Statistics document the amazing triumphs of Bjorn Borg
| New York
Department of staggering statistics: Bjor Borg now has winning streaks against the rest of the world's top 10 tennis players that add up to a 74-0 record.
If there was any glimmer of doubt remaining about the amazing Swede's superiority, he dispelled it during the Colgate Grand Prix Masters at Madison Square Garden, impressively defeating the four men rated immediately below him. First he put down Roscoe Tanner, his conqueror at the US Open, then he beat Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe in matches that went the distance to third-set tiebreakers before thrashing his old friend Vitas Gerulaitis in the finals, 6-2, 6-2.
Borg's awesome speed and accurate ground strokes spelled disaster for a willing but outgunned Gerulaitis, at the same time serving notice that Bjorn intends to dominate the game in the 1980s even more conclusively than he did in the 1970s.
Gerulaitis stayed with him long enough to split four games, but in the fifth Borg broke open the match as decisively as an ax splitting a log. On one point he raced from sideline to sideline and back twice to outlast Vitas, who fought off nine break points but still lost the game to the patient, impassive Swede.
Masterfully disguising his intentions, Borg went on to rip one deadly passing shot after another past the onrushing Gerulaitis, proving that a great player can be aggressive from the baseline as well as at the net. Borg directed his exaggerated topspin putaways to whichever portion of the court Vitas left uncovered, and won the $100,000 first prize in just an hour and 16 minutes, bringing his listed prize money for last year for more than a million dollars if you don't mind stretching the calendar a bit to include this tournament, which officially concluded the 1979 season.
The victory, his 15th in a row over the frustrated Gerulaitis, was special to the 23-year- old Borg because he had never before been able to win a title in New York City. His biggest disappointments have come in the US Open here, but now he is looking to next September's renewal with fresh enthusiasm.
His No. 1 goal, though, is to keep winning Wimbledon, where he has prevailed four years in a row for a modern record. Asked how long he thought he could sustain this dominance in the world's premier tournament he said, "Oh, 10 or 15 years." Then he allowed himself a rare grin to let the journalists know he was jesting . . . maybe.
More than any other contemporary player, Borg has developed the classic champion's ability to perform at his best on any surface, be it the slick grass of Wimbledon, the fast indoor matting of the Colgate tournament, or the slower clay of Europe. Nothing seems to fluster or intimidate him to disadvantage.
Where others berate officials and gesture obscenely at the big, boisterous crowds like those in the Garden, Borg is always in control.
When he first began playing the sport seriously as a youngster, he was guilty of a succession of temperamental outbursts that led his parents to ground him for two months, during which he was not allowed near a tennis court. He has been a model of court deportment ever since . . . and is grateful to his parents for teaching him a valued lesson.
He worked hard from the start, and his conditioning and stamina are becomming legendary. He is harder to beat a five sets then at three, the somewhat limiting arrangement employed here. He would like to see the Masters adopt five-set matches, but only if days of rest were liberally interspersed.
It was a shame for the Borg-Connors slugfest, the outstanding match of the week, to be confined to three sets. Connors, the proud new father, says he is a new man this year, and his play in the Colgate indeed demonstrated and unexpected diversity and equanimity that may breathe added vitality into his long-standing rivalry with Borg. McEnroe too is closing the gap on Bjorn -- but Borg continued to improve and rise to the challenge.
He will play a lighter schedule this year in an attempt to be still sharper for the important tournaments, and plans to enter only three events prior to the French Open in late May, where he wants to become the first man to win it three times in a row since it went international in the 1920s.
As for the Grand Prix circuits itself, it loses Colgate as a sponsor but picks up Volvo, and talk in strong of restructuring the series for 1981, cutting back from the present absurd total of 90 or so dates to perhaps as few as 25, with the season-ending Masters possibly to be played in December when it would end the year in fact as well as format.
It will be interesting to see if he loses any matches in those events. Right now he looks as unbeatable as that 74-0 combined recent record against his major opposition.