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Borg credited with changing tennis

  • Bjorn Borg led the way for Swedish players to become a success in the game
  • Borg won 11 major titles in a glittering career despite retiring aged just 25
  • Borg's double-handed backhand with topspin revolutionized the game of tennis

(CNN) -- Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg has been credited with changing how the modern game is played.

In this month's Open Court program, Borg sits down with fellow-Wimbledon champion Pat Cash to discuss his life and the impact he had on tennis in Sweden and the world in general.

Borg's domination in the 1970s left a long-standing legacy in Swedish tennis, carried on by Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg -- with Robin Soderling flying the flag for the nation in the present day.

But it wasn't just Borg's success that inspired a generation and a nation -- his use of the double-handed backhand shot had never been seen before, and was to change the way tennis was played from then on.

"Basically I started playing double handed on both my forehand and backhand side because my first racket was very heavy," said Borg.

"Those old wooden rackets were heavy which is the reason why a lot of people started playing double-handed, for instance Connors and Chris Evert.

Bjorn Borg: One of the greatest players
Swedish tennis boom in the 80s and 90s

"The difference with my backhand was that I was playing it with top spin which was something of a revolution. People kept telling me I couldn't play them top spin and had to play the shots flat," Borg added.

"I remember a guy once gave me a book on tennis and said 'read this, it shows you how you are supposed to play' -- but you know I am a bit stubborn and did not listen, so I carried on playing my backhand with top spin and that is how the whole thing started."

Wilander, himself a winner of seven grand slam titles, told Open Court that Borg's success, and the way he played, directly contributed to Sweden's subsequent production line of great players.

"The reason why Sweden has had so many great players is because of Borg. We saw the success he had and we decided to copy his style," said Wilander.

"Other players were stuck in the 1960s and 1970s with an old fashioned way of playing and we were lucky to come into tennis at that time."

Although Borg's unique double-handed backhanded helped make him the world greatest player, the 55-year-old -- a winner of six French Open titles and five Wimbledon crowns -- credits his first coach, Percy Rosburg, with turning him into a top player.

"When it comes to technique, nobody has more knowledge in the whole of Sweden than Percy," continued Borg.

Those old wooden rackets were heavy which is the reason why a lot of people started playing double-handed
--Bjorn Borg
  • Tennis
  • Bjorn Borg
  • Pat Cash
  • Mats Wilander
  • Robin Soderling

"He can see immediately what kind of problem you have, or what you are supposed to do, and rectify it.

"He was the Swedish national coach when he came to my hometown, which was a real big deal back then. He told me that I had some potential and he was the person who took me to Stockholm to launch my career."

But it was not just Borg's style of play that made him so successful, the Swede also became the first player in the modern era to be able to switch from the slow clay of Paris to the grass courts of London with almost seamless transition, a skill he puts down to the Swedish climate.

Borg continued: "You know growing up in Sweden meant we had a lot of rain when we played tennis. We were taught on clay courts but because of the weather, we had to go indoors a lot.

"Those indoor courts were very fast and that is how I learned to play on grass, even though clay was certainly my favorite surface.

"At the beginning people would say about me, 'oh this guy will never be able to play good on grass because it is so different'. But I improved and learned how to adapt."

Many experts believe Borg was the greatest player of all time, winning 11 grand slams despite retiring aged just 25.

At the time, Borg's decision to quit tennis while he was at the top of his game caused controversy, but the man himself has no regrets and still feels he made the right choice.

"I was very young when I stepped away from the game and if I had played another five more years I am sure I would have won more tournaments -- but we can only speculate about that," added Borg.

"I had great rivalries back then, with people like Connors and McEnroe, but off the court we really respected each other and when I quit John kept on ringing me to say 'I don't understand what you are doing'.

"In the end, I just had to tell him to stop ringing me, because I wasn't going to change my mind," said Borg.

"I had just had enough and I lost the motivation to play. Even If you just lose even a little bit of your motivation, it's very difficult to carry on playing.

"It came to a point when I didn't care if I was winning or losing -- and if you get to that situation then something is seriously wrong."