Bjorn Borg was the first teenage star of the modern tennis, bursting onto the scene in 1972 and winning his first titles in 1974, including Roland Garros. By the age of 22 at the end of 1978, the Swede had already conquered almost 40 ATP titles and six Grand Slams, forging his way towards undisputed 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 have only wondered what his career would look like when he turns 30! Bjorn 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, using incredible stamina and fitness to crumble rivals and impose his strokes on the court.
There was only one problem in that fairy tale, the fact that Bjorn became sick and tired of everything after eight years of endless traveling around the world, needing a break from tennis badly. The ATP officials didn't like the idea at all, afraid of losing their biggest star even for a half a year, warning him that he would be forced to play qualifications once he decides to come back.
That was unacceptable for one of the sport's most excellent figures who had raised the popularity of tennis to another level, choosing to play only ten ATP events in 1981 and winning his last Grand Slam title in Paris, losing Wimbledon and the US Open finals to John McEnroe which strengthened his decision to take a break even more!
The great Swede claimed his 64th and last ATP title in Geneva on September 27, 1981, still at the age of 25, with not a single person in the world of tennis who believed back then that this would be the last trophy he lifted in a career!
In the first round, Borg took down the 17-year-old compatriot Mats Wilander, who would 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 80s.
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 the Swede had the upper hand in the decider to advance into his 88th ATP final, losing only 24 of those overall.
There, Borg ousted Tomas Smid 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 four games in succession and cross the finish line. A month later Borg played in Tokyo, losing to Tim Gullikson in the second round that proved to be his last encounter of the season.
Despite the warnings, Bjorn stepped down from the scene, showing up at only one official event in the entire 1982, at home in Monte Carlo where Yannick Noah beat him in the quarters. In the next two seasons, we saw Borg just twice on the court, in Monte Carlo and Stuttgart, his final appearances until 1991!
Out of shape and with a wooden racquet, Bjorn tried to make a comeback but that turned to be a disaster as he lost the last 14 ATP matches of his career, an unprecedented fact 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 have ever seen.
The list of accomplishments he achieved by the age of 25 will stay untouchable for the decades to come and it is a huge shame he didn't compete for a few more years against the young guns and develop his game for the new racquets and more powerful tennis.