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AP Was There: McEnroe wins tiebreaker, Borg wins Wimbledon

by Ace Damon

EDITOR’S NOTE – Tennis’s history is full of wonderful rivalries, and many are remembered because of clashes in the Wimbledon finals. The Associated Press republishes stories about some of those matches while the canceled Grand Slam tournament on the court should be played. A rivalry is known for a particularly memorable match involving a particularly memorable tiebreaker: John McEnroe vs. Bjorn Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon final. McEnroe won the tie by 18-16; Borg won the title. The following story was sent on July 5, 1980.

By GEOFFREY MILLER

AP Sports Writer

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Bjorn Borg thought he would lose the Wimbledon title when John McEnroe saved seven match points and won a marathon tiebreaker to tie Saturday’s final in two sets.

“I thought … maybe he’ll end up winning the game,” said Borg after going through the classic 3-hour 53 minutes 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6.

“I’ve never been more disappointed on a tennis court than when I lost the fourth set. Seven match points, and I didn’t get it.

“Every time I had another match point, John made a great shot.”

But Borg emerged as a great champion again after the tense drama of the tiebreaker ended. He served as a master in the final set and became Wimbledon champion for the fifth consecutive time.

Mariana Simionescu, the Romanian player who will marry Borg in Bucharest on July 24, continued smoking ceaselessly while watching the final – one of the biggest in Wimbledon history.

Beside her was Lennart Bergelin, Borg’s coach and mentor. The two sat down intensely and hardly spoke a word during the entire game. When Borg finally won the game with a backhand pass, he dropped to his knees and raised his arms to the sky. Bergelin stood up with his hands in triumph. Mariana remained seated, smiling calmly.

“This was my toughest match at Wimbledon and my best match,” said the 24-year-old Swede.

McEnroe was as much a hero as Borg. The 16,000 fans on the All-England Club’s central court stood up and applauded as he won the runner-up medal.

McEnroe played tennis almost flawlessly in the first set, and Borg was slow to get into the game.

McEnroe maintained his service until the end of the second set. Then Borg hit two of his special double-held backhand returns and broke for the first time to take set 7-5.

Borg broke the 2-0 lead in the third and kept the lead.

In the fourth set, he broke in 5-4 with two big backhands on the court and the game almost ended.

Serving 40 to 15 in the game, Borg had two match points. And then McEnroe’s best time started.

The US Open champion hit a backhand pass and a forehand volley to lower the score. Borg made a forehand, then McEnroe swept a tremendous backhand across the court to get back to level 5.

Two games of love in a row with service. Then came the tiebreaker. It was probably the most exciting tiebreaker ever played here.

Borg had more match points at 6-5, 7-6, 10-9, 11-10 and 12-11. McEnroe saved them all in brilliant aggressive style. In these crisis spots, he played a magic volley and a series of backhand passes.

McEnroe himself had six tiebreaker set points before breaking Borg with an 18-16 backhand.

McEnroe said with humor afterwards: “Since he had already won the title four times, I thought that when he lost that long tiebreaker, he could just give up.”

Instead, Borg returned the stronger of the two in the final set. His serve in this final stage of the match was really that of a champion. He dropped three points in seven service games. Two of them were in the opening game of the set.

McEnroe lost his service 40-0 in the eighth game and his cause seemed lost. But he won the game again with a series of powerful serves, including an ace and two winners.

McEnroe finally looked tired, but the incredible Swede remained as powerful as ever. Borg went to 7-6 after serving in six games and losing just one point.

From 15 to 15 in the final game, McEnroe fell to defeat. Borg ran on his second service and made a 15-30 forehand return.

Then, Borg faced a cannonball service and sent a backhand across the court for 15 to 40.

In the eighth match point, he hit the last decisive backhand pass. Borg, whose income is estimated at $ 2 million a year, raised another $ 46,600 with his fifth Wimbledon win.

It was McEnroe’s first Wimbledon final and he won $ 23,300.

Borg broke all records at Wimbledon in modern times. He has won 35 individual matches here in a row – three more than Rod Laver, who held the previous record of 32.

A veteran is still ahead of Borg in consecutive Wimbledon titles. Willie Renshaw won six years between 1881 and 1886.

But in those days the defending champion played only one game, in the challenge round against the winner of the tournament itself. And there were no players abroad.

“I thought about losing the game after the fourth set, especially after losing all those starting points,” said Borg, who has now won the first two stages of tennis Grand Slam: Wimbledon and the French Open.

“I thought about them at the beginning of the fifth set. But I didn’t give up. In 2-all I said, ‘let’s go again’. “

Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee, seventh in Australia, won the men’s doubles, beating US veterans Stan Smith and Bob Lutz 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.

The only titles in the United States came in women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Anne Smith and Kathy Jordan beat Rosie Casals and Wendy Turnbull 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in women’s doubles. Tracy Austin and her brother, John, seedless, made a comeback in mixed doubles, beating Mark Edmondson and Dianne Fromholtz 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.

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