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Borg: From selfish to selfless

Borg hit thousands of shots to win his trophies, which he will lose with just three blows of the hammer, writes Akshay Sawai.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 03:29 IST

The Wimbledon men's singles final will be played on July 9 this year, but someone will lift the trophies on June 21 itself. That is when the five cups Bjorn Borg won on Centre Court from 1976-80 will go on auction.

Borg hit thousands of shots to win each one of those trophies. He will lose them in just three blows of the hammer.

The Swede, whose success, wealth and good looks triggered orgasmic fan following across the world, said he was taking the step to provide for his loved ones. Alongwith the Wimbledon silverware, he is also auctioning off the racquets he used to win his first and fifth title. In all the sale is expected to earn Borg, worth $60 million at his peak, around $ 5,50,000.

Though not rich anymore, he still earns a bit. The Bjorn Borg Underwear range is popular in Europe. And he makes some money playing senior events. But while he may be earning enough to get by, his expenses are huge. He is twice divorced and has a son from a girlfriend (Ross Geller definitely had a Bjorn Borg poster on his wall growing up in the 80s). He and his current wife, Patricia Ostfeldt, also had a son in 2003. Ostfeldt has two children from an earlier relationship. Then there are lawyer fees to take care of.

Borg now is having to be what he wasn't in his playing days -- selfless. For the future of his family he is having to sacrifice the Wimbledon trophies, the very symbols of the selfishness without which he couldn't have accomplished all that he did.

Like most champions, Borg only cared about his career and nothing else. Everything that he did and those around him had to do was for him. He practiced and played matches, then went back to his room, read comics (he didn't want to burden his mind with anything more serious) and slept 14 hours. All else was taken care of by his coach, Lennart Bergelin, and his first wife, Marianna Simonescu, a tennis player herself.

The method worked. Borg won not just five Wimbledons but also six French Opens and is still the last man to have won both tournaments, played on contrasting surfaces, the same year. He became the most famous athlete of his time after Pele and Muhammad Ali, sported Mammon's tattoos -- endorsement labels -- all over and raised a fortune.

But the devotion to sporting excellence, and the refusal to develop other skills or interests in that prime phase, also left him under-equipped for the years after tennis. Not for him Vijay Amritraj's cultivation of contacts and silver tongue, and therefore, lucrative speaking engagements. Not for him the commentary career of John McEnroe because he is a man of few words.

Despite the shortcomings, he could have continued to live well had he been a little prudent in his ways. But Borg, always a playboy who liked to push the thrill envelope, took too many risks.

He had become a tennis legend by mastering safe play and control. But off court, he lived dangerously.

First Published: Mar 05, 2006 03:29 IST