December 21, 1975: Bjorn Borg delivers first Davis Cup title for Sweden


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December 21, 1975: Bjorn Borg delivers first Davis Cup title for Sweden

Between 1900-1973, only four countries were able to win the Davis Cup trophy (USA, Great Britain, France and Australia) and that domination was broken in the early 70s when the Challenge Round was abolished, meaning that the defending champion had to play the full campaign in the following year instead of reaching the final automatically.

In 1974, none of the favorites had reached the closing stages and we had South Africa and India in the most unexpected Davis Cup final ever that had not been played after all. The next year's edition delivered more interesting ties and there were Sweden and Czechoslovakia as the last teams standing, both fighting for the maiden Davis Cup crown.

The 19-year-old Bjorn Borg had already established himself as one of the best players in the world, winning 13 titles in the past two years and lifting two Roland Garros trophies to write his name in the history books. Sweden had some good Davis Cup runs before the teenage sensation as well but his arrival changed everything, turning them into title contenders and leading his country towards the first Davis Cup title in 1975.

After a great start against Poland, Sweden edged Germany after trailing 2-1 and they prevailed against the USSR as well in the deciding fifth rubber. Spain led 2-1 in Barcelona but Sweden performed another comeback to stay on the title course, scoring an easy win over Chile to reach the final and overpowering Czechoslovakia in Stockholm on December 21 to celebrate the biggest team success in national tennis history.

Bjorn Borg was the player to beat in Davis Cup that year, competing in 17 ties and scoring mind-blowing 15 wins (12-0 in singles) to leave all the rivals behind them and lift the trophy. A teenager delivered crucial wins against Germany and also the deciding fifth rubber triumph against the USSR to set the challenging Spain clash in Barcelona.

Jose Higueras and Manuel Orantes were unable to follow Bjorn's amazing pace in front of the home crowd and their beloved clay and he was on another level against Chile as well, delivering three wins to secure the place in the big final for the first time.

Sweden hosted Czechoslovakia at the Kungliga Tennishallen in Stockholm between December 19-21 on an indoor carpet surface and Bjorn was at the top of his game once again, delivering two commanding singles wins and helping Ove Bengtson to notch the doubles win and push Sweden over the finish line. In the opening match, Bjorn Borg took down Jiri Hrebec 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 to kick off the action for Sweden, having the upper hand from start to finish to put Sweden in front.

Hrebec opened the match with a break but that was all we saw from him in the opener, with Bjorn pulling the break back in the very next game and forging a 3-1 lead with another good return game. The youngster was the dominant figure on the court and he grabbed the first set with a volley winner at 5-1, finding the zone and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the match.

Borg forced an error from his opponent to score a break in the third game of the second set and he secured it with another break in game nine after a backhand cross court winner, moving a set away from the overall win. Another backhand winner pushed Bjorn ahead at the start of the third set and he never looked back, wrapping up a perfect set with a volley winner to bring the first point for Sweden.

A former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Jan Kodes defeated Ove Bengtson 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in the second match to put Czechoslovakia on the board before the Saturday's doubles rubber that Borg and Bengtson won 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 against Kodes and Zednik, sending the attention to the clash of Grand Slam champions Borg and Kodes on the following day.

Jan beat Bjorn in their first two meetings in 1972 but the Swede found the way to score four straight wins in 1974-75, prevailing in the deciding set tie break in Boston and claiming a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win here in Stockholm to seal the deal and deliver the Davis Cup glory for Sweden.

The match lasted less than two hours and Borg won almost 30 points more than his rival, fending off eight out of nine break points and claiming six breaks to keep the scoreboard under control all the time. The Swede had more service winners and he had the upper hand from the baseline as well, moving around the court beautifully and taming rival's shots in the best possible way.

Kodes hit almost 20 winners at the net but it wasn't enough for a more positive result, unable to match Borg's pace and keep the points on his racquet. The youngster broke in the very first game of the match and he confirmed the lead with a volley winner, staying in front until game eight when Kodes pulled the break back with a forehand cross court winner.

Calm as ever, Bjorn broke for the second time in the following game with a volley winner, hitting a service winner in the following game to claim the opener 6-4. A return winner gave Borg an early break in the second set and he moved 4-1 up with another one in game five before closing the set with a service winner in the eighth game, creating a huge lead and looking good to win the Davis Cup for Sweden in the following set.

Kodes never found his rhythm and he had to give his serve away in the first game of the third set as well, hitting a double fault at 3-1 to send Borg further ahead. Serving for the title at 5-2, Borg survived a few deuces to seal the deal after a backhand error from Kodes, starting a huge celebration with his teammates in what had been the brightest moment of the Swedish tennis exactly half a decade since they started competing in Davis Cup. 1975 Davis Cup final results:

Bjorn Borg (SWE) vs Jiri Hrebec (CZE) 6-1, 6-3, 6-0
Jan Kodes (CZE) vs Ove Bengtson (SWE) 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4
Ove Bengtson / Bjorn Borg (SWE) vs Jan Kodes / Vladimir Zednik (CZE) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
Bjorn Borg (SWE) vs Jan Kodes (CZE) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Jiri Hrebec (CZE) vs Ove Bengtson (SWE) 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4