Leo Borg follows in footsteps of famous father Bjorn Borg
Photographers gather as Leo Borg, the world’s 356th-ranked junior, takes to the court in the junior Wimbledon qualifying event.
It’s an unusually large gaggle of snappers for this level, but that’s because the 16-year-old Swede is no ordinary tennis player.
He is the son of the legendary Bjorn Borg, the 11-time grand slam winner who became a global superstar in the 1970s courtesy of his movie-star looks, long blonde hair and stunning performances on the court.
An hour or so later, Leo’s Wimbledon hopes evaporate at the hands of the ninth-seeded Frenchman Loris Pourroy, who wins 6-1 6-4.
“Today was not my day,” a disappointed Borg told CNN Sport after his match.
Despite hailing from tennis royalty, the young Borg only played on grass for the first time a week ago.
“It’s very different from other surfaces,” he added.
“It goes very fast, and serves are very different. You have to get down with the legs and have to focus all the time.”
Leo’s first foray on the grass came 47 years after his father won the boys’ title at the All England Club at the age of 16.
Four years later, Bjorn Borg won the first of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. He also clinched six straight French Open championships on clay, before his shock retirement in 1981, at the age of 26.
His rivalry with American John McEnroe was legendary: the ice-cool Swede against the bad boy American. Their epic 1980 Wimbledon final clash – won by Borg in five sets – is often cited as one of tennis’ greatest matches, alongside the 2008 final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The resemblance between Leo and his dad, both in playing style and appearance, is striking.
Just like his famous father, Borg junior is a strong athlete, with wide, muscular shoulders. Leo hits his backhand double-handed, almost the same way as his father, who modeled the stroke on the slap shot in ice hockey, which he played as a child.
Unlike some parents of budding tennis stars, Borg senior — now 63 — isn’t heavily involved with his son’s tennis career.
He wasn’t present at the qualifying event at Roehampton, a 20-minute drive from Wimbledon in southwest London, but he did give his son some advice.
“Just play my game and have fun,” said Leo, who is softly spoken and polite, with long blonde locks and silver chains around his neck.
Leo’s coach Rickard Billing said of Bjorn’s involvement: “He’s hands off, he basically wants him to play tennis and have fun.”
Earlier in the week, Borg junior told the ITF website he tried to “block out” the extra attention he receives as the son of a tennis legend.
But his famous last name has already opened a few doors.
In 2017, he portrayed his pre-teen father in the movie “Borg vs McEnroe,” a biopic about his dad’s intense rivalry with the American.
A year ago, Leo Borg signed a sponsorship contract with Fila, an Italian sports brand that reached iconic status in the 1970s thanks to his father, who famously wore the brand’s headband to keep his long hair in check.
Although there are four Swedish boys ahead of him in the junior rankings, Wimbledon’s All England Club handed a wild card into its junior qualifying event to Borg.
Receiving the wild card was “a very special moment,” said Leo, adding he was “very thankful to play here.”
‘Good and bad’
The link with his father is a double-edged sword, according to Billing.
“Days like this, of course, it gets to him, because he has to answer [questions from reporters],” said Billing, an affable Swede who has guided Leo since he was 10.
“It’s more photographers, when he is warming up, or when he is walking to the court, but I think he is handling it quite well.
“On the other hand, he got the wild card here, so it’s good and bad.
“We didn’t plan this tournament at all.”
Having just finished school in Sweden, Leo Borg is putting all his efforts into forging a career as a tennis player.
“He really wants this, it’s not because of the name, or cutting corners or whatever,” said Billing. “He likes the tennis.”
Leo’s first time on the grass has been a good learning experience, according to Billing.
“It is good for him to see the level, to see the competition, because when you play in the lower grades, maybe you don’t get that like, ‘Oh, I need to work harder, or I need to do this,'” he said.
“So I feel that this is good for him. He gets to see the high level and hopefully, this is a big inspiration to come back for the coming years.”