The professional career of tennis player Bjorn Borg was one of the most interesting ones in recent sports history. Borg’s success in his sport came at an early age. Borg won Wimbledon when he was only 20 years old. However, by the time he was 26, and in the prime of his career, Borg inexplicably retired from professional tennis.
Borg, who began playing tennis at the age of nine, was the number one ranked junior player by the age of 14, and had won the Italian and French Open titles at the age of 18. These were the first of several major championships won by Borg in the late-1970s and early-1980s. Probably his greatest achievement was a winning streak at Wimbledon that spanned five years. Between the years 1976 and 1982, Borg enjoyed almost complete dominance in competitive tennis.
His retirement in 1983, then, was a bit of a puzzle. Although his tennis skills waned somewhat in the previous year, he was still one of the top players on the tour, and only 26 years old. Even stranger was the fact that Borg refused to reveal the reasons for his retirement.
Following his retirement, Borg encountered a number of personal problems, which kept him in the media spotlight even though he was no longer playing competitive tennis. Five years after his retirement, an emergency hospital procedure saved his life. While Borg claimed he had food poisoning, it was suspected he had a barbiturate overdose. In 1991, Borg attempted to make a comeback on the professional tennis tour, only to fail miserably. His insistence on using a wooden racket at the time, when all of the world’s top players were using synthetic fiber rackets didn’t help matters. At the same time, Borg’s second wife attempted to commit suicide, and the couple divorced in 1993.
Eventually, Borg disappeared into obscurity, and there is little news of his life today.
These sad stories about the latter part of his career aside, Borg was an important figure in modern tennis history. He was the sport’s first modern media star and icon. Teenage girls conferred upon him a status comparable to a rock star. His face adorned t-shirts and other merchandise, making him the most marketable tennis player in history. Borg’s career was a catalyst for Swedish tennis players. Those who followed in his footsteps and held him up as their hero included tennis stars Mats Wilander and Stephan Edberg. Perhaps most important of all, Borg gave to the sport of tennis a degree of showmanship, visibility, and marketability that was used as a role model for the sport in future decades.