As sporting events around the world are being cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tennis fraternity is missing out on some great action. It’s time to dig a bit deeper into the history and relish the rivalry between two of the greatest players of the game, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
It was the most intriguing rivalry of the late 70’s and 80’s as the World No.1 Borg was at the cusp of his game and won a record 11 grand slam titles from 1974 to 1981. The Swede won a record 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles and six French Opens. On the other hand, McEnroe, the hot-headed American who was infamous for his angry outbursts at the umpires was challenging Borg’s dominance as the king of Men’s tennis.
McEnroe won seven grand slam titles comprising of 4 US Open titles and 3 Wimbledon championships. He finished his career with 77 singles titles and accomplished World No.1 ranking in singles as well as doubles.
The duo met 14 times in the course of their careers and the rivalry is tied at 7-7.
They met in 4 grand slam finals with McEnroe leading 3-1.
Breakdown of numbers on basis of surface:
• Hard courts: McEnroe 3–1
• Carpet courts: Borg 5–3
• Grass courts: Tied 1–1
The 1980 Wimbledon final between the duo is widely regarded as one of the greatest matches of all time. The World No.1 Borg was eyeing a fifth consecutive Wimbledon title and the World No.2 McEnroe was aiming to win his first. The American won the first set 6-1 but Bjorn bounced back immediately to win the next two sets.
The fourth set went to the tiebreaker and lasted 20 minutes with none of them ready to give in, but McEnroe saved 5 match points in the tiebreaker and total 7 in the set to win the fourth set tiebreaker 18-16. The fifth set went till 6-6 until Bjorn broke McEnroe’s serve and then went on win 8-6 when McEnroe netted the volley at 40-15.
The Swede knelt down in triumph while admitting many years later that it was the first time he was afraid to lose. However, McEnroe got his revenge in 1981 when he defeated Borg in four sets to win the Wimbledon Championship. Bjorn Borg retired in 1983, early at the age of 26 despite being persuaded by McEnroe to continue. The American however, played until the end of 1992 and had an intense rivalry with Ivan Lendl.