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

John McEnroe doubts Federer’s chances of winning Wimbledon

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

Borg, who scooped his fifth Wimbledon title in a row with the win, is played by Sverrir Gudnason in Janus Metz’s film.

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

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

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

Borg received warnings and picked up penalty points for the only time in his career after he complained about the umpire’s decisions.

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

The American added that at one point he thought the Swede might storm off the court and default their match.

According to an unearthed New York Times write-up of the encounter, he added: “I was totally shocked.”

Borg took issue with the judgement of umpire Mike Lugg, an English real estate agent from Lincolnshire.

At 3-3 in the second-set tie-break, the official dramatically overruled the linesman, who had called in a Borg forehand.

The Swede argued his case for a solid five minutes before the umpire warned him that his protests were futile.

Borg ended up losing the set, but won the match 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 and progressed to the semi-finals of the masters.

Both players snubbed the umpire by not acknowledging him when they left the court, as the Swede was left furious.

In his post-match interview, he said: “I was very upset. I think the match had everything. From bad calls to great 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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The American is famous for his fit of rage at Wimbledon in 1981, where he defeated 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 disputed a line call.

Addressing the umpire, he screamed the now-famous phrase: “You can’t be serious man, you cannot be serious!”

The sportsman, who is now a tennis commentator, has admitted that his temper has subsided in his later years.

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

“But I think in certain things I’ve gone a little soft. I don’t have that killer instinct that I wish I did have in a way.”

Asked when, he replied: “Just in general. Whether it’s parenting, a social game or playing seniors tennis, I’m not all over it the way I used to be.

“I think it was too much for me and maybe too much for other people. I have had to step back.”

‘Borg vs McEnroe’ airs on BBC Two tonight from 10:30pm.

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