High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry

( 4 )

Overview

The golden age of tennis came crashing down suddenly at the 1981 U.S. Open. Bjorn Borg, the stoical Swede who had become the richest and most famous player in the sport's history, had just lost to his brash young rival, John McEnroe, in the final at Flushing Meadows. After his last shot floated out, Borg walked to the net, shook McEnroe's hand in silence, and disappeared from the game he had dominated for the last decade.

No one realized it at the time, but the era that Borg and...

See more details below
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (32) from $1.99   
  • New (15) from $2.45   
  • Used (17) from $1.99   
High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99
BN.com price

Overview

The golden age of tennis came crashing down suddenly at the 1981 U.S. Open. Bjorn Borg, the stoical Swede who had become the richest and most famous player in the sport's history, had just lost to his brash young rival, John McEnroe, in the final at Flushing Meadows. After his last shot floated out, Borg walked to the net, shook McEnroe's hand in silence, and disappeared from the game he had dominated for the last decade.

No one realized it at the time, but the era that Borg and the three other semifinalists at that year's Open—McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulaitis—had helped define had also ended. For nearly a century, the lawns of tennis had been reserved for wealthy amateurs—gentlemen, in the original British parlance—but in 1968, the game was opened to professionals and was forever changed. The 1970s were boom years for tennis. Thanks to charismatic young players and dramatic matches, participation skyrocketed in the United States and brought the game to a new peak of global popularity. In the ensuing decade, the sport would be taken further from its genteel roots than anyone thought possible.

Through the lens of that era's final tournament, the 1981 U.S. Open, High Strung chronicles the lives and careers of the men who made those Wild West days of tennis so memorable. The Swede known as "Ice Borg," who secretly harbored an inner madman. McEnroe, the tortured, bratty genius who was destined to slay his idol. Connors, the blue-collar kid who tore the cover off the ball—and the game itself—becoming a beloved antihero. Ilie Nastase, the Romanian clown who tested the outer limits of acceptable behavior and taste. Gerulaitis, the New York charmer and Studio 54 regular who was friend to them all. And Ivan Lendl, the robotic Czech who became a harbinger of tennis's high-powered future.

The struggles these men shared were as compelling off the court as they were on. Some thrived, some survived, some were destroyed, but none has ever been forgotten.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Borg and McEnroe may have enjoyed breathtaking rallies in late ‘70s and early ‘80s tennis, but Tignor, Executive Editor of Tennis magazine, largely shanks his shot at capturing the era's excitement. Tignor offers extended looks at Borg and McEnroe, but also Jimmy Connors, who had epic clashes of his own with both the "Angelic Assassin" and the "Brat." Indeed, Tignor covers many players, including Vitas Gerulaitis, Ivan Lendl, and Ilie Nastase, or "Mr. Nasty" as the Romanian was known (in profiling him Rignor finds his sweet spot). The author also lobs in doubles tennis, the women's game, Renee Richards, and a smattering of off-the-court shenanigans (Borg was superstitions; Borg slept with lots of women) but fails to argue convincingly why this epic match-up signaled the end of an era. True, when Borg retired, McEnroe began to slide. But Connors staged a remarkable comeback in his later years, and while Lendl failed to spark much interest, newcomer Andre Agassi certainly did. Fans of today's superstars—Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic–enjoy fierce rivalries almost every year. In the end, Tignor is unable to suggest that anything was truly at stake in the Borg-McEnroe rivalry beyond the money and egos involved. (May)
The Oregonian
“This is good stuff, and it’s written with flair. In fact, it made me want even more. ”
Associated Press Staff
“A book full of aces...Even for those who know the outcomes of the many matches he recounts, Tignor’s descriptive prose and flair for dramatic writing make “High Strung” a true page-turner.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062009845
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/17/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 787,408
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Tignor is the Executive Editor of Tennis magazine. He writes a daily blog on Tennis.com, where he has written about the sport for the past 12 years.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

High Strung

Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry
By Stephen Tignor

HarperCollins

Copyright © 2011 Stephen Tignor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780062009845


Chapter One

"It's what I live with, you know, that I lose someday."
—BJORN BORG

In the minds of most tennis fans, when Bjorn Borg took his first
rolling, measured strides onto Centre Court for the 1980 Wimbledon
final, he might have been stepping down from the clouds. The
myth of the divine Swede had been growing in London since 1973,
when he'd made his debut as a 17-year-old. That year, Borg's wavy
blond hair and shy, smooth-cheeked smile earned him the nick name
Teen Angel. They also earned him the attention of hordes of
shrieking, hopping, giggling, weeping, and uncontrollably aggressive
English schoolgirls. After his first match, 300 of them attacked
Borg and dragged him to the ground. Thus began a phenomenon
previously unseen on the lawns of the All England Club, one that
would take a variety of forms over the ensuing years: the "Borgasm."
(Asked later if he'd been scared by the experience, Borg replied with
the equanimity that would become his trademark: "Well, yes, I was
a little scared, as I lay there in the dust on the street with girls all
over me. But it was fun, too.")
The following year, Wimbledon officials put out the word to 60
neighboring schools: Keep the girls under control. They couldn't
do it, and neither could the police. "The Viking God was mobbed,"
one club member reported in 1974, "and in the scuffle a policeman's
helmet was knocked off and an officer knocked to the ground."
As the decade progressed and Borg evolved from a young
heart throb to a grizzled world champion, his myth and his nickname
evolved with him. By 1980 he had been rechristened the Angelic
Assassin. A silent man with a headband for a halo, Borg was
renowned for his icy precision and improbable, back-from-the-brink
victories. He was, by all appearances, invincible in the paramount
test of tennis nerve, the five-set match. He had won 10 straight
dating back to 1976. With his seemingly inhuman consistency and
his impenetrable reserve on court, there was an air of mystery,
of the uncanny, surrounding everything Borg did. Urban legends
sprouted around him. His heart rate was 35 (it was between 50
and 60). He slept 10 hours a night in freezing cold hotel rooms (he
did). His racquets were strung so tightly they popped in his hotel
room while he was sleeping (they did). He had ice in his veins
(probably not true). Fellow player Ilie Nastase referred to him as
"the Martian."
The mythmaking was understandable because Borg was one
of those rare athletes who changed the nature of his sport
single handedly—or, in his case, double-handedly. For 30 years the
accepted style of play in men's tennis had been to follow the serve
forward, to attack, to pressure the opponent and create winning
angles by hitting your shots from as close to the net as possible. It
was known as the Big Game, and it seemed to be the final word
in strategy. But Borg, legendary from a young age for his stub
stubbornness, turned the textbook—and the sport's geometry—upside
down. Believing that the Big Game was as much about machismo
as it was tactics, he stayed back, and won by outlasting his
opponents. He hit his forehand with an extreme grip that had rarely
been seen before, and he popularized the two-handed backhand,
an equally rare shot before him, but one that would become
virtually universal after him.
Borg's style elevated physicality and athleticism to a higher
degree of importance in tennis. He kept his weight at 160 at all times
and didn't worry much about his technique; what he cared about
most was arriving at the ball in time to hit it—and then never missing
it. He was also a minimalist when it came to tactics. Asked how
he approached an important point, Borg said he "made sure I got
the ball over the net." His game was taxing on mind and body, yet
by the end of the 1970s his approach had wiped away three decades
of the Big Game and established itself as the new orthodoxy.
No one could argue with its success: Borg entered the 1980
Wimbledon final having won four straight titles there, a record
unmatched by any man in the 20th century. He was at the peak of
his powers. A June 1980 Time cover story on Borg, which began
by asking, "Is he the greatest of all time?," called him an "incredible
tennis machine, an inexorable force that is one part speed, one
part topspin, and two parts iron will." His victories weren't merely
inevitable. They seemed to be ordained from above.
So it might have come as a disappointment to many to find out
that the Angelic Assassin, rather than descending from Valhalla, or
Mars, or Big Ben's tower, had ridden in for the final that day from
a local Holiday Inn. Located next to the grass court club where he
practiced in the Hampstead section of London, the hotel was where
Borg always stayed during the tournament. It took 45 minutes by
car to get to the All England Club, and Borg had made the trip the
same way for the better part of four years. He rode up front in
the passenger seat. His fiancée, Mariana Simionescu, a Romanian
tennis pro two years his senior who trimmed his hair and cooked
his meals, sat in the back. Lennart Bergelin, his 55-year-old coach,
who also served as his secretary, masseur, racquet keeper, and
second father, was at the wheel. This three-person cocoon—"home"
to Borg—had been threading its peaceful way through the tennis
world undisturbed since 1976.
The car was always a Saab, which was one of Borg's sponsors, and
Bergelin always drove, for the same reason that he answered Borg's
phone calls and kept his 50 racquets precisely tuned at all times: so
his player wouldn't waste a moment of concentration on anything
other than batting a tennis ball over a net. The route Bergelin took
through London's leafy suburbs never varied. It wasn't necessarily
the shortest path, but it minimized the chance that Borg would be
confronted with something "new" along the way.
Superstition is a guiding faith among professional tennis players.
They'll do whatever it takes not to step on a line as they walk around
the court. In the midst of a winning streak, they've been known to
eat nothing but McDonald's or wear the same pair of shorts for 10
days running. But it was more than just an occupational hazard for
Bjorn Borg; the trait ran in his family. His parents, Rune and
Margarethe, first saw their son win at the All England Club in 1977. The
last digit of that year was taken as a sign. From then on, they would
attend Wimbledon only in odd-numbered years, while traveling to
the French Open, which Borg would eventually win six times, in
even-numbered years. As of 1980, their record was unblemished,
though there had been more than a few close calls.
In the 1979 Wimbledon final, Borg played an intense five
set match with Roscoe Tanner, an American whose erratic,
go-for-broke style and machine-gun lefty serve always rattled him.
Margarethe ate candy throughout the match, for luck, as she did
during many of her son's matches. After more than three hours,
Borg served for the title at 5-4 in the fifth set. He went up 40-0,
triple match point. His mother thought she was safe at last, so she
spit the well-chewed candy on the floor of the player's guest box.
Borg proceeded to lose the next three points. Margarethe picked
up the candy and popped it back in her mouth. Borg won the next
two points and the match.
The addition of Bergelin to the Borg team didn't help. If anything,
he outdid the family when it came to superstitions. In 1975
he coached the Swedish Davis Cup team to its first title. Throughout
the season, Bergelin refused to take off his lucky long underwear,
which was festooned with cartoon tigers. He kept it on despite
100-degree temperatures over a weekend in Spain. When the team
won, Bergelin pulled down his pants and danced on a table in his
long johns.
Rune and Margarethe's only child turned the family predilection
into a way of life at Wimbledon. Each year, Borg put away
whatever Fila outfit he'd been dressed in that season and pulled out
the skintight green-pinstriped shirt he'd worn on his way to his first
title there, in 1976. Each year he asked for the same chair he used
the year before. On court, he demanded exactly two towels. Borg
also brought the "playoff beard" to tennis. He stopped shaving once
certain tournaments, including Wimbledon, began. By the end of
the fortnight, a dark, scraggly patch of hair would be spread across
the bottom of his face. (On occasion, the beard would be
accompanied by a breakout of pimples on his chin that would also vanish
once the tournament was over. But this rare outward sign of anxiety
from Borg was not, as far as anyone knows, part of his system of
superstitions.)
Simionescu believed that her fiancé's habits were an elaborate
"search for order" and a "source of energy and concentration." But
on the day of the 1980 Wimbledon final, Borg's routine was
altered just slightly. Sitting next to Mariana in the backseat of the
Saab was a gregarious English friend named Tommie who ran a
restaurant at the club where Borg practiced. He had been invited to
sit with Bergelin and Simionescu in the player's box that day.
Unable to contain his excitement about traveling to the final with the
champion, he cheerfully predicted a win for Borg. Bergelin flashed
Mariana a sharp look in the rearview mirror. She told Tommie to
keep quiet. Borg sat placidly in the front seat, his blond hair curling
at his shoulders, as the car traced its familiar course through the
narrowing lanes of suburban London. He had won 34 straight matches
at Wimbledon. He didn't need to hear talk of a 35th.
While his run to the final that year had been relatively routine—
none of his traditional Houdini acts had been required—Borg knew
better than to tempt fate. In the first round he had drawn an Egyptian,
Ismail El Shafei. During a game of cards at the hotel, Simionescu
innocently assured him that it was an "easy match." Borg did
the equivalent of hitting the roof for him: He stood up and walked
silently out of the room. An hour later he was reading the paper.
Out of nowhere, he put it down and said, "I just want to remind
you, Mariana, there's no such thing as an easy match. A player who
thinks like that might as well give up, and I have no intention of
doing that."
As a tennis player, Borg knew that nothing was ordained.
While the Viking God's trips around the city had been soothing
and predictable, those of his opponent in the final, John McEnroe,
had become a source of rising agitation. The 21-year-old New
Yorker could never get away from himself in London. More
accurately, he couldn't get away from the obnoxious cartoon alter
ego the city's tabloids had saddled him with: Superbrat. Headline
writers used it as if it were his real name: "Disgrace of Superbrat!";
"Superbrat Out in the Cold—and He Blames the British Weather!"
Something about John McEnroe inspired the London tabloids.
While he wouldn't become the all-time Wimbledon champion, no
tennis player could touch him when it came to nicknames: At various
times he was McBrat, McNasty, McTantrum, the Mouth That
Roared, the Merchant of Menace, and, this author's personal favorite,
the Incredible Sulk.
The words and the images followed him everywhere. McEnroe
often shared a taxi with his friend and doubles partner Peter
Fleming. On those rides, a song by the Police that had been released
two years earlier, "I Can't Stand Losing You," was in suspiciously
heavy rotation on the radio. Over a hammering New Wave beat,
the lead singer, Sting, robotically repeated the phrase I can't . . . I
can't . . . I can't stand losing, I can't . . . I can't . . . I can't stand losing
dozens of times. When the song finally ended, the DJ's next words
had come to seem inevitable: "Sounds like a song for Superbrat!"
That's how it had been for McEnroe at Wimbledon ever since,
fueled on pizza grease and candy bars, he'd made his debut run to
the semifinals as an 18-year-old qualifier three years earlier. He had
skipped his high school graduation to play the French Open and
Wimbledon; his headmaster at the Trinity School in Manhattan
had called the trip McEnroe's "Senior Year Project." McEnroe's
parents thought that simply entering the event would be a great
learning experience for Johnny, something akin to the recent excursion
she had made to Washington, D.C., with his fellow seniors. A
few weeks later McEnroe was world famous and threatening to win
the sport's biggest tournament. In the words of Tennis magazine,
McEnroe "wandered through the draw like a child half-stumbling
toward the throne room in a strange, Labyrinthine castle."
But while his success may have seemed unlikely to others, the
high schooler was hardly awed by his august surroundings and
the men who walked through them. "I remember seeing him in the
locker room before one of his matches," Fleming says, "and he was
talking about his opponent: 'If I lose to this guy, I'm quitting tennis!'
The guy was a pretty good pro, too. John had that confidence
even then."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from High Strung by Stephen Tignor Copyright © 2011 by Stephen Tignor. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 The Angel and the Brat 1

2 Barbarians on the Lawns 16

3 The Next Victim 29

4 Lingering Death 40

5 The Dark Prince of Queens 49

6 Exile on Park Avenue 67

7 The Valley of Ashes 83

8 Tearing the Cover Off the Game 96

9 Taking Love on the Rise 107

10 Mr. Nasty 119

11 The Lord of Discipline 135

12 Fallen Angel 145

13 Nobody Beats Vitas Garulaitis… 156

14 Ivan the Powerful 166

15 Heroes and Villains 175

16 Super Saturday 187

17 Requiem for an Assassin 200

Epilogue 219

Acknowledgments 237

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2014

    Val

    Hey bjorn. Its me again. I hope you will some day come back to me. I miss u. I miss u alot. I.......i love u bjorn. I love u. Goodnight. :'(

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014

    Bjorn

    Happy Birthday! Sorry my nook wifi was meesed up

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2013

    Well written

    This story brought me back to my childhood and my love of tennis. Insightful, current and interesting I immediately wanted to share this with everyone I know even if they have never played tennis or have no interest in it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)