1975-80: Bjorn Borg

Fox's 20th Century

In this five-year period, tennis was transfixed by the "Iceman", and so were his opponents. He won Wimbledon five times in succession and his career record included six French singles titles. The Swede with the popularity and following of a pop star was awesome.

In this five-year period, tennis was transfixed by the "Iceman", and so were his opponents. He won Wimbledon five times in succession and his career record included six French singles titles. The Swede with the popularity and following of a pop star was awesome.

In his first Wimbledon final win (1976), against Ilie Nastase, he became the first man since Chuck McKinley in 1963 to become champion without dropping a single set. Nastase never really recovered from that beating by a player the doyen of tennis writers, Rex Bellamy, said "ran like a deer, leapt about as if on springs, and served and smashed like a low-flying bomber".

When, at the age of 10, Borg was first spotted by the Swedish national coach, Percy Rosberg, he was playing both forehand and backhand shots two-fisted. He was already remarkably quick about court and when fully grown (5ft 11in and 11st 5lb) he was athletically without equal on the tennis circuit. His ability to concentrate for long periods and make crucial small corrections to his game left most opponents feeling inferior.

More often than not he simply forced them into errors with his relentless baseline play. It was impressively effective, and the thousands of teenagers who loved him for his Scandinavian good looks and long blond hair, kept secure by a headband, hardly cared what critics said. Yet in spite of his success, which included inspiring Sweden's first Davis Cup triumph in 1975, he failed in 10 attempts to win the US championship.

If Borg had the good fortune to be on the circuit ahead of John McEnroe and after Rod Laver and John Newcombe had retired, he took the opportunity with both hands.

His success also brought huge wealth, not least because he signed up with Mark McCormack's IMG group. When he won his first Wimbledon title the lucrative pattern was set. In 1977 he overcame Jimmy Connors in five sets. In 1978 Connors was overwhelmed by one of Borg's most impressive performances. In 1979 Borg had a tougher final against Roscoe Tanner, but in 1980 the era of McEnroe was announced with the American taking him to five sets in an astonishing final including a 34-point tiebreak.

Borg retired at the early age of 25 and fell on hard times with his business ventures. Although he continued to play exhibition tennis and made some semi-serious comebacks, his stoic character has always made it difficult for him to join in the camaraderie between other exceptional former champions.

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