Tag Archives: Bjorn Borg

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: No One Tells the Same Punchline 1,000 Times in a Row. You’ll Hear Tennis’ Classic Joke Again if Sharapova Wins

I’ll be honest and say I’m a little tired of the joke. It is actually a tennis classic, built into the fabric of the sport.

But every. . .single. . .time someone ends a long losing streak against another player, it’s the same line. Nobody beats Tomas Berdych 18 times in a row. That’s what we heard after he beat Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open this week. And when Andreas Seppi beat Roger Federer, ESPN ran the same joke on the scroll across the bottom of the screen.

Going into Saturday’s women’s final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Williams has won the past 15 times in their rivalry. I’m just going to warn you now, in case Sharapova wins. The joke is coming again. For most tennis writers, it writes itself on the computer.

It was a Vitas Gerulaitis original, though it has been misreported so many times that the truth of the slump he ended is now confused in oral history. He did not beat Bjorn Borg to end the streak. He never beat Bjorn Borg, period. But in 1980 at the Masters Gerulaitis ended an 16-match losing streak by beating. . .

Jimmy Connors. And he came into the interview room carrying a bottle of champagne, according to reports from the time, and said it in his self-deprecating celebration: “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row.”

The funny thing is, it was the start of Gerulaitis’ five-match win streak against Connors.

And it appears that Gerulaitis was right. According to the official ATP record book, which is not perfect, his final record against Borg was 0-16.

And according to Matt Cronin’s book “Epic” about the Borg-John McEnroe rivalry, after Gerulaitis made the joke that lives in tennis history, someone asked him if he had broken into the Big Three of Borg, McEnroe and Connors. Gerulaitis said, “I’ve always had this potential, but there aren’t three. There are the rest of us. Then there’s Bjorn.”

More honesty: When I started writing this column, I planned on asking that we finally retire that joke. Then, I started looking up some stuff about Gerulaitis. I’m remembering, laughing. I remember

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Bjorn Borg in a Sports Bar in Kansas, With a Beer and Cigarette, Singing Karaoke. . .

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

“Love me Tender.’’

Huh? I asked Bjorn Borg over the noise, as he was jabbing his elbow into my ribs.

“If you write about this. I sang “Love me Tender.’’ OK?

Uhh. What are you supposed to do when you’re standing in a sports bar in Wichita, Kan., talking to your childhood sports hero?

Well, let me get back to that story in a minute. Bjorn Borg is back again. Two books and an HBO documentary are out now telling his story. His and John McEnroe’s. It was one of the great all-time rivalries in sports. But it lasted only 14 matches. Each won seven.

I don’t read a lot of sports books. And oftentimes, I like to take two or three books with me on the road to have a little variety, depending on my mood. At this moment, I’m going back and forth between two books:

One is Matt Cronin’s “Epic: John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and the Greatest Tennis Season Ever.’’ The other is Stephen Tignor’s “High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and the Untold Story of Tennis’ Fiercest Rivalry.’’

Surely you can see the variety. One mentions Borg first in the title and the other mentions McEnroe. Now, on Saturday we get the HBO Documentary “McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice.’’

I know Tignor and Cronin, like both, respect both. So far, these are both excellent books, though I’m a little disappointed to hear that Borg’s famously low pulse rate might not have been true. It was a great day in my teen years when my doctor suggested I wear a medical tag around my neck telling people that my pulse was 45, 46, or whatever it was. If I passed out or something, people might think I’m dying.

It was my connection to Borg.

That and my $8 Fila socks.

Well, I also used the Bancroft Borg racquet, which was a beautiful thing until the laminated throat would start breaking apart. Once, the head fell off. And while I was a big Borg fan, I’ll admit I did switch to the Dunlop Maxply McEnroe after that. Still, the looping topspin forehand and two-handed backhand were almost Borg-like.

Yeah, right.

With all this Borg talk lately, my wife dragged out a picture of my old high school tennis team. And it’s uncanny: I looked absolutely nothing like Borg. Continue reading