While such rivals as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were fiery, Bjorn Borg had built a reputation as a tranquil, subdued fellow. But as 1981 ended, the 25-year-old Borg launched his own rebellion. A world-weary Borg, toppled at the top of the rankings by McEnroe, informed tennis’ powers-that-be that at the start of 1982 that he would commit to playing only seven events – three less than the mandated minimum.
Very well, came the reply. Based on that, Mr. Borg, you must therefore play the qualifying of any tournaments you play – including the Grand Slams.
Borg did not play any events in the first three months of 1982. In April, he was given a wild card into Monte Carlo, losing handily in the quarters to Adriano Panatta. Later that month, the Swede honored a commitment he’d made to play the Alan King-Caesars Palace Tennis Classic in Las Vegas. Entered in the qualifying, Borg won his opening match versus a big-serving lefty from Michigan, Victor Amaya. Then, on April 20, he took on another American, veteran Dick Stockton. Stockton won that match 7-6, 1-6, 6-2. Said Stockton, “I don’t think he had his heart in the qualifying. I don’t think it was something he wanted to do.”
That ended Borg’s 1982. For the rest of the year he would play exhibitions, hinting that he planned a return to competition. But in January 1983, Borg announced his retirement from tennis. There would be one match in ’84, none from ’85-’90 and a scant dozen from ’91-’93, all of which he’d lose. Like his fellow Swede, famed actress Greta Garbo, Borg just wanted to be alone.
Politics… now players can take off time… but then…