My Childhood Hero, the Iceman

My Childhood Hero, the Iceman

Photo Credit: Women’s Wear Daily

How Björn Borg made me a Wimbledon watcher

Lauren Sarney, Senior Staff Writer

My mother once told me a story about a young tennis prodigy that hailed from Sweden. During practice, he missed a shot and was so fed up that he threw down his racket in a fit. His father, who’d been watching him practice, picked up the discarded item and calmly told his son that he wasn’t allowed to play tennis for a whole month. For a young man with such drive, I’m sure that moment was crushing, but his father said he’d lost the privilege of play when he disrespected the equipment and the etiquette of the game. To this day I’m not sure how much of that story is true (and neither is my mum — she’d heard it, she’s only just admitted, from her father), but what I do know is that it gave rise to my sole sport obsession and with it my favourite player: Björn Borg.  

If the story is true, then it could be considered step one in a fantastic hero’s journey. Borg grew up to be a No.1 world champion, winning 11 grand slams and entering six consecutive final rounds at Wimbledon (which, if you’re not big on tennis, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world). Being victorious at Wimbledon seems to me to be equivalent to winning the FIFA World Cup and the Tour de France, all while being knighted. Borg learned from his (potentially falsified) start: he was commended for his civility and hipness during play and while off the court, resulting in his superhero-esk nickname “Iceman” referring to his “cool” demeanour (the 70s were certainly a creative time). It was this attitude that made him butt heads so fiercely with a young and fiery John McEnroe, a tennis pro from America whose lean and scrappy playing style was completely overshadowed by his unruly behaviour (screaming at umpires, fans, you name it), resulting in one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time. How else to put it? Borg sparked my interest in the sport, and his feud with McEnroe made an inferno. They are part of the reason I play tennis, the other part being that it is so much fun. I’ve yet to meet a feeling more satisfying than that of your racket hitting the ball mid-air, knowing your serve is perfect this time. I’m not a great player, and that’s ok. I leave the adeptness to the professionals and cheer them on from a court near you. 

Borg will always hold a place in my heart, but the new kids on the block are something else. My top two current players to watch are Frances Tiafoe and Coco Gauff. Frances is ranked No.18 in men’s singles. He’s charismatic, earnest, and simply boiling over with potential. One to watch — mark my words. Coco is ranked No.3 in women’s singles. Winner of a Grand Slam, owner of my heart. I’d say she will go far, but she has already. You go, Coco Gauff.