Björn Borg’s rage in feud with John McEnroe stunned American: ‘I was totally shocked’ | Tennis | sport


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Björn Borg and John McEnroe have captivated the tennis world for years with their storied rivalry, which is portrayed on TV tonight. ‘Borg vs McEnroe’, shown on BBC Two, captures the sporting pair at the height of their powers in the summer of 1980 as the duo met in the men’s singles final at Wimbledon. The Swede emerged victorious over his American rival in their epic five-set slugfest, which went down in history as one of the greatest matches ever on the hallowed grass of SW19.

Borg, who won his fifth straight Wimbledon title with the victory, is played by Sverrir Gudnason in the Janus Metz film.

He shares the screen with Shia LaBeouf as tennis’ enfant terrible McEnroe, who was still the sport’s newcomer at the time.

McEnroe’s aggressive presence on the pitch and New York’s sharp attitude were perfectly balanced by the composure and composure of his Swedish rival – nicknamed the ‘Ice Borg’ – during their many battles.

However, on January 15, 1981, the usually laid-back Borg lost his temper in a match against his American opponent at the Volvo Masters tournament in Madison Square Garden.

Borg received warnings and collected penalty points for the only time in his career after complaining about the referee’s decisions.

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Björn Borg’s rage in feud with John McEnroe stunned American: ‘I was totally shocked’ (Image: GETTY)

Wimbledon 1980: final of Björn Borg and John McEnroe

Wimbledon 1980: final of Björn Borg and John McEnroe (Image: GETTY)

A stunned McEnroe said of his opponent’s actions: “I couldn’t believe this happened…I almost didn’t want to take the points.”

The American added that at some point he thought the Swede might leave the pitch and miss his game.

According to an unearthed New York Times article about the encounter, he added, “I was totally shocked.”

Borg challenged the judgment of arbitrator Mike Lugg, an English estate agent from Lincolnshire.

At 3-3 in the second set tie-break, the official drastically canceled out the linesman, who had called a Borg forehand.

Rivals: Borg and McEnroe fought in the 80s

Rivals: Borg and McEnroe fought in the 80s (Image: GETTY)

The Swede pleaded his case for a good five minutes before the referee warned him that his protests were futile.

Borg ended up losing the set, but won the match 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 and advanced to the Masters Semi-Finals.

Both players snubbed the referee by not recognizing him when they walked off the pitch, with the Swede furious.

In his post-match interview, he said: “I was very upset. I think the game had everything. From bad calls to good points.

Borg’s rare outburst during the match shocked the tennis world as it was usually McEnroe whose temper boiled over.

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Angry: McEnroe's temper was legendary

Angry: McEnroe’s temper was legendary (Image: GETTY)

The American is famous for his fit of rage at Wimbledon in 1981, where he beat Borg, the five-time defending champion in the final.

McEnroe launched into a bitter tirade in the first round of the grass-court Grand Slam as he contested a line call.

Addressing the referee, he shouted the now famous line: “You can’t be serious man, you can’t be serious!”

The sportsman, who is now a tennis commentator, admitted that his temper had calmed down in his later years.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2018, he said: ‘I’ve definitely mellowed.

Tennis: ATP Tour Dates

Tennis: ATP Tour Dates (Picture: EXPRESS)

“But I think in some things I went a little soft. I don’t have that killer instinct that I kind of wish I had.

When asked when, he replied, “Just generally. Whether it’s parenting, social play, or playing senior tennis, I’m not like I used to be.

“I think it was too much for me and maybe too much for others. I had to take a step back.”

“Borg vs McEnroe” airs on BBC Two tonight from 10.30pm.

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