On this day: Bjorn Borg gives wooden racquet one more chance in Monte Carlo


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On this day: Bjorn Borg gives wooden racquet one more chance in Monte Carlo

Super talented Swede Bjorn Borg had burst onto the scene in 1974, winning Roland Garros crown just after turning 18 and proving his potential and abilities that made him one of the best players of all time. By the age of 25, Bjorn was already a proud winner of 11 Grand Slam singles titles and more than 60 ATP crowns, with a lot more to come in the upcoming years from one of the most hard-working and devoted players that we have seen in men's tennis.

Nonetheless, Bjorn got tired after almost ten years on the Tour and started to slow down in 1981, desperate for some break from the tournaments that ATP was not willing to allow. Between 1982-1984, Borg had played only three official events and faded from the scene after Stuttgart 1984, staying under the radar for almost seven years.

Bjorn had returned from Sweden where he lived since 1985 to Monte Carlo and was ready to make a return on the Tour, preparing for his first Monte Carlo event since 1983! Just a few weeks before his 35th birthday, Bjorn lost in the practice match to the fellow Swede Lars Jonsson 6-4, 6-4 and the organizers of the third Masters 1000 event of the season had given him a wild card to enter the main draw, his first on the Tour since the summer of 1984!

A former world no. 1 had to play against Jordi Arrese in the opening round and the Spaniard scored an expected 6-2, 6-3 win in an hour and 18 minutes. Bjorn walked on to the court in his famous Fila kit and with a small-headed wooden racquet that was already a part of tennis history, outshined by the modern graphite racquets a long time ago.

In later interviews, Borg admitted he just wanted to play tennis again and that he hadn't tried the new racquets for the simple reason he never used any of those! Considering all these facts, Borg did a great job in winning those five games, taking 45% of the return points and scoring three breaks from four opportunities created in Arrese's games.

Nonetheless, it wasn't enough for a more favorable result, failing to make an impression in his service games after dropping 60% of the points behind the initial shot and suffering six breaks from ten chances he gave to the Spaniard.

The Swedish legend served at 63% but his shots were just not there, something that was expected after staying away from the competitive tennis for so many years. His first winner came in the third game of the match when he fired a crosscourt backhand to pass Jordi, also making a nice hold in game two for a solid start.

Still, Arrese scored a break at 2-1 when Bjorn netted a routine forehand and held for a 4-1 lead when the Swede sprayed another forehand error. Borg couldn't keep the pace with a younger and far superior rival, losing serve again to find himself 5-1 down before pulling one break back in game seven after enduring a 25-stroke rally to give the crowd something to cheer about, showing a glimpse of his old magic that made him one of the greatest players of our sport.

Arrese recovered his shots quickly and broke again in game eight to close the set in 37 minutes after another forehand error from Bjorn. The Swede kept fighting and kicked off the second set with a break of serve when Jordi hit a double fault, only to give his serve away in the next game to lose the advantage.

Borg held in game four with a service winner to level the score at 2-2 although he went 4-2 behind when Jordi grabbed a break in game six, marching towards the finish line. The Swedish veteran was not done and dusted, breaking back at 2-4 after another double fault from the Spaniard, looking to level the score at 4-4 and deliver an exciting last few games.

Instead of that, he netted a backhand in game eight to drop serve once again and allow his rival to secure the triumph on his serve. Jordi converted the first match point in that ninth game to wrap up the win and move into the second round while Borg would return to Monte Carlo in 1992 as well, playing a competitive set against Wayne Ferreira in his last match in the Principality where he won three titles in four years between 1977-80.