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Zverev overcomes ailing Ruud to reach Roland Garros final

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

Alexander Zverev reached his maiden Roland Garros final on Friday in his fourth semi-final attempt. The German moved past two-time finalist Casper Ruud 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Zverev lost in the last four at the clay-court major in 2021, 2022 and 2023, falling to Ruud in straight sets at this stage last year. However, the 27-year-old ensured history did not repeat itself under the lights on Court Philippe-Chatrier, where he recovered from a slow start to dispatch the Norwegian.

“I am extremely happy,” Zverev said. “I have so much history on this court and had some of the best memories and worst memories on this court. I am so happy to be in the final finally on my fourth semi-final. I am going to give it my all on Sunday.”

Zverev acted as a brick wall at times against Ruud to force the seventh seed to hit an extra shot. The fourth seed also took large cuts off both wings to rush Ruud, who received treatment for a stomach issue in the third set.

Ruud was bent over on the baseline at times between points and looked like he was physically struggling during the changeovers in the third and fourth set. Zverev now holds a 3-2 Lexus ATP Head2Head series advantage against Ruud following his two-hour, 36-minute win.

“I thought the first two sets were very high level. End of third set I saw he started to move a bit slower. That is normally how it is when you are not feeling quite well,” Zverev said. “But his shots are still the same. So if you look at how he moves and all that and if you start to be a bit more passive, he is going to win the match. Credit to him to play until the end and fight until the end. He is a great champion and a great person.”


The No. 4 player in the PIF ATP Rankings is chasing his first major title and will play Carlos Alcaraz in Sunday’s final. Zverev’s only previous major final came at the US Open in 2020, when he lost to Dominic Thiem in five sets.

With his 34th tour-level win of the season, Zverev became the second German man to reach the Roland Garros title match in the Open Era, joining Michael Stich (1996). The 27-year-old has won his past 12 matches, having lifted his sixth ATP Masters 1000 crown in Rome last month.

He has been made to work hard in France, beating Tallon Griekspoor and Holger Rune in consecutive five-set matches. The two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion also eliminated record 14-time champ Rafael Nadal in the first round.

Ruud was aiming to become just the seventh player to reach his third consecutive Roland Garros final. The World No. 7 has earned the most tour-level wins (39) and clay wins (21) in 2024.

“Casper is too good of a player to be waiting and not to play your game,” Zverev said. “I did that last year and lost very easily. I knew I had to be much more aggressive and take it on to him and I did and I am pleased the balls went in today.”


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Rivalries: Alcaraz vs. Sinner

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

The Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner has blossomed into one of the most gripping rivalries in recent memory.

Possessing thunderous groundstrokes and incredible agility, the Spaniard and the Italian have frequently clashed on the biggest stages and are poised to do so plenty in the next decade. It is a rivalry which brings the best out of the Top 3 PIF ATP Rankings stars. looks at each match in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry, in which Alcaraz took a 5-4 lead following his win in the 2024 Roland Garros semi-finals.


Roland Garros 2024, SF, Alcaraz d. Sinner 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Both stars entered the Roland Garros semi-finals keen to reach their first final at the clay-court major. Alcaraz and Sinner had each entered the tournament with an injury concern, but found their form and worked their way to the last four.

Sinner came flying out of the gates, surging to a set-and-a-break advantage. But as the Italian began to make more unforced errors, Alcaraz raised his level to flip the momentum of the match.

The Italian suffered from cramp in his hand and arm early in the third set, but managed to dig deep to take a two-sets-to-one advantage. From there, Alcaraz again turned the match around and his ability to maneouvre himself into winning positions in rallies proved the difference. 

The Spaniard hit 65 winners compared to 39 for Sinner, and rallied to reach the final after four hours and nine minutes.

While it was a disappointing loss for Sinner, the 22-year-old was already guaranteed to climb to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time on the Monday after the tournament.

BNP Paribas Open 2024, SF, Alcaraz d. Sinner 1-6, 6-3, 6-2
Sinner entered his semi-final clash against Alcaraz at the BNP Paribas in March unbeaten on the season. The Italian was a perfect 16-0 on the year, having won his maiden major title at the Australian Open in January.

Sinner had played flawlessly through the first three months of the season and entered the match as slight favourite with Alcaraz stepping onto court 11-3 on the year. The 22-year-old’s favourite tag seemed justified after the opening set, with Sinner cruising into a 6-1 lead. Sinner produced the perfect start, hitting six winners to Alcaraz’s one, according to Infosys ATP Stats.

However, Alcaraz did not surrender. The Spaniard fought through the opening game of set two and earned a crucial hold to stem the tide. He eliminated the early errors that plagued him in the opening set and began to find his footing in long rallies, finding greater variety to level. The 21-year-old continued to mix up his tactics in the final set and lost just three points on serve in a one-sided decider. By moving back to “Medvedev territory” on return, he hurt Sinner with big cuts to begin the point and often began the rallies on the front foot.

After two hours and five minutes, Alcaraz sealed victory on his third match point to end Sinner’s unbeaten start to the season. With his win, Alcaraz advanced to his his sixth ATP Masters 1000 final (4-1), denying Sinner his fourth at the time (1-2). It was Alcaraz’s first tour-level final since he lost to Novak Djokovic in the previous August in a Cincinnati epic; he had been 0-4 in semi-finals since that defeat.

“I stayed strong mentally,” said Alcaraz, who pointed to his head after the win. “I think that’s a really important part in this game. You have to be strong mentally if you want to overcome these kind of matches, a set down against someone that’s playing an unbelievable game. I’m really happy with the things that I’ve done after that.

“I changed my style a little bit, I changed my game a little bit and I think it worked very well. I’m really happy to beat Jannik and be in the final again.”

Alcaraz then faced Medvedev in the final, cruising to a straight sets win to clinch his fifth Masters 1000 title.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/03/09/04/26/alcaraz-indian-wells-2024-friday.jpg” style=”width:100%;” alt=”Carlos Alcaraz” />
Photo Credit: Getty Images

China Open 2023, SF, Sinner d. Alcaraz 7-6(4), 6-1
After Alcaraz won 7-4 tie-breaks to open each of their previous two matches, Sinner claimed the opening-set tie-break by the same scoreline at the China Open.

In a marathon opening frame, Sinner twice came back from a break down. He began to take control by moving Alcaraz around the baseline and winning all 15 of his net points in the set.

After navigating a tense opening to the second set, fighting off five break points across his first two service games, Sinner sprinted through the finish line.

“For sure in the very top [of the big matches I’ve played],” the Italian said of the win. “I would say every match against him is very tough. We always show great respect, we both play great. When we play against each other, we try to stay on our limits.”

Sinner followed up the victory by beating Medvedev in the Beijing final to claim his fourth tour-level title of the season, equalling his personal-best tally from 2021.

Miami Open presented by Itau, SF, Sinner d. Alcaraz 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2
Two weeks after their Indian Wells showdown, Sinner gained swift revenge with a comeback victory at the Miami Open presented by Itau. In a show-stopping semi-final, Sinner won one of the points of the year: an action-packed 25-ball rally that ended with a delicate, dipping passing shot to bring the crowd to its feet.

Despite that moment of magic — and early leads in all three sets — Sinner was on the ropes when he faced two break points at 3-4 in the second. But the Italian answered the bell with a match-changing surge, winning 19 of 21 points to take the set and build a 2-0 lead in the decider.

Alcaraz appeared to be struggling physically early in set three, but he willed his way to one final push. In the end, his 22 winners were not enough to overcome 28 off the racquet of his opponent.

“It means a lot. We both played a very, very high level of tennis again. I just tried my best,” Sinner said after advancing to his second Miami final. “We both tried to play very aggressive tennis and today it went my way so I’m very happy.”

Sinner was beaten by Daniil Medvedev in the Miami final but went on to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title later in the season in Toronto.

BNP Paribas Open 2023, SF, Alcaraz d. Sinner 7-6(4), 6-3
Alcaraz captured his third ATP Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open in 2023, returning to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings following his triumph. The Spaniard did not drop a set en route to the title, but was pushed the hardest by Sinner in the pair’s semi-final clash in Indian Wells.

In another entertaining battle, the bulk of the drama came in a back-and-forth opening set as Sinner took full advantage of a dip in level from his opponent to turn a 2-4 deficit into a 5-4 lead, winning 11 straight points in the process. Sinner kept the pressure on to create a set point at 6-5, but a uniquely Alcaraz combination — big serve, drop shot, volley winner — erased the chance and ensured the set would be decided in a tie-break.

Encouraged by his escape, the Spaniard powered through the tie-break and carried his momentum into set two, when he consolidated an early break with a point-of-the-season contender, planting a topspin lob on the baseline after a Sinner dipper forced him to retreat from the net. He later wriggled out of 0/30 to hold for 5-2, and served out the match with ease behind a pair of punishing forehand winners.

“I’m really happy to get through this great match. Jannik obviously is a really great player with great shots,” Alcaraz said. “I would say we’re going to have a great rivalry over the years. We are playing in the best tournaments in the world. It’s not over here. We are going to play a lot of great matches.”

US Open 2022, QF, Alcaraz d. Sinner 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-7(0), 7-5, 6-3
In one of the matches of the 2022 season, Alcaraz and Sinner battled late into the New York night. Across five hours and 15 minutes of twists and turns, the only constant was elite tennis and tireless effort from both men. Alcaraz and Sinner took turns lighting up Arthur Ashe Stadium, flashing their tremendous athleticism and power in equal measures.

Sinner dominated the third-set tie-break to take a two-sets-to-one lead and carried his momentum into the fourth set as he scored an instant break. But the fearless Alcaraz erased a match point with Sinner serving at 5-4 and went on a run of four straight games to force a fifth set. Again trailing by a break, the Spaniard repeated that feat by winning four games in a row in the fifth set to claim victory at 2:50 a.m.

“Honestly, I still don’t know how I did it,” Alcaraz said. “You have to believe in yourself. I believed in my game. It was really difficult to close out the match. I tried to stay calm, but it is difficult in the moment.

“The energy I received in this court at 3 a.m., it was unbelievable. Probably in other tournaments, everybody [would go] to their house to rest. But they [stayed] in the court, supporting me. It was unbelievable.”

Alcaraz went on to claim his first major title at Flushing Meadows and by doing so he became the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the PIF ATP Rankings.

Wimbledon 2022, Fourth Round, Sinner d. Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3
Just hours after Wimbledon looked back to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Centre Court, Sinner and Alcaraz provided a glimpse of the future with their first Grand Slam meeting in the fourth round.

In the first Centre Court match for both, Sinner overwhelmed Alcaraz with his pure ball-striking and had two match points to wrap up a straight-sets win before Alcaraz found his rhythm to take the third-set tie-break. After converting on his fourth set point, the Spaniard raised his racquet, soaking in the crowd’s roar.

As the match grew more physical, Sinner stemmed the tide with two battling holds to open the fourth set, then scored the decisive break to edge ever closer to his third major quarter-final. After missing out on three further match points on return at 5-3, Sinner saved a break point as he served out one of the most entertaining matches of the fortnight. A forehand winner — Sinner’s 35th of the match — completed the victory after three hours and 35 minutes.

“Carlos is a very tough opponent and a very nice person, so it is always a huge pleasure for me to play against him,” said Sinner, who would fall to Novak Djokovic in five sets in the quarter-finals.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2022/07/03/19/12/sinner-wimbledon-2022-sunday-fist-pump.jpg” alt=”Jannik Sinner” style=”width: 100%;” />
Photo Credit: Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

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Sinner on Alcaraz defeat: 'It's part of my growing process'

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

Despite his obvious disappointment, Jannik Sinner is taking the positives out of his Roland Garros run, which ended at the hands of friend and rival Carlos Alcaraz at the semi-final stage on Friday.

The 22-year-old Italian led the Spaniard by two sets to one before he eventually fell in five sets in a match that lasted four hours and 10 minutes.

“I think it was a great match. For sure the sets he won he played better in the important points. I think that was the key. Obviously disappointed how it ended, but it’s part of my growing and the process,” Sinner said. “Thinking back before the tournament reaching this point, I’m obviously very happy.

“In the other way, I’m disappointed about the match today. Now I’m just to keep looking forward to improve, to try to do my best I can and then we see what I can do in the future here in this tournament. If we watch the positive side, I have improved from last year.”

Sinner, who will rise to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, was competing in the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the first time. The Australian Open champion dropped just one set en route to the semi-finals before he lost to Alcaraz, who improved to 5-4 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

Their rivalry is one of the most exciting on Tour, with their clash on Friday one of the most anticipated matches of the year. Sinner is excited for more heavyweight clashes with Alcaraz in the future.

“If we watch the results, we always or most likely play against [each other] in the semis or final or quarters, [in] very important matches. I think that’s exciting for the game, especially when head-to-head is quite close,” Sinner said. “And the winner is happy and then the loser tries to find a way to beat him the next time. I think that’s exciting. That’s what I will try to do.

“I think we study each other very well. You can see a little bit of tension sometimes of both players and both sides just because we know each other slowly a little bit better. Each time when we play against [each other] we expect a couple of things and then to mix up the plan, you make different choices sometimes on the court. I think next time obviously is going to be different.”


Sinner entered Roland Garros having missed Rome due to a hip injury. The 13-time tour-level titlist looked comfortable through his opening five matches but suffered with cramp during the third set against Alcaraz.

“For sure, some tension. Tension and after cramp a little bit,” Sinner said of his on-court issues. “I handled these situations a little bit better now. I had previous years these kind of moments where I couldn’t handle them. If we watch that, I handled them a little bit better. It was quite early in the match. We didn’t play so much, so I was not worried about my body. Was keeping up quite well.”

Sinner leaves Paris holding a 33-3 record on the season. He is next scheduled to play at the ATP 500 grass-court event in Halle, which begins a week from Monday.


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Alcaraz defeats Sinner in five-set Roland Garros SF thriller

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

Carlos Alcaraz advanced to his first Roland Garros final on Friday when he defeated Italian Jannik Sinner 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a Paris semi-final thriller.

In one of the most anticipated matches of the year, both players struggled to find their best level in the opening two sets. With the match all square at one set all, Alcaraz looked to gain control when Sinner suffered with hand cramp at 2-2 in the third set. The Italian regularly shook out his hand between points and although his service speed dropped in the game, he saved four break points to survive on serve before he received treatment at 3-2.

Sinner came out firing on the resumption to break Alcaraz immediately and held firm on serve to move ahead. Alcaraz refused to surrender in the fourth, though, with both players striking the ball with clean and effortless timing. With little to separate them, the World No. 3 Alcaraz found more quality and intensity in his play at the end of the fourth set to win it and force a decider.

The 21-year-old then produced moments of magic in an absorbing fifth set, breaking Sinner’s serve early with a fierce forehand winner. Alcaraz put his foot down from that moment and refused to let Sinner back in, sealing a mammoth victory on his third match point after four hours and 10 minutes. Alcaraz, who struck 65 winners to Sinner’s 39, raised his arms in the air and embraced the roar from the crowd after sealing his win.

“You have to find the joy suffering,” Alcaraz said after his win against Sinner, who won two more points than the Spaniard in the match (147-145). “That is the key, even more here on clay at Roland Garros. Long rallies, four-hour matches, five sets. You have to fight, you have to suffer but as I told my team, you have to enjoy suffering.”

With his third Top 5 win of the season, Alcaraz improved to 5-4 against Sinner in the pair’s ever-developing Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

“The toughest matches that I have played in my short career have been against Jannik,” Alcaraz said. “The US Open in 2022, this one. Jannik is a great player. The team he has as well and the great work he puts in every day and I hope to play him many, many more matches like this against him. One of the toughest matches that I have played for sure.”

Alcaraz will aim to win his third major title and improve to 3-0 in Grand Slam finals when he faces Casper Ruud or Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s championship match. The 2021 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF victor won the US Open in 2022 and lifted the Wimbledon trophy in 2023.

The 21-year-old is the youngest player to advance to a major final on all three surfaces and the second-youngest Roland Garros men’s singles finalist since 2000. Rafael Nadal reached the title match in 2005, 2006 and 2007 aged 19-21.

Alcaraz missed Rome last month due to a right forearm injury but has been comfortable on the Parisian clay. The Spaniard, who sunk Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the quarter-finals, has dropped just three sets in the French capital.

Sinner was competing in his first semi-final at the clay-court major and was trying to reach his second major final. The 22-year-old, who won the Australian Open in January, will rise to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday and leaves Paris holding a 33-3 record on the season.


Sinner raced out of the blocks against Alcaraz, breaking the 21-year-old’s serve in the opening game to gain an immediate foothold. The Italian swung freely and showed little sign of nerves throughout the first set in contrast to Alcaraz, who struggled to find his range in the early stages. Alcaraz did eventually get on the board in the fifth game, but it was too little too late in the set, with Sinner remaining relentless from the baseline to lead. Sinner committed nine unforced errors in the set compared to 12 from Alcaraz.

Alcaraz raised his performance in the second set to force his way back into the clash. The 13-time tour-level titlist capitalised on Sinner’s lack of depth to open up the court, playing aggressive, front-foot tennis to shift momentum. The Spaniard had a spring in his step after breaking back at the start of the set and bounced back to his chair after sealing the second set on his first set point. Sinner committed 12 unforced errors in the set and hit just three winners to allow Alcaraz a foothold in the clash.

With momentum going his way, Alcaraz then broke Sinner’s serve early in the third set to take control, but the Italian responded by winning three games on the spin. The 22-year-old broke back for 2-2 before he fended off four break points on his serve to move 3-2 ahead. He received treatment for cramp at 3-2 and then took further control when he produced a moment of magic on return, hitting a backhand winner crosscourt on break point to lead 4-2. Sinner closed out the set on serve to move to within a set of his first Roland Garros final.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/06/07/17/35/sinner-roland-garros-2024-sf-treatment.jpg” style=”width:100%;” alt=”Jannik Sinner receives treatment during his Roland Garros semi-final against Carlos Alcaraz.” />
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
In a high-quality fourth set, both players hammered the ball from the baseline. The Italian and Spaniard went blow for blow with their thunderous groundstrokes and at 4-4, there was little to divide them. With a raucous crowd enjoying every minute, it was Alcaraz who found the decisive breakthrough, teeing off when he could to force a fifth set.

Alcaraz continued to play at a high intensity in the fifth set against Sinner, who started to tire. The Spaniard raced 3-0 ahead and hit 15 winners in the set, according to Infosys Stats, to improve to 10-1 in fifth sets at majors.

“I saw him struggling a little bit in the [third set], but I was cramping as well in the third set,” Alcaraz said. “I learned from last year’s match against Djokovic and was in the same position today. But I learned you have to be calm, to keep going because the cramp is going to go away. You have to fight. The third set was a little bit weird but the fourth set and fifth set were great points. [We played] great tennis and I am really happy with everything that I have done today, waiting for my moments.”

Did You Know?
Sinner, 22, vs. Alcaraz, 21, was the youngest major semi-final since Andy Murray, 21, defeated Nadal, 22, at the US Open in 2008.


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Arevalo/Pavic oust top seeds Granollers/Zeballos to reach Roland Garros final

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic are one win from earning their first major title as a team.

The ninth seeds eliminated top seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 on Friday in two hours to reach the Roland Garros final.


Granollers and Zeballos won the pair’s two Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings earlier this year without dropping a set. But Arevalo and Pavic rallied from a set down to make their fourth final of the season. They have won titles in Hong Kong and Geneva, and also reached the Rome final.

Granollers and Zeballos only won 62 per cent of their first-serve points, compared to 79 per cent for Arevalo and Pavic according to Infosys Stats. The ninth seeds broke serve twice in the third set to move on to the championship match, in which they will play 11th seeds Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori.

Arevalo and Pavic have won 13 of their past 14 matches. They defeated Bolelli and Vavassori in the Rome semi-finals and the Monte-Carlo quarter-finals without losing a set in either clash.


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Bjorn Borg: 1974 Roland Garros Title, 50 Years On

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

The depth of his groundstrokes was striking; his court speed and ability to play big points so well, was on another level, while his first-serve percentage under pressure was amazing. Those on the international circuit in the infancy of Open Tennis, knew Björn Borg was coming. For many, they foresaw the break-up of traditional serve-volley tennis with a new level of physicality, intelligence, and consistency in the precocious 15-year-old, fresh out of school.

There had been baseliners before, but instead of yielding to critics of his technique, the Swede was able to absorb punishment in matches and showcase resilience time and again by focusing solely on the next shot. For it’s all Borg had known since first striking a ball against his garage wall on Torekällgatan 30 in Södertälje. He didn’t receive any coaching for the first three years. “Upon leaving school, I gave myself two or three years before I’d potentially return to my studies,” says Borg, 50 years on. He never needed to look back.

“I took training just as seriously as matches from a young age, and that was one of the keys to my breakthrough and career,” Borg told, from his home in Stockholm. “My mentality was one of my greatest strengths and I went onto court training myself to focus.

“I learned to concentrate initially for an hour, then two hours, and early on the pro circuit, I knew I could last however long the match lasted. In training, I would empty my mind and think only of the present: the next ball, the next shot. I’d focus on switching on and off, of winning the next point. ‘I have to win. I have to get the impossible ball back.’”

Percy Rosberg immediately recognised a special talent, when he first met an 11-year-old Borg in 1967. Today, the 91-year-old still takes the three-minute walk from his apartment to SALK Hall, his second home.

“A boy got sick, so Björn jumped into a group of 10 talented children,” said Rosberg, who had once been the Swedish No. 4 behind the likes of Sven Davidson, Uffe Schmidt and Jan-Erik Lundqvist. “In our first hit, Björn moved me around the court for 20 minutes, getting every ball back and moving me from corner to corner. His footwork was fantastic. I tried to put him in his place, correcting his backhand technique, but it didn’t work. He had total control over length of shot. I felt, even then, Björn already knew that if he put the ball over the net one more time than his opponent he would win. Anyone can have good strokes, but if a player has a good head they will do well in the pressure of matches.”


For Borg’s achievements were already considerable prior to the start of the 1974 French Open at Roland Garros. Former World No. 3 Tom Okker, who now lives six months of the year in South Africa, remembers, “We all saw his potential. His game style, even then, was the same, centred on fitness, strength and speed around the court.”

In a legal sense, Borg was a boy when he became the youngest Italian Open champion in late May 1974, but as he flew down after practice from Stockholm to Paris, only a matter of hours before his first-round match against France’s Jean-Francois Caujolle, at 4 p.m. on Monday, Borg’s mentality and approach to fitness training was already set in stone. Lennart Bergelin, who’d become like a “second father”, and Rosberg, who had developed Borg’s distinctive topspin groundstrokes, had seen to that. Of Bergelin and their focus, Borg says, “We took one match at a time. ‘You’re playing this match, now it’s the next guy.’ We never looked ahead. He knew I was in good shape; he could tell looking at my face if I was ready. He would tell me who I’d play, and then we’d prepare.”

Speaking 50 years on, Rosberg, still smiles at the memory of Borg’s second appearance at Roland Garros, following a fourth-round exit in 1973. “Björn and I practised together on the Friday and Saturday, then I said, ‘Now, you should get ready to go to Paris and you’ll play your first match on Monday afternoon.’ Bjorn said, ‘No. I want to practise with you, here, on Sunday. I don’t have anyone to practise with. I practise with you on Sunday.’ So we trained together in Stockholm the day before his first match in Paris. It was stupid! Who, among today’s players would arrive only a matter of hours before their first match?”

Borg carried the same game he first showcased to Rosberg to the very top. “He had a two-handed backhand, but he tried to hit his forehand more than his backhand,” says Rosberg of 11-year-old Borg. “I could understand that, as he did not move as well to his backhand side. When he came to me, I taught him really how to dance and how to step for his backhands. He was the hardest, most dedicated student I met. As a 15-year-old, on his Davis Cup debut for Sweden, he adopted the same tactics: get the ball back, have his opponent hit one more ball and use his footwork to excel.”

Having had breakfast at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Borg, Bergelin and Rosberg landed in Paris and went straight to Roland Garros in the city’s south-west corner. That first evening, Borg dug himself out of a hole at 1-4 down in the deciding set against Caujolle, coming within two points of an early exit, and over the next 12 days the third seed negotiated victories over the likes of American Erik Van Dillen, ninth seed Raul Ramirez of Mexico and, another American, Harold Solomon. “I didn’t mind playing five-setters,” said Borg. “Even before my first Grand Slam win, I felt as if I was very strong mentally. Five sets never bothered me. I never got tired on a tennis court, I still felt fresh physically and mentally. Youth was on my side, and I won those important points.

By 16 June, as Borg’s wooden racquet landed on Parisian terre battue, everything changed with a swarm of on-court autograph hunters and photographers. Before he wore his headband; grew a wispy beard; had an airline fly 40 newly strung racquets (35kg/77lbs) from his favourite stringer in Stockholm to all over the world; wore fitted clothing and observed myriad daily rituals that all became a part of his iconic mystic, Borg was a major champion. Aged 18 years and 10 days. The superstitions, such as “rushing out to my preferred chair on the court” came when he returned to a tournament in a bid to retain a title.

There was personal disbelief as Borg found his court-side chair, following a 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Spaniard Manuel Orantes, arguably the world’s best clay-courter. “I arrived with a lot of confidence, but Borg was a phenomenon and had progressed very quickly,” admits Orantes, 50 years on. Borg maintained a sheepish smile as he scanned the 18,000-strong crowd to catch sight of Bergelin, who’d been without Rosberg’s coaching support since the quarter-finals. The pre-match feeling was that Borg was meant to be “a player for the future. Not today…” remembers Stan Smith.

“Going into the final, I felt I was going in as favourite,” says Borg. “I felt I had a good chance, but for me to play in my first Grand Slam final was a big thing. It was Orantes’ too. He had more pressure, because of his age. Even though I lost the first two sets, I still felt I had a good chance to win. After the tie-break, I still thought I had a chance.”



Former World No. 3 Brian Gottfried, who finished runner-up to Guillermo Vilas in the 1977 Roland Garros final, told, “Once Borg arrived, he showed that there was more than one way to play tennis.”

The American is well placed to assess Borg’s development, having squared off against the Swede on 11 occasions between 1974 and 1980. “When Björn was playing well the depth of his groundstrokes was striking, I felt he wouldn’t let me in. When his groundstrokes were shorter, I knew that I was able to play my own game. His serve improved dramatically as the decade went on. His first-serve percentage under pressure was amazing. He had a tremendous ability to play under pressure, his style of play was different – high percentage tennis with his topspin groundstrokes. His court coverage and speed were incredible. It was in complete contrast to others who played offensively, more aggressively with flatter groundstrokes. He didn’t appear to have a nerve in his body.”

Looking back, Borg admits, “Winning the Italian Open gave me a load of confidence. I was not the favourite to win [in Paris], but I had a good chance to go very far. To win the whole thing, I never really believed it myself and I don’t think people believed it anyway. I played a lot of close matches in the tournament, and won, but I was strong throughout.

“You work all your life. You start with a sport you love, you set your sights on a lot of things, you have goals and dreams, you sacrifice a lot and finally you win that last point of a Grand Slam tournament. Not many players win a Grand Slam tournament, let alone just after your 18th birthday. It’s the most beautiful feeling.”

Orantes had beaten Arthur Ashe and Vilas en route to the title match. The Spaniard played some glorious tennis in the final and led Borg 4-1 in the second set, before his movement became impaired due to a back injury. “I trusted myself, but at the key moments my playing level and energy dropped,” Orantes, who continues to live in Barcelona, recalls. I couldn’t control the game and keep going. He won with much superior form.”

It was a lesson for Orantes, who went onto win the 1975 US Open and 1976 Masters [now named Nitto ATP Finals] in Houston. “At the end of the year, I was worried and looked for a doctor in Barcelona to help me,” says Orantes. “I worked a lot building up my muscles and that made the next two years the best of my career. When I first saw Borg, I realised that the way of playing would change, and the matches would be more physical, similar to [Rafael] Nadal.”

In contrast, Orantes’ countryman, Rafael Nadal, now coming towards the end of his all-time great playing career, earned the first of his record 14 trophies at Roland Garros in 2005, aged 19 years and two days. To date, only Mats Wilander, aged 17 years and 288 days in 1982, and Michael Chang, aged 17 years and 109 days in 1989, have lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires at a younger age than Borg.



For it wasn’t just Borg-mania and hundreds of hysterical schoolgirls who had surrounded the shaggy-haired and lithe Swede and a team of policeman to get him from the dressing room to the court on his Wimbledon debut in 1973, which heralded the sport’s next superstar. But it was his consistency and exploits in 1974 — winning eight titles from 14 finals — that provided established stars with definitive proof of a player for the professional era.

Stan Smith beat 17-year-old Borg the first time they met in the 1973 Båstad semi-finals, under the gaze of Gustav VI Adolf, King of Sweden. Smith remembers, “He made too many mistakes in that first match, going for big shots, but you could see his tremendous fitness levels. The next year he’d become a ‘human ball machine’, realising that he didn’t need to go for big shots and that his speed around the court would make him difficult to beat. He was so fast that if he could just get to the ball, he wouldn’t lose. He came to the French and everyone was saying he was going to be a terrific player in the future, when he gets older. But 1974 was his coming out party.”

Early on, John Newcombe had noted how Borg’s unnatural groundstroke style — the high take back and follow through on his forehand, and the technique of his double-handed backhand — may soon wear down his wrist and shoulders. Today, Smith acknowledges that the Swede’s “service speed, the weight off his forehand and backhand slice approach shot were developments” to his armoury deeper into the 1970s.

During the 1974 Roland Garros trophy presentation, Bergelin stood beside Borg and explained to the crowd, “I was really nervous, and I have never been so nervous in my life. I think it’s more difficult watching the match than being on the court.” The 1948 French doubles champion with Jaroslav Drobny, ensured that all the mistakes he’d made as a player would not filter into Borg’s pursuit of becoming the leading tennis star. Rosberg, who went on to coach Stefan Edberg between the ages of 16 to 18, switching his double-handed backhand to a single-hander, recalls, “We learned from our mistakes and looked back on our own playing careers. Lennart and I were able to inform Björn to change things to improve. Björn understood that and knew we wanted the best for him. We all had a very good relationship.”

Rosberg, who’d left Bergelin after Borg’s five-set fourth-round win over Van Dillen, had watched Borg’s milestone moment with his wife, Majvor, in Båstad, a summer resort and home to the Swedish Open each July. Rosberg had a contract there for 32 years and needed to open a shop.

The architect of Borg’s dominance was Bergelin: a full-time coach for the modern age, a confidante and companion, who left his charge to relentlessly push through to 16 Grand Slam finals in 28 major tournaments. Regardless of the opponent, Bergelin would challenge Borg to leave nothing to chance. “Even if we have to lie, to suppose this opponent will be really tough, or this condition will make it really tough, that is how we think before a match,” admitted Bergelin. “One way to say it is that even if a threat is not there, we see a threat.”

“Lennart wasn’t just my coach, we were so close,” says Borg. “He knew everything about tennis. The most important thing was that he had contacts all over the world, because he had been ranked in the Top 10 as a player in the 1950s. So he knew everyone to contact, whether I needed to practice or he’d do something if I got injured and needed a physio.

“I could go out to a tennis court and wouldn’t miss too many points or balls. Tactically, we discussed about mixing up my game; to be aggressive at times and come in, because the other players didn’t know what you might do. But never too much. The players knew that if I stayed back, I was very tough to play and beat. I needed to switch up the tactics a few times and play mind games so to throw the opponent out of rhythm.”

Borg focused on tennis, nurturing his highly individual game, “a triumph of natural ability over orthodoxy” as long-time BBC broadcaster John Barrett once wrote, to win 11 Grand Slam singles crowns — a further five at Roland Garros (1975, 1978-81), and five straight at Wimbledon (1976-1980).

“We celebrated titles, but Lennart quickly put the focus on the next tournament that I was going to play,” says Borg. “Winning was more important for me and Lennart. That was the most important thing in life. My fitness and mental side remained the same throughout my career. I improved my serve, my confidence in going to the net, and I was a little more aggressive with my groundstrokes. From 1974 to 1980-81, I knew if a player were to beat me, particularly on clay courts, they would need to play their best tennis. Clay was always my preference.”

Bergelin passed away in 2008. “We never got upset with each other,” says Borg about their partnership. “He knew me, and I knew him. Sometimes he played a game with me to put me in a good mood. He wanted me to get into a good mood, to feel good mentally and physically. He could look at me and took time to get me in the best mental, psychological mood. He took me to the highest level and sometimes I didn’t realise that. If I lost, we were both so p***** off that we’d talk about it, but Lennart was even more upset than me!”

Rosberg, who worked as Borg’s coach from ages 11 to 19, continued to hit with Borg in the build-up to tournaments throughout the 1970s. He went on to coach the likes of Edberg, Peter Lundgren, Magnus Norman and Joachim Johansson and today oversees a group of talented 18-20-year-old Swedes at SALK Hall. Aged 91, he remains rightly proud.

“Björn didn’t have any great shots and he simply put his serve into court as a 17-18-year-old,” says Rosberg. “But he didn’t make many errors and continually got the ball back. His groundstrokes steadily improved, he became more aggressive and adept at coming to the net. I knew when Björn was 15-16 that the kind of game he played, getting the ball back and running from the baseline, may not have been stylish, like Roger Federer’s game, but I could not believe that he went onto win so many Wimbledon and French titles. It was great and I am so proud of him.”

In June 1974, having become the youngest champion (at the time) at Roland Garros, Borg was crystal clear about the future. “Even when I won my first French Open title, in my first Grand Slam final,” remembers Borg, “I said to myself ‘I’m going to win more Grand Slams. I want this. I know I can be a better tennis player’. I felt by winning my first at 18, I knew I’d win more in the future.”

At the centre of becoming a sporting icon, Borg always had tremendous support from his parents, Rune and Margaretha, who visited Grand Slam tournaments in London, Paris and New York, every second year. “They were very important to be there for me,” says Borg, now aged 68. “To see them watching in the stands was more important to me than the pressure of winning. My parents were understanding, supportive of me, recognising as and when, in my teenage years, I was becoming too involved — perhaps by not making me practise in the early years. They were the safeguard. They wanted me to enjoy the sport, helping and advising but never imposing restrictions. I had very good parents and without them, I don’t believe I would have had they success I did.”

Only Nadal (2008 and 2010), Roger Federer (2009) and Novak Djokovic (2021) have since clinched the Roland Garros and Wimbledon men’s singles titles in the same year. The ‘Ice Man’ achieved it in three consecutive years, 1978-79-80.

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Spizzirri, NCAA champion Planinsek among college players to qualify for ATP Next Gen Accelerator

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2024

ITA No. 1 Eliot Spizzirri and NCAA men’s singles champion Filip Planinsek are among 21 college players who will benefit from direct entry into ATP Challenger Tour events as part of the ATP Next Gen Accelerator.

This will be the second year of the joint initative between ATP and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) after a successful launch following the 2023 college tennis season. 

The programme was developed to increase the development pathway for top players in the American Collegiate system. Following the NCAA Championships last month at Oklahoma State University, players qualified based on their year-end ranking and/or performance in the NCAA Championships.

Ten of the 21 qualifiers, including Spizzirri and NCAA Singles Finalist Michael Zheng, are repeat qualifiers from 2023.

“Us college guys couldn’t be more grateful to be granted opportunities into these Challenger events because of our results this season. The Tour is extremely challenging, but this boost will provide college guys with a better opportunity to reach their goals and catapult themselves to a ranking where they are consistently qualifying for events on their own,” Spizzirri said. “College tennis has proven to be a great stepping stone to the professional tour and this initiative is just another addition to the benefits college has.”

Players ranked in the Top 20 of the ITA final singles rankings who have finished their education are granted up to eight Accelerator Spots at Challenger 50 and 75 tournaments, with opportunities split between main draw (for Top 10 ITA ranked players) and qualifying (11-20).

Players who reach the quarter-finals or better of the individual NCAA Division I Championships also qualify for the ATP Next Gen Accelerator if not already eligible through their ITA ranking.

These opportunities are available from 1 July 2024 for a period of 12 months. 


Players who qualify for the programme and will continue their education will receive six opportunities over six months (July–December), enabling them to benefit from the programme during their college off-season and parts of their fall season

In the first year of the initiative, 15 players entered a combined 67 ATP Challenger Tour events. Highlights include Nishesh Basavareddy climbing from unranked to the Top 500 in the PIF ATP Rankings in less than six months. The American reached an ATP Challenger Tour 75 final in Fairfield, where he defeated Steve Johnson and Alex Michelsen.

Ethan Quinn, the 2023 NCAA Singles Champion, began the programme ranked No. 477. He used seven of his eight spots, and has climbed as high as World No. 243.

Arthur Fery, the former Stanford standout, has surged from World No. 391 to a career-high No. 246.

ATP Next Gen Accelerator Qualifiers

 Player College
Eliot Spizzirri Texas 
Johannus Monday Tennessee
Micah Braswell Texas
Antoine Cornut-Chavinc Florida State
Ozan Baris Michigan State
Jack Pinnington Jones TCU
Chris Rodesch Virginia
Jake Fearnley TCU
Toby Samuel South Carolina
Michael Zheng Columbia
Oliver Tarvet San Diego
Nishesh Basavareddy Stanford
Murphy Cassone Arizona State
Cooper Williams Harvard
Alex Martinez Oklahoma
Colton Smith Arizona
Filip Planinsek Alabama
JJ Tracy Ohio State
Andres Martin Georgia Tech
Radu Papoe Cornell
Jack Anthrop Ohio State

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