, playing only 1 tournament in 1982, at home in Monte Carlo, where Yannick Noah beat him in the quarters. In the next 2 seasons, we saw him just twice on the court, in Monte Carlo and Stuttgart, and that was all from him until 1991! Out of shape and with a wooden racquet, he tried to make his comeback but we all now that turned to be a disaster, as he lost the last 14 ATP matches of his career, which is unprecedented for a player of his caliber.
Despite all that, Bjorn Borg deserves a special place in the history of our beloved sport, as one of the most naturally-gifted players that we ever saw. The things he achieved by the age of 25 will stay untouchable for the decades to come, and it is a huge shame he didn't stay for a few more years, to compete against the young guns and develop his game for the new racquets and more powerful tennis.