We could spend hours talking about the figure of a prodigy like Björn Borg. Her track record, her arrival on the tour, her way of competing, her personality, even her episodes away from the track would give us to fill out a few articles. Some of them unknown. With all that, the Swede was the great dominator during the 70s, the star that dominated the spotlights, the idol of every child who grabbed a racket, but on that trip he was not alone. Behind him, a man accompanied him daily, guiding him in the right direction, someone who perhaps later did not have the recognition he should, although it is never too late to do justice to the people who helped write the story. We talk about Lennart Bergelin, the trainer who gave his life for Iceborg to become a legend.
Who Was Lennart Bergelin? For starters, it was the first Swede to lift a Grand Slam. Born in the 1920s in the town of Alingsas, this right-hander prolonged his career as a player between 1946 and 1955. At that time there was no ranking, but the amateur lists placed him among the top ten in a remarkable career. His moment of glory came in 1948, when he joined forces with the Czech Jaroslav Drobny to conquer Roland Garros in the doubles modality. For the first time in history, Sweden will celebrate the arrival of a great champion in the world of racket. Not even remotely imagined the outrage that would come years later.
Once the racket was hung, Bergelin wanted to remain linked to the world of tennis, but the opportunity would not come until 1970, when he was appointed Davis Cup captain. Five seasons he was in charge of the team, but life changed him from the second year on. At just 15 years old, a reserved but talented young man from Stockholm was called to defend the colors of his country. His name was Björn Borg and, from that moment, his sporting prowess would never again separate from Lennart. In fact, in 1975, thanks to three points harvested by Borg, the Swedes knocked down the old Czechoslovakia (3-2) to capture their first salad bowl. That same year, Borg would be champion at Roland Garros, successfully defending the trophy tied the year before. Something very large was beginning to cook.
It should be noted that in the 70s the figure of the coach was not yet implanted. It sounds strange considering that now the elite work teams are made up of more than ten people, quite the opposite than at that time, where they did not even travel with a coach. Lennart Bergelin was the first to take this profession to a higher level, to professionalize it, demonstrating that he could fulfill an essential role in pursuit of his player’s successes. The veteran technician taught his pupil his best arts through an academic character that would later be seen on the track, although it also helped him break molds.
For example, he projected the idea of starting to play topspin, inventing the concept top spin, a style that has never been seen before. Until Borg arrived. He trained him conscientiously so that he knew how to compete on clay but not forgetting the grass, although going up to the net didn’t go much with either of them. Of course, such a close relationship also led them to create ties on a personal level, that’s where Lennart had to mediate so that Björn did not give up the charms of women, the power of fame or the color of the bills before. There he played a fundamental role so that these luxuries did not distract him from the competition. Use this example to understand what your level of commitment was. Every night, the coach strung his student’s 20 Donnay racketsHe also did it with maximum tension, using his own weight so that they were well sharpened. Legend has it that both woke up several mornings to hear the creaking of some of these ropes.
“Organize my trips, lunchtime, training time, look for teammates, even get me out of bed. It does it all, ”declared the former world number 1 at the time, confirming the importance of his coach. And here the word ‘preparer’ is better placed than any other, since Bergelin also dealt with designing the cold, calculating mind of the young Swede, warning him of the danger that awaited him every day out there. “Even if you had to lie to him, if you had to assume that an opponent would be very tough, or that a circumstance would make everything more complicated, we did it that way. This was how we thought before each game. Although there was no danger, we saw danger“
His rivals, who suffered it on the track, also took note of that privilege that only a few could face, the figure of a coach who watches over and watches over your steps throughout each calendar. “Lennart was a very nice, positive and joking guy, with good treatment,” Manuel Orantes defined him years ago in an interview. “He knew how to instill values in him and that is vital. When you are the center of attention from a young age, you need a suitable environment. Borg was always a focused tennis player, with exquisite behavior. You could tell that there was a job off the track, as has been noted for so many years with Nadal and his uncle Toni, ”compared the Spaniard.
The two worked together from 1971 to 1983, the year where Borg first flirts with the retreat, although he would later try again without much success. It didn’t matter too much, El Dorado was already conquered. The legacy they left was timeless and incomparable: six Roland Garros, five Wimbledon, four finals at the US Open, two Masters Cups, 64 total individual titles and 109 weeks leading the ATP ranking. However, Bergelin’s greatest achievement (who died in 2008 from heart disease) happened off the court, locating the switch that started the machine. “I think his great victory was the change he went through, a terrible determination to control his passionate spirit” Lennart knew which key to play, and once he found it, he held it down for twelve extraordinary seasons. The lighthouse that lit the first great star of modern tennis.