On this day: Bjorn Borg edges Jimmy Connors in historic Wimbledon final


by   |  VIEW 1529
On this day: Bjorn Borg edges Jimmy Connors in historic Wimbledon final

Ever since the first steps he made on the tennis court, Bjorn Borg was one to keep an eye on, making a breakthrough season at the age of 18 in 1974 when he won Rome and Roland Garros, followed by another title in Paris in 1975 and at Wimbledon in 1976, just after turning 20.

A year later, Bjorn had to miss the Roland Garros and all the action between Dallas in April and Wimbledon, competing for the Cleveland Nets in World TeamTennis that spring, offering much more money than Roland Garros and even Wimbledon where he earned just $25,500.

Things were not easy for the Swede during those two weeks at Wimbledon 1977, trailing two sets to love against Mark Edmondson in the second round and overpowering Vitas Gerulaitis in a memorable semi-final match that carried them after 6-6 in the deciding set, with the American having a game point for a 4-2 lead in the last set.

Bjorn managed to prevail both in that encounter and against Jimmy Connors on July 2, toppling the American 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in a grueling three hours and 14 minutes for the 25th ATP title and fourth Major less than a month after turning 21!

It was a memorable final, precisely a century after the first one way back in 1877 and Borg described the win as the "happiest of his career." The encounter could have been completed much earlier, with two break points for Bjorn in the fifth game of the decider that could have sent him 5-0 up, with Jimmy repelling them both to perform a comeback and level the score at 4-4 before Borg claimed the last two games to seal the deal and defend the title, joining Rod Laver and John Newcombe who did that before him in the Open era.

Connors survived a tight third game of the opening set and broke at love at 4-3 after a double fault from Borg, closing the set with a volley winner at the net in the next game for a 6-3. More troubles were waiting for Borg at 1-1 in set number two, fending off break points to close the game with an ace and gain the momentum, scoring his first break of the match at 3-2 when Connors sent a forehand long.

Serving to stay in the set two games later, Jimmy netted a backhand to suffer another break and hand the set to his rival who was on a roll now, earning a break in the second game of the third set when Connors netted an easy backhand.

A service winner pushed Borg 3-0 up and his advantage became even more significant in game four after another error from the American who was far from his best in those moments, unable to impose his shots and take the timing away from the Swede.

Jimmy pulled one break back in game five but his groundstrokes were nowhere near where he wanted them to be, getting broken again to let Borg serve for the set at 5-1. The Swede held at 15 with an ace to take two sets to one lead, looking good to close the match in the following set after being the better player a much better on the court since the beginning of set number two.

Connors was not to be denied, though, serving better in set number four and breaking Borg for a 4-2 lead after a weak smash from the Swede. Bjorn broke back in the very next game thanks to a loose forehand from the American and had his chances on the return in game nine as well before Jimmy landed a backhand winner to bring it home and stay in front.

Serving to stay in the set in game 12, Bjorn suffered a break at love after a beautiful lob winner from Connors who forced the fifth set and a chance to win the second Wimbledon crown, the first in three years. As always in big moments, Borg managed to start all over once the decider was underway, earning a break in the opening game of the fifth set with a backhand down the line winner and confirming the lead with a forehand winner in the next game for a 2-0 lead.

Wasting game points, Jimmy was broken once again and Bjorn found himself 4-0 up after an ace, marching towards the finish line and dominantly controlling the scoreboard. Facing elimination, Jimmy fended off a couple of break points in game five and that marked the first stage of his comeback, pulling one break back to extend his chances and stay alive.

The American held in the next game to reduce the deficit to 4-3 and a volley winner in game eight gained the second break for him, leveling the score at 4-4 and taking the thunder away from the Swede. His efforts were in vain, though, sending a backhand long in game nine to lose serve again and allowing Bjorn to hold at love a few minutes later and take the set 6-4, completing the triumph in one of the most memorable Wimbledon finals that took everything from both players.