John McEnroe, 1981 US Open champion

From John McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

Borg and I split the first two sets, and he was ahead 4-2 in the third. He had broken me twice, and was serving to go up 5-2, but I hit two great topspin-lob winners over his head in that game, and after the second one I could have sworn I saw the air go out of him.

From there on in, it looked as if Bjorn was doing something I had never seen from him before: throwing in the towel. After having been down 2-4 in the third, I wound up winning that set 6-4 and cruising through the fourth, 6-2. In the last set, it looked to me as though he was barely trying.

“There are times – usually in exhibitions, but sometimes even in big tournaments – when you feel so bad physically or mentally that you’re simply not able to go all-out. It’s a tricky situation. You don’t want to lose by just missing every ball, so you hit a shot and leave a part of the court open.
At that point, your body language clearly says “I’m not going to cover that – just hit it there, it’ll be a winner, and the people will think, “Look, he was too good”. That’s what happened with Sampras when he played Lleyton Hewitt in the final of the 2001 Open: Pete had just run out of gas – he looked as if he had glue on his feet.
And that’s what happened with Borg in 81 – except that it did’t look physical to me.”
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Borg, McEnroe Wimbledon 1981

I had been famous for a few years now, but Wimbledon in ’81 is where I became infamous.

John McEnroe

Excerpts from McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

“I was unbelievably tense at Wimbledon in 1981 because I knew, after beating Borg at the Open, that I could win it, should win it, would win it – unless disaster struck.
Well, disaster did strike, and kept striking, round after round, and somehow I kept getting through – endearing myself to nobody in the process.

It began at the beginning.

Although this was to become one of my famous matches, I’m positive almost nobody remembers who I played, and when I played it: Tom Gullikson, first round, Wimbledon 1981. Court One.

I had behaved badly at Wimbledon before. I was already Super Brat. Now I upped the ante. Tom could be a pretty tough opponent on grass, but i had a much tougher adversary out there that day. Even though I would eventually win in straight sets 7-6 7-5 6-3, I just couldn’t rest easy when I got ahead: the devils were crawling all over my brain that afternoon. When Gullikson went ahead 4-3 in the second set on a miserable line call, I smashed my Wilson Pro Staff racket, and James issued me a warning. And later, when a linesman called a serve deep that I had clearly seen throw up a spray of chalk, I threw my new racket and gave a scream that came straight from Queens – but that has traveled very far in the years since.”

Man, you cannot be serious!

[youtube width=”480″ height=”385″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY[/youtube]

You guys are the absolute pits of the world.

The umpire understood “You guys are the piss of the world” and gave Mac a point penalty. McEnroe demanded to see the referee, and yelled:

We’re not going to have a point taken away because this guy is an incompetent fool!

After the match, McEnroe was fined $750 for the obscenity, $750 for an unsportsmanlike comment about the umpire, and threatened with an additional 10000 fine and suspension from the tournament.

And I want you to understand: I felt terrible. I’ve felt awful virtually every time I’ve had one of my on-court meldowns.

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On September 7, 1980, McEnroe attained glorious and Grand Slam revenge at Louis Armstrong Stadium in 5 exhilarating and draining sets against his polar opposite and favorite dueling partner, Bjorn Borg.

Borg, 24, was the dominant force in tennis, winning 3 straight French Open and 3 straight Wimbledon. He had lost only once in 1980 and was reaping 3 millions $ a year in endorsements. But he had yet to solve the US Open, having lost 2 finals to Jimmy Connors and been upset by Roscoe Tanner in 1979.

After his Wimbledon epic, however, Borg publicly declared himself ready to conquer New York. At Flushing Meadows, Borg overcame Tanner in 5 sets in the quarterfinals, then dropped 2 sets to Johan Kriek in the semies before destroying him 6-1 6-1 6-1. McEnroe, the defending champion was all that stood in his way.

McEnroe had beat up and comer Ivan Lendl in 4 sets in the quarterfinals on Thursday, 5 sets in the men’s doubles final on Friday, and on Saturday outlasted his other archrival Jimmy Connors. McEnroe emerged the victor after 4h16, with a hard fought 5th set tiebreaker.

Lefties like McEnroe had won the previous 6 US Opens, but Borg who had defeated McEnroe in 4 of their 5 previous meetings, seemed unbeatable…


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