Describing his stance as a "matter of principle," Bjorn Borg confirmed yesterday that he will not play at Wimbledon this summer despite a compromise offer by the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
"I will not play at Wimbledon this year because I have to go through the qualifying competition," said Borg, who has won the tournament five times. "I am being penalized for wanting to take a rest."
Borg had recently taken a five-month break from tennis and has said he deserves special consideration because he has won at Wimbledon so often.
"The Grand Prix rules are stupid," he said in an interview yesterday in Tokyo, where he is playing an exhibition match. "It's a matter of principle and it's a shame it has come to this."
When Borg came back to the circuit, he planned to compete in only seven Grand Prix events this year instead of the 10 needed to guarantee entry at Wimbledon and the U.S. and French opens.
In January, Borg asked the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC) to waive its 10-tournament quota for him. However, the MIPTC ruled that if Borg failed to fulfill the minimum number, he would have to qualify for each event he entered, Wimbledon included.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club Thursday offered Borg direct entry to Wimbledon's main tournament without qualifying, contingent upon his agreeing to play 10 Grand Prix events between April 1, 1982 and March 31, 1983.
Before the proposal could even be formally presented, Borg indicated the arrangement was unsatisfactory.
"If I had started my schedule in January there would have been no problem," said Borg, who returned to competition last week in Monte Carlo, advancing to the quarterfinals before losing to Yannick Noah. "I still love the game. I am not planning to retire, but I won't be at Wimbledon."
The issue also has touched off a debate in the tennis community.
Defending Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said yesterday that Borg's absence from the tournament will be a "great loss not only for world tennis but for Wimbledon. It's a great mistake."
Guillermo Vilas, playing in a Tokyo exhibition with Borg, McEnroe and Vince Van Patten, said, "When they made the rules, they were not thinking of this guy (Borg), this champion. We're sick over it."
But the MITPC has no intention of bending its rules to accommodate Borg.
"The deadline for players to commit to 10 events in a year was Sept. 15," said Marshall Happer, administrator of the MITPC. "Borg signed the agreement, then delivered that with a letter petitioning to play just seven."
Happer said giving Borg an exemption would create serious problems. "It's very difficult to say he ought to have special treatment. Who is to say Borg should be exempt and McEnroe or Vilas shouldn't?" he said. "How do you give him priority over those players who have committed themselves?
"No one is forcing Bjorn Borg to qualify," he added. "This is the choice he made when he chose not to compete in 10 events. He's going to wind up playing in 20 or 25 tournaments anyway. I don't understand why he refuses to comply."