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Bjorn Borg is truly one the best tennis players. He was the one who showed the world that his style of play, powerful shots from the baseline, could be put to good use. He did have to change his game for the Wimbledon but by and large his game depended on his baseline play. He had won the 11 Grand Slams (the grand slam tournaments are : The Australian Open, The French Open, The Wimbledon & The US Open) , the most before Pete Sampras won 12 in 2000. But his main problem was that he was not as good on the hard courts. That is quite a misleading statement because he did reach 4 US open finals (he participated in the Australian Open just once), but if you include the ATP tour then it’s fairly obvious that he never did perform as well on the hard courts. That is the only blight on an impeccable career.
His main rival at the middle and fag end of his career was John McEnroe. The fiery American, who was one of the most unconventional players I have ever seen, was one of the best to come out of America. His rivalry against Bjorn Borg is legendary and although I did not see the famous 1980 final live, I have seen the recordings. Man, the match is something out of this world. The sheer intensity of the 4th set, even on a recording, is to be seen to be believed. The best part of McEnroe’s game was his attacking style of play. Everything that approached him had to be dispatched with force. But he too had a weakness : clay. His style of play never really suited the surface. He did reach the French Open final once and never performed well on the clay leg of the ATP tour. I am not going to let go of this rant without mentioning his temper and his famous “You Cannot Be Serious” quote. Everyone considers his temper a bad thing but the truth is that his verbal outbursts helped him and threw his opponent off. It was part and parcel of his game and what everyone also ignores how much this attracted new audiences (and Ad money). Of course, this is all in hindsight, at that point everyone wanted to throw the book at McEnroe.
Then there was Jimmy Connors. The never-ever-give-up tennis player. I saw one of his biographies and the thing that stands out immediately is his ability to come back from almost being beaten to take the match. I have seen him play a few times and his ability to play on any surface is supreme. He had this uncanny ability to play a little better than his opponent when it mattered the most. He is also one of the few I can say who had no “weak” surfaces. He played the hard courts, grass courts and clay courts with consummate ease. So why have I not chosen him as the best tennis player? Because he was erratic. The ups and downs in his career are too numerous to count. Now I know that’s a good thing and it says a lot about what kind of a player and a person he was. But it’s not the hallmark of the best tennis player.
To be continued…..