On This Day

  • June 6 down the years

The birth of the Iceman

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times © Getty Images
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1956
Björn Borg was born in Stockholm. By the end of 1981, John McEnroe was dominating tennis on fast courts and all Borg's hard work wasn't going to be enough. He could have carried on winning the French Open, but he'd already done that a record six times - a mark now equalledy Rafael Nadal. So he left the game - at 25. Retirement didn't go well for a while. Two marriages broke up, his clothing firm almost made him bankrupt, and his comeback was an embarrassment (April 23, 1991). But at his peak it goes without saying that he was one of the all-time greats. For a clay court player to win Wimbledon five years in a row almost beggars belief, especially as he won finals against Năstase, Connors (twice), and McEnroe. Borg intimidated opponents with the power of his groundstrokes, fitness, and poker face. He outlasted McEnroe in a Wimbledon epic (July 5, 1980) and absolutely murdered classy players like Vilas and Orantes at the French, where he lost only twice. The only trophy missing was from the US Open, where Borg lost four Finals, two each to Connors and McEnroe, one when he had a blistered thumb. He was only 19 when he won the Davis Cup almost single-handedly in 1975.

1999
Andre Agassi won the French at last. Runner-up in 1990 and 1991, he had an easy road to the title now. A semi-final against the unseeded Dominik Hrbatý was followed by a final against Andrei Medvedev, who was ranked 100 in the world. Agassi made a meal of it, playing appallingly to lose the first two sets before becoming only the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam singles titles and the first one to win them on three different surfaces.

It is perhaps fitting that on Borg's birthday, the one man who can challenge his status as the greatest clay court player claimed another French Open crown. In 2010, Rafael Nadal crowned a perfect clay-court season to win his fifth title at Roland Garros. Nadal was unbeaten on clay in 2010.

1998
Arantxa Sánchez Vicario won the French Open for the third time. In the final, she met Monica Seleš, who'd once won the title three years in a row but was now rebuilding her career after a notorious knife attack (April 30, 1993). Seleš knocked out No. 1 seed Martina Hingis in the semi-final. In the Final, she recovered from losing the first set on a tie-break to win the second 6-0. But Sánchez Vicario was a fighter if nothing else, and she took the decider 6-2. It was the first time she'd beaten Seleš on clay.

1998
England's biggest ever defeat at rugby union. On the Tour To Hell, an inexperienced squad never stood a chance. 'We went with a third-string team' said Clive Woodward, saddled with a tour arranged before he became national coach. When his top players withdrew, he had to take ten uncapped forwards and ten uncapped backs, many of whom weren't picked again after heavy defeats by New Zealand, the first on June 20, and South Africa - all preceded by today's horror show in Brisbane, where Australia won 76-0. Stephen Larkham and Ben Tune each scored three of the 11 tries, and Matt Burke accumulated 22 cheap points. England gave first caps to Scott Benton, Spencer Brown, Dominic Chapman, Richard Pool-Jones, Stuart Potter, Steve Ravenscroft, and Ben Sturnham. Exactly.

Harry Greb died under anaesthetic in 1926 © Getty Images
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1894
The amazing Harry Greb was born in Pittsburgh. Of his 299 pro fights, only 48 were won by knockouts or stoppages. But there are lies and statistics. Greb was a classic human buzzsaw. He trained on booze and broads and still had the stamina to throw punches all night. He simply buried opponents under an avalanche of leather. They may not have been knocked out, but they looked as if they'd been pulled through a mincer: Harry wasn't particular about which part of the glove he used or which part of your body he hit it with. He inflicted Gene Tunney's only defeat as a professional, and although Tunney beat him three times, he was a light-heavyweight who later became world heavyweight champion, while Greb was a natural middleweight. He won the world title in 1923 and made five successful defences, one against a star like Mickey Walker. Greb also fought dozens of non-title fights in that time, before losing the title to Tiger Flowers three years later. He lost the rematch too, to a second controversial decision. Two months later, Harry Greb was dead. He had an operation to repair his long-suffering nose, but died under anaesthetic. He should have undergone an operation years earlier. In 1921, he was thumbed during a fight. He won the world title, beat Tunney, and fought almost 100 fights, while he was blind in one eye!

1986
In track and field, most of the world records in the throwing events were set by Eastern European athletes in the 1980s. Wonder why. Today Jürgen Schult of East Germany threw the discus 74.08 metres, shattering the 71.86 set by a Soviet thrower three years earlier.

2006
On the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year, the Los Angeles Dodgers scored six runs in the sixth inning. The New York Mets scored six runs too, but lost 8-6.

2009
In rugby union, Perpignan became French champions by winning 22-13 against Clermont-Auvergne, who lost in the final for the third year in a row and 10th in all. The following year, at long last, they beat Perpignan 19-6 to win the title for the first time.

1901
Jimmy Braid won the British Open for the first time and joined the Great Triumvirate. He established such a big lead that he won by three strokes despite shooting 80 in the final round. The other members of the Triumvirate were second and third: Harry Vardon and JH Taylor. The three of them finished seven shots clear of the rest.

2010
Justin Rose became the first Englishman to win the Memorial Tournament in Ohio to claim his maiden PGA Tour title. Rose produced a flawless final round to win by three strokes from Rickie Fowler - having started the day four strokes off the pace.

1988
It only takes a second to win a boxing match. After the very first round, Iran Barkley was already badly cut above the left eye. In the third, he was having to absorb some savage shots. But then he suddenly caught Tommy Hearns with a roundhouse right. When Hearns got up, Barkley knocked him through the ropes to take his WBC middleweight title. It was Ring magazine's upset of the year. Four years later, Barkley beat Hearns again, this time on a split decision, to win his WBA light-heavyweight title.

1959
Seventeen-year-old Scottish swimmer Ian Black set a world record in the 440 yards individual medley. His time of 5 minutes 8.8 seconds was over four seconds faster than the previous 400 metre best. At the Olympic Games in 2008, Michael Phelps swam the event in a world record 4 minutes 3.84.

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