Tennis365’s Top 10 countdown of the greatest tennis players – No 7: Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe
Okay, we are bending the rules a little with the latest entries in our Tennis365 top 10 greatest tennis players list as we have awarded joint seventh place to the duo who will forever be linked in the sport’s Hall of Fame, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
The clash of styles when these two tennis great met on court made for captivating viewing and while Borg’s retirement from the game at the youthful age of 26 ended the rivalry too soon for an audience that was desperate for more, these two sit alongside each other as they claim a unique spot in the list of tennis greats.
Born: June 6th 1956 in Stockholm, Sweden
Year turned pro: 1973
Grand Slam wins: 11
French Open: 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981
Wimbledon: 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
Davis Cup: 1975
Total Tour titles: 64
Win/loss record: 644–135
Born: February 16th 1959 in Wiesbaden, Germany
Year turned pro: 1978
Grand Slam wins: 8
Wimbledon: 1981, 1983, 1984
US Open: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984
Davis Cup: 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1992
Total Tour titles: 77
Win/loss record: 881–198
Tennis had never seen a superstar like Bjorn Borg.
All the ladies wanted to date him and all the men wanted to be him, with the crossover appeal of this dashing Swede turning him into an icon on an off the court in the 1970s and early 1980s.
If Rafael Nadal is now considered to be the king of clay, Borg invented that mantle as he dominated the red dirt after winning the French Open for the first time as an 18-year-old in 1974.
Five further titles followed in Paris, but it was at Wimbledon that Borg carved out some of his most iconic moments, with the London crowds adoring his battles with nemesis John McEnroe, as the silly smooth good guy took on the brash New York bad guy.
If McEnroe’s rivalry with his compatriot Jimmy Connors was laced with animosity, his duels with Borg were much more respectful, as the pair inspired each other to raise their game to new levels.
McEnroe admitted his own motivation to play tennis dipped when Borg called time on his career after falling out of love with tennis in 1983, yet arguably the greatest performance of his career came in the 1984 Wimbledon final, as he destroyed his great rival Connors in convincing fashion on Centre Court.
“I always had respect for Jimmy Connors and in my book, the only guy who ever tried harder on a tennis court is Rafael Nadal,” stated McEnroe. “What differs between my relationship with Connors and Borg is Jimmy and I didn’t like each other.
“Jimmy didn’t want some young American kid coming up taking his mantle and I can understand that now, but it was different with Borg, who was hard to hate.
“Sure, he had all the looks and all the talent and that was a little annoying, but I relished the battle with him on the court and when he called time on his career at the ludicrously youthful age of 26, my drive to improve was impacted by that. He was making me better and it was so shocking when he stopped.”
McEnroe’s epic 1980 Wimbledon final against Borg instantly went down in history as one of the finest matches ever played, with the legendary fourth set tie-break in that match etched into folklore as one of the ultimate snapshots in tennis history.
When assessing where Borg should sit in our Tennis365 top ten, his record winning five successive Wimbledon titles ensures he deserves to be promoted up the rankings, while McEnroe’s incredible record of winning 78 doubles titles and nine Grand Slam titles – many with his long-time partner Peter Flemming – is a record that cements his status as a legend of the sport.
Borg and McEnroe have earned their place among the legends of the game and using our criteria that include consideration of worldwide popularity and legacy as a factor in our calculations, these two merit joint billing at No 7 in our list.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
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