Bjorn Borg was 11 when the Open era started in April 1968, demanding not much time to make a name for himself and become one of the world's best players. The Swede made Wimbledon debut shortly after turning 17 in 1973 and turned it into an instant success after reaching the quarter-final as the youngest player in the Open era, also becoming the crowd favorite.
A home player Roger Taylor halted Bjorn 7-5 in the fifth set, and Borg would suffer another quarter-final loss two years later, this time against the eventual champion Arthur Ashe in four sets. Bjorn was ready to take the next step in 1976, embracing his fourth Wimbledon campaign at 20 and going all the way to claim the title without losing a set, as the first player who did that since Chuck McKinley in 1963!
A few weeks earlier, Bjorn failed to defend the Roland Garros crown, losing to Adriano Panatta in four sets. He went to Wimbledon eager to claim his third Major crown and the first on grass despite playing with a severe stomach muscle pain that required injections to keep him on the court.
One of the reasons behind his commanding triumph stood in the serve, as he improved the initial shot in the last couple of months after working with Ilie Nastase. The Swede added that extra element to his already perfectly balanced baseline game that proved to be the winning formula for success.
It wasn't an easy road for Bjorn, who beat Brian Gottfried, Guillermo Vilas and Roscoe Tanner to get to the title match, where he ousted Ilie Nastase 6-4, 6-2, 9-7 on July 3 to become the youngest champion since Sidney Wood in 1931!
Like Bjorn, Ilie reached the final without dropping a set but stood no chance against the youngster who crossed the finish line in an hour and 47 minutes, with a real battle only in the third set. The Swede had 32 service winners in comparison to 22 hit by the Romanian, having the upper hand from his backhand wing that proved to be one of the critical elements of his triumph alongside the initial shot.
They had a similar number of smash and volley winners, and both created ten break chances, with Borg converting six and losing serve just twice to generate the crucial difference.
Bjorn Borg claimed the first Wimbledon title in 1976, without losing a set.
The more experienced Romanian defended a break chance in the encounter's opening game to bring it home after a service winner and broke Bjorn at 15 in game two thanks to a backhand down the line winner that gave him the initial advantage.
Ilie saved another break chance in game three and hit a volley winner to get out of jail and close it with a forehand winner that sent him 3-0 up. Bjorn was yet to find his range, experiencing more troubles when Nastase created another break chance in game four that would have certainly delivered the opening set for him.
The youngster saved it with a service winner and repelled two more to put his name on the scoreboard and gain momentum. A forehand winner in game five pulled the break back for Bjorn, who was back on the level terms after a nice hold a few minutes later.
The Swede overcame a slow start and took his first lead when Nastase sent a volley long in game nine, serving for the set in the next one. That tenth game went to deuce, and Bjorn wrapped it up with a service winner for 6-4, rattling off six of the last seven games for a massive mental advantage.
Nastase squandered three break chances in the second set's second game, and Bjorn broke him in the next one after a loose forehand from the Romanian, taking complete control over the scoreboard. A smash winner gave Borg a 3-1 lead, and he opened a 5-1 advantage when Nastase netted a smash in game seven.
Serving for the set, Bjorn fired four winners to create a 6-4, 6-2 gap and march towards the finish line. Nastase's game fell apart, and he missed an easy volley at the net in the third set's opening game to suffer another break and drift further away from a positive result.
Borg confirmed the lead with a hold at love in game two and repeated that in game four to stay on the title course. A volley winner pushed Bjorn 4-2 up, dropping just one point in the opening three service games and looking good to seal the deal in the next 15 or 20 minutes.
Ilie stayed in contention behind the initial shot and created two break chances in the eighth game, denied by Borg, who kept his serve intact and served for the title at 5-4. Nastase repelled a match point and broke on his third opportunity after a great backhand down the line that Bjorn sent into the net, leveling the score at 5-5 and giving the crowd something to cheer about.
The Romanian won three games in a row, but Bjorn made an excellent hold in game 12 for 6-6 before earning the crucial break in game 15 after Ilie's terrible volley that would cost him a lot. In one of the most significant games of his career, Borg held at love after a service winner to take the set 9-7 and cross the finish line, celebrating his first out of five consecutive Wimbledon titles.
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