Leo Borg picks up where dad left off

 - Dan Imhoff

Swedish teenager comes to grips with following in the footsteps of six-time Roland-Garros champion, Bjorn Borg

Leo Borg, Roland-Garros 2021 junior first round©️ Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Leo Borg had a fair idea what to expect even before he stepped foot onto Court 14 for his first outing at a junior Grand Slam in Paris.

At 18, he was somewhat of a late-blooming debutant by junior standards.

This, he said, was the result of having only switched seriously to the sport as a teenager.

It was a late move, which had no doubt bought him time as he learnt to accept the unavoidable comparisons with his famous father, Swedish legend Bjorn Borg.

There is a distinct physical resemblance between the generations.

For his opening match on Monday, Borg was even decked out in the same Fila brand of clothing the 11-time Grand Slam champion wore decades ago.

Forty years to the day since the last of his father’s six Roland-Garros triumphs, the teenager notched his first victory. He denied local hope Max Westphal 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in boys' singles opening-round action.

“It was a great experience. It feels amazing that I've come out with the win, of course,” Borg said. “Always tough with the nerves in the beginning. I was not handling it, but I found a way to play my game and to play the game I wanted to.”

Leo Borg, Roland-Garros 2021 junior first round©️ Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

It is rare so much hype follows an unseeded junior. The world feed even showed parts of the match on television and more than a handful of journalists were at his post-match press conference.

Borg accepts there is no escaping it, regardless of whether he channels even an ounce of his Dad’s success or not.

“I was having a hard time when I was a little bit younger to know it was people following me outside the courts and I was not used to that, but I'm getting used to it and I can control it more,” Borg said. “I just have to control it because it's going to be following me all my tennis career.

“It doesn't bother me. I'm just focusing on my goal and my tennis.”

Following a three-week stint at the Rafa Nadal Academy last year, Borg returned to train at the Royal Tennis Club in Stockholm, which he said was a result of the pandemic.

His coach Rickard Billing is based there and has been alongside him since childhood. Dad has taken a more behind-the-scenes role, happy to leave the coaching to Billing but willing to impart his wisdom if needed.

Leo Borg, Roland-Garros 2021 junior first round©️ Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

“The best advice he's giving me is to organise everything. You have everything in life organised, it's very important to know your stuff,” Borg said of his father.

“He's giving me some tips but he's not following me to court. He's leaving that to my coach, but he's of course involved with my tennis.

“He always talked about Roland-Garros, how amazing it is, how amazing the club is, now I know, of course, that the club is amazing, the crowd is amazing.”

Borg, whose long-term goal is to reach the top 10, meets German Max Hans Rehberg next.

There is added incentive should he make a deep run on debut as his father prepares to pack his bags for Paris.

“Yeah he's coming on Thursday to be here and let's hope that I'm still left in the tournament,” Borg said. “Of course I want him to see me play but I can't promise I'll still be in the tournament, so let's see.”