The world of men’s tennis has produced plenty of world-class athletes. Names like John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, and Novak Djokovic all dominated during their respective eras. Yet ranking the greatest players can prove a difficult task, since the dynamics of the game have changed over the decades.
Fortunately, fans and analysts can imagine how players from different time periods might’ve matched up against one another. Let’s look at the careers of two of the all-time greats, Roger Federer and Björn Borg. What would make their matchup so fun and who would come away with the win?
Roger Federer’s tennis career
Many commentators consider Federer a lock for the “greatest of all time.” The Swiss tennis star has dominated for over 20 years. Since turning pro back in 1998, Federer’s accomplishments speak for themselves.
He’s won a total of 103 titles. Twenty of those titles came at Grand Slam events — the most all-time by any player, although Rafael Nadal is currently breathing down his neck with 19.
Federer also holds the record for the longest consecutive stretch ranked as the No. 1 player in the world, at 237 weeks. He won both Wimbledon (2003-2007) and the U.S. Open (2004-2008) for five straight years. Federer’s longevity proves just as impressive as his dominance. At 38 years old, he continues to be a top-level competitor, with few signs of slowing down.
Björn Borg’s tennis career
Borg turned pro precisely 25 years before Federer, in 1973. Although his playing career was relatively brief — just 10 years, compared to Federer’s 22 and counting — Borg racked up an impressive list of achievements.
The Swedish star won a total of 101 titles, putting him just two shy of Federer’s mark in less than half as many years. Borg also won 11 Grand Slam events: six French Open titles and five Wimbledon titles. Like Federer, Borg’s five Wimbledon wins were a consecutive streak (1976-80).
Borg was the first player of the modern era to win more than 10 Grand Slams. He almost certainly would have won more, except that for reasons nobody has ever completely understood, he chose to walk away from the sport at just 26 years of age.
How Roger Federer and Björn Borg would match up
Roger Federer versus Björn Borg is one of the most speculated of all fantasy matchups. Even Federer himself has gotten in on the action, telling CNN Sport in 2019 that Borg was the player he’d most like to face if he could go back in time. Asked for his reasons for that pick, Federer was diplomatic rather than competitive, saying:
“Just because I think he’s done so much for tennis. He’s one of the true legends of our sport, a class act. A good friend of time, too, and I would’ve loved to play against a guy like that. Super sweet as well.”
Obviously it wasn’t Borg’s sweetness as a player that made Federer wish he could go up against him, but rather his dominance. In many ways, Borg set the template for what Federer would become: a powerful player with a strong base-line game. Some commentators rightly point out that Federer would probably win in terms of power and volleying.
Meanwhile, Borg’s speedy running game would have given him a decided advantage on the defensive end. However, Federer’s potent backhand would surely have given him trouble, particularly on hard courts. Nonetheless, many people—including six-time major winner Boris Becker—feel that Borg would have bested Federer. Others posit that Federer’s lethal serving would have been enough to give him a winning advantage.