Bjorn Borg was my all time favorite tennis player who I admired, watched, growing up. I tried to play like him learning his backhand just by watching him play. I learned a great deal just from watching Bjorn Borg play. I styled my backhand stroke after his.
In any assessment of great sporting moments of the 20th
Century, the fourth set tie break of the 1980 Wimbledon
Gentlemen's Singles final between the defending champion
Bjorn Borg of Sweden and John McEnroe of the USA has earned
an unchallenged place.
Borg was then 24 and was playing in his fifth consecutive
Wimbledon final having won the previous four. For McEnroe,
who had uniquely reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in
1977 from the distant starting point of the qualifying tournament,
this was his first appearance in the final at the age of
21 and he had justified his second seeding, especially after
defeating the former champion Jimmy Connors in the semi-finals.
Borg dropped two sets on the way to the final while McEnroe
had lost three.
The Championships had been marred by rain from the start.
As early as the first Thursday it was decided to start play
at noon, and rain affected six of the first eight days.
In spite of these difficulties Borg and McEnroe emerged
on schedule on the second Saturday to play the final.
McEnroe's semi-final victory over Connors had included an
official warning against him by the umpire, and when he
entered the Centre Court to start the final he was not accorded
the best of receptions by the crowd. But within minutes
Borg and McEnroe had the spectators enthralled as the rich
tapestry of the final began to unfold before them.
Borg believed he played his best tennis of his time at Wimbledon
in his first year as champion in 1976 but also remembered
that in the final against Ilie Nastase he had lost the first
three games and was even concerned that he would never win
The 1980 final also began badly for Borg as McEnroe swept
through the first set 6-1 and was frequently in a strong
position in the second. McEnroe certainly had chances to
open up a lead of two sets to love until, in the twelfth
game, Borg hit a trademark backhand return of serve, broke
McEnroe for the first time, and suddenly the fires were
burning on each side of the net.
Borg took the third set to lead two sets to one with the
final now almost two hours old. The match was demanding
high qualities from each player and they were both ready
for the challenge. And when Borg broke serve to lead 5-4
in the fourth set the contest began to look over.
Almost routinely, Borg served to hold two match points.
But there was no routine opposition this time as McEnroe
underlined with an unreachable backhand down the line followed
by an audacious drive-volley. McEnroe ran off six points
in a row, each one demonstrating his commitment to the task.
Soon, the fourth set tie break was a reality.
The tie break had been in operation at Wimbledon since 1971.
Initially it was brought into play at eight games all but
in 1979 this was changed to six games all.
The Borg-McEnroe tie break was to make history. It was to
range over 22 minutes, produce 34 contested points, which
is a record for a Wimbledon final, and from start to finish
produced moment after moment of changing fortunes.
Inevitably match points and set points followed in a tantalising
sequence with Borg first reaching match points at 6-5 and
7-6. McEnroe, next, held and lost two set points before
Borg, even more agonisingly, missed three match points as
McEnroe dealt with them firmly with a sequence of a great
serve, a net cord, and a volley.
McEnroe now stayed out in front, holding and losing four
set points before capturing the set on his fifth chance.
Against Borg's serve, McEnroe's viciously top spun return
produced a volley error from the Swede - and the match was
all square after just over three hours on court.
Borg went for broke in the deciding set, hitting eighty
per cent of his first serves and losing only three points
on serve in the entire set. McEnroe contributed fully to
this astonishing final and twice served to save the match.
But Borg, cold-eyed in sight of a title which would make
him the first to win five in a row since the abolition of
the Challenge Round, finally reached his eighth match point
when McEnroe missed a low volley. A backhand passing shot
ended it and Borg was Champion by 1-6 7-4 6-3 6-7 8-6.