The U.S. Open tennis tournament will begin August 27 in New York. The tennis world will again descend upon the USTA's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as the top men and women in the world vie for the final Grand Slam championship of the year.
A list of players who have won the Open includes the game's the most distinguished players. Federer, Connors, Laver, Sampras, Agassi, Nadal, McEnroe, Becker - all triumphed at the U.S. Open. One name, however, leaps out, conspicuous by its absence. Bjorn Borg, the great Swedish player, never won the U.S. Open.
Borg's place in tennis history is unquestioned. He won 11 Grand Slam titles, tied for 4th all time with Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal. True, he also failed to win the Australian Open, but he only played there one time, losing in the third round in 1973. Borg won six French Open crowns, including four in a row from 1978-1981, and five Wimbledon titles, winning each year from 1976-1980. Borg played in 10 U.S. Opens and reached the final four times, but he never lifted the trophy.
Borg's best chance may have come in 1976. The tournament was still being played on clay, a surface on which Borg had already won two French Opens. Playing as the #5 seed, Borg cruised to the final, but lost to Jimmy Connors in four sets as Connors captured the second of his record five U.S. Open titles.
Borg was back in the final in 1978, and this time he was reigning champ of both the French Open and Wimbledon. The surface was now hard courts, but the opponent was the same. This time Connors won in straight sets and it wasn't close. The score was 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
In 1980 Borg again won both the French Open and Wimbledon, beating John McEnroe in an epic final at Wimbledon. At the U.S. Open McEnroe avenged that Wimbledon loss. After downing Connors in five sets in the semis, he beat Borg in a thrilling five-set final. Borg made it exciting by coming back from two sets down to force a fifth set, but McEnroe prevailed, 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4.
Borg last chance came in the final in 1981. He had won his 6th and final French Open that year, but McEnroe had broken through to beat him at Wimbledon. In New York Borg beat Connors in straight sets in the semifinals to set up one more battle with McEnroe. This time it was McEnroe in four sets.
And just that fast, Borg was gone. He effectively retired after the 1981 season at the age of 25. Of all the men in the open era who won at least five Grand Slams titles, Borg is the only player who failed to win the U.S. Open.
Earlier this year the Tennis Channel unveiled its list of the top 100 players of all time. Borg came in at #7, the fifth best male player ever. It makes his struggles at the U.S. Open all the more mystifying.Brad Boeker has been a fan of professional tennis for over 30 years. He coaches high school tennis in Illinois.
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