I have never seen Bjorn Borg in action (on television). When television sets came to our homes way back in the early 1980s, the legendary Swedish tennis star had called it quits. The iconic Borg-McEnroe rivalry was too short-lived. And I didn’t get to see much of McEnroe either. I must have got to see just a couple of matches between him and Jimmy Connors. As a kid, I enjoyed McEnroe throw tantrums at the linesmen and umpires and hear the subsequent boos from the crowd especially at Wimbledon. The “Superbrat” was an entertainer both with his racquet and also his mouth.
Coming back to his rivalry with Borg, we all knew that Borg was the ice-cool Swede and McEnroe, the badly behaved guy.
In spite of the recently released Borg-McEnroe movie not having garnered good reviews, I wanted to watch the flick in the hope of catching some of the original match footage and of course McEnroe’s tantrums.
Although, I did get to see wee bits of the match footage and the famous McEnroe temper, what struck me most was the way Borg was portrayed. While on the court, the great Swede (portrayed by Sverrir Gudnason) was cool and composed, off the court and inside the four walls of his home he seemed to be anything but cool. The Swedish superstar was a bundle of nerves and in fact a mental wreck. His coach Lennart Bergelin had the most unenviable job of not only handling his ward’s game but also his extremely low morale. On the other hand, although McEnroe (portrayed by Shia LaBeouf) was spitting tantrums on the court, off court he came across as one cool dude. Off course, unlike Borg, he didn’t have anything to lose. Borg had a huge reputation at stake and four straight Wimbledon titles under his belt. He so badly wanted a fifth one but McEnroe couldn’t wait to foil his bid. The thought of losing the Wimbledon final to McEnroe gave Borg sleepless nights and made him sweat in fear. Was Borg really that kind of a mental wreck or the movie exaggerated it all? Was the low morale the reason of his exit from tennis at the early age of 26? In the movie, Borg’s ice-cool image definitely takes a beating and it is McEnroe who comes out tops in spite of the famous five set loss to Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon final.
While I wouldn’t say the movie is a must watch it definitely makes you soak in the golden era of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, two of the game’s greatest players. And there are quite a few entertaining moments. I loved the one when during a Wimbledon semifinal game with Jimmy Connors, McEnroe lets go a barrage of tirades at the linesmen and a visibly disturbed Connors walks to the net and asks McEnroe to shut up (Ha ha ha). Connors is believed to have once told him, “My son behaves better than you”!