Bjorn again: Leo Borg is ready to make a name for himself in the tennis world with the icon father coming along
The small group of British coaches traveling with their young forwards to the more remote outposts of the tennis world have had to catch their breath lately.
Because among the fellow travelers they’ve mingled with, around the farthest corners of the junior circuit, it’s one of the game’s great icons, Bjorn Borg.
He was there in Brazil and the Dominican Republic earlier this month and watched his 17-year-old son Leo take on some of GB’s best prospects. The Swedish legend was also present at a tournament in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh at the end of last year.
Bjorn Borg’s son, Leo, will play in qualifying for his first tournament on the ATP main circuit
Bjorn (left) has spoken openly about the ‘burden’ of his reputation that Leo (right) follows
Borg, now 64, is increasingly falling in love with tennis during his sometimes turbulent life and is increasingly seen on the margins of the sport he once dominated.
This is because Leo is seriously embarking on his professional career, which will take two important steps in the next two weeks. This week he got a wildcard for a Challenger event at the Puerte Romano club in Marbella.
Next week, he will play the same way in qualifying for what will be his first tournament on the main ATP circuit, in the same venue. Bjorn will be present and has agreed to present the trophy.
Two weeks ago, in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, the British contingent was initially shocked to see the wavy-haired phlegmatic Borg sitting in the stands among the handful of locals and tourists attending such events.
“He remains quite unobtrusive and doesn’t show any emotion when he watches, but he’s very pleasant and down to earth when you talk to him,” said GB coach and former player Jack Carpenter.
Bjorn Borg won the 1980 men’s singles title at Wimbledon, beating John McEnroe in five sets
“I have a Three Lions tattoo on me, and he came up and had a chat about how Sweden’s England bogey team is in football. When people recognize him, he is very polite to them and happy that selfies were taken. I think it took the players some time to get used to having someone like that watching their games, but they got used to it. “
At the Santo Domingo event, Leo faced three British youngsters, narrowly beating two of them before losing 6-1 6-3 in the final to Bournemouth’s Jack Pinnington-Jones, a fellow 17-year-old who is one of is our highest valued prospects.
Prior to that, Leo had just won an international Grade 1 event in Porto Allegre, Brazil, the highest level on the track. He is now ranked the number 12 junior in the world.
It follows that he got the wild cards for Marbella, although there is no doubt that having one of the most famous names in the game helps.
It is, of course, a double-edged sword, given the expectation it entails. Someone like Gary Nicklaus, son of golf enthusiast Jack, could probably attest to that after his relatively modest career on the PGA Tour.
Leo has a physical resemblance to his father, but also has a similar playing style to the icon
Leo is the son of Borg and his third wife Patricia Ostfeldt, and his fame will only be increased by the physical resemblance to his father. They even play in a similar way with a particularly recognizable backhand, a hallmark of his base game. Wearing the same FILA clothing brand adds to the effect.
When Hollywood made a film about Bjorn’s biggest rivalry – 2017’s Borg Vs McEnroe – Leo responded anonymously to an ad in which a child was supposed to play young Bjorn. Unsurprisingly, they got the part when they saw it.
The name has already opened a few doors. At Wimbledon 2019, he received a wild card for the qualifying rounds for the junior event and lost in the first round.
It is said that there has been a heated discussion behind the scenes at the All England Club over its award, with debate as to whether he deserved it. Obviously, he has improved since then.
Leo insists he’s not overwhelmed by walking in his dad’s sneakers: “I get there and people judge me more on my tennis and not just focus on me as Bjorn Borg’s son,” he told itftennis.com this week.
He insists he is not deterred by following his father and hopes that he will be judged on his displays
“I’m trying to get to the top and my game has come a long way. Maybe they just used to compare me to my dad. I didn’t care because that’s normal, but now I think people recognize me more and don’t necessarily see my dad.
“I know it will follow me all my life, so I don’t care and it’s something I’m dealing with. I’ve never thought about it too much. “
Bjorn also takes the equations into account. “He will always be reminded of me, which is quite a burden for him,” he told the New York Times. ‘So I don’t pressure him, and I try to make sure the life he lives doesn’t put pressure on him. That’s our way of helping him. Then he himself is the only person who can put pressure on him. “
The 64-year-old’s involvement in tennis has been sporadic since his abrupt retirement at the age of 26, though he has resurfaced as Team Europe captain in recent years in the Roger Federer-inspired Laver Cup match against a rest of the world- outfit.
Borg Snr says he is doing his best not to pressure his son as he asks to come up higher
Now the circle is complete again with the simple pleasure of a father who cherishes his son.
His return to Marbella this week almost exactly coincides with the 30th anniversary of his extraordinary comeback at the age of 34 at the Monte Carlo Open with a wooden racket.
At the time, he was married to the flamboyant Italian singer Loredana Berte and was beset by financial troubles after retiring from the sport after winning eleven Grand Slam titles. His attempts to compete with outdated equipment were unsuccessful and he soon retired to the shadows.
Those who made Borg Jr. , who trained for a time at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca, describe him as a solid baseliner and a strong athlete, promising without showing any signs of exceptional prowess.
There are relatively few precedents for parent and child combinations in tennis, although current world number 32 Taylor Fritz is the son of Kathy May, quarter-finalist of the French and US Open in the late 1970s. One can only wish the young Leo, with such a legacy, the best of luck.