Imagine If Borg Had Persisted in Playing?

What if Bjorn Borg had played on into his 80s instead of retiring after his age 25 season in 1981? That is arguably the biggest What If question in men’s tennis. Although he technically continued to compete, playing a single match in each of the following three years (1982–84) and making a “comeback” attempt in the early 1990s, he effectively ended his career on the tour in 1981, having amassed the greatest number of Slams (11) and titles (64), of any player in tennis history up until the age of 25 (slams, at least; titles may only be Open Era).

Of course, the major disclaimer is that we don’t know. This is all conjecture. Playing pretend is a little bit of the purpose of this topic. You don’t have to inform us if you dislike these kinds of exercises.


A few preliminary thoughts. This hypothetical scenario can only come to pass if Borg reappears in 1982, rejuvenated. Imagine that at the end of 1981, after some introspection, he feels rejuvenated and ready to tackle 1982, returning to his former, icy self.

The key query, though, is whether or not he would have been able to adjust to the mid-to late 1980s game. It is safe to conclude, in my opinion, that he would have been able to continue performing at his best for a few more years, until he was about 28 (1984). John McEnroe can give us some indication as to what might have occurred. McEnroe’s best years were 1980–84; 1985 was still excellent but declining. McEnroe’s career as an elite player ended in 1986, but he continued to play as a top 10–20 player until 1992. Although Mac was a good three years younger, the comparison’s main focus is on how he fared versus the evolving field.

Australian Open: Considering the comparatively soft competition in the first part of the 1980s, I believe he would have participated in it a few times and won it at least once. Let’s include one more Slam.

Roland Garros: The butter and bread of Borg. He would have remained the favorite for the first several years, if not more, and he would have played it eight or nine more times (if he was healthy). Though the increasingly dangerous Lendl in 1984 makes things more difficult, I favor his chances against Wilander and Noah in 1982–1983. Let us assume, however, that he wins two of those three years and then another. +3 Slams


Wimbledon: Although Mac had surpassed Borg, it was still his second-best Slam. However, we shouldn’t presume that their rivalry wouldn’t have rebalanced, in my opinion. The next one was won by Connors, followed by two more by McEnroe and two more by Becker. Though I believe Borg will only win one more Wimbledon, I would like to offer him more. One-up Slam.

Borg’s White Whale, US Open. The next two were won by Connors, Mac, and Lendl. Borg could have taken one from Jimmy, in my opinion. One-up Slam.



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