Classic Rivalries: Borg vs McEnroe

AP Photo/Ron Frehm

Classic Rivalries: Borg vs McEnroe

It is interesting that two men that only played 14 times against each other is now considered one of the most blockbuster rivalries of all time. There have been countless documentaries and movies made about Borg vs. McEnroe. Also, unlike other rivalries during the late seventies and early eighties, these guys actually liked each other! McEnroe was the fiery upstart from New York City, while Borg was the quintessential picture of cool from Sweden. They were only three years apart, however, back in the 70s that age difference may have seemed a bit bigger than in today’s game.

The documentary Fire and Ice breaks all these personality dynamics within this rivalry very nicely. If you haven’t watched it yet, I urge you to do so! We’re not here to talk about that though. What I want to do is look at some of the numbers behind this rivalry. There’s some interesting stats and facts to consider. For example, given how much this rivalry is recounted and touted, it lasted only four short years! A heavenly four years I must say.

These guys split their rivalry 7-7 and met in four Grand Slam finals between 1980 and 1981. They met twice in the Wimbledon final and twice in the US Open final. Borg would beat McEnroe in the first Final they would contest, at Wimbledon in 1980. If you’re a tennis fan, you probably remember this match the best because of the famous 1980 fourth set tie-break, where McEnroe prevailed 18-16, only to lose in the fifth set. For the next 30 years, any time there was a rain delay at Wimbledon, they played that famous tie-break – until the roof of course.

As amazing as the 1980 Wimbledon was for Borg, this would be the first and last Grand Slam final he’d take from McEnroe. McEnroe would go on to beat him in the 1980 and 1981 US Open and the 1981 Wimbledon Final. In sum, McEnroe would be a big reason why Borg would retire after the 1981 season.

When it was all said and done, McEnroe would end with seven Grand Slam titles and Borg would end with 11 Grand Slam titles. Whereas McEnroe would regrettably miss out on the French, Borg would regrettably miss out on the US Open.

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