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The story when Bjorn Borg came back from retirement to play Monte-Carlo with a wooden racket

Professional tennis player Bjorn Borg hitting a volley on clay with a wooden racket

A short notice retirement

You probably already know the story, Bjorn Borg who won an impressive total of six consecutive French Open and five consecutive Wimbledon sharply turned his back on tennis at the young age of 26-year old. He was still playing elite tennis when he retired, having just made the final in 1981 at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open where he lost both times to John McEnroe, he looked like he had a few good years left in him.

The first sign that it was time to hang up his racket was when he lost the first final to McEnroe in Wimbledon. For the first time in his career, he was not upset that he lost. This made him realize that he had lost the passion and the desire to win at any price. The final blow came at the U.S. Open the same year where he once again lost in the final to McEnroe. The Swede had left the grounds of the tournament before the trophy ceremony even began, he was done with tennis.

He came back on the tour for a few matches after that, but he stopped tennis altogether in July 1984.

Bjorn Borg comes back in Monte-Carlo with a wooden racket

In spring 1991, almost 10 years after retiring from tennis, Bjorn Borg decided to attempt a comeback on the tour in Monte-Carlo without training or even playing an exhibition match before. After spending the last 10 years with short hair, Borg decided to let it grow for the occasion and to use his beloved, but outdated wooden racket like in the good ol' days.

Unfortunately, the tennis racket technology had evolved in the meantime and wooden rackets were not used anymore after being replaced with graphite ones that were lighter and more powerful. When asked about it a few years later, Borg said that he did not know any better :

Well, I had never played with anything else. I knew that if I wanted to do well I had to use another racket but I thought, you know: why change?

Why change you would ask? Maybe to win a few matches! His comeback was disastrous, without any practice or exhibition match before entering Monte-Carlo, Borg lost in two sets in the first round. In his 9 first matches after coming back on the tour, he did not win a single set. It's only in 1992 that he decided to finally make the switch to a modern racket, just before joining the Champions' Tour.

Bjorn Borg: a man of routine

Even though his decision to come back on on the pro circuit with a wooden racket could be surprising at first, it should be recalled that Bjorn Borg was always keeping the same routine when he was playing, his long hair and his wooden racket being only the tip of the iceberg.

Borg left nothing to chance when it came to Wimbledon, we might have done the same thing if we won it five times in a row! Every year he kept the same routine : the same hotel in Hampstead, the same locker, the same chair, the same number of towels.

His oddest routine you might ask? Abstinence from shaving and having sex for the duration of the tournament. The precise placement of Rafael Nadal's water bottles pales in comparison.


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