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High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalryby Stephen Tignor
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Borg and McEnroe may have enjoyed breathtaking rallies in late Ã¢Â€Â˜70s and early Ã¢Â€Â˜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)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A book full of aces....A true page-turner.”
“This is good stuff, and its written with flair.”
High Strung by Stephen Tignor is the gripping untold story of the fiercest rivalry in the history of professional tennis. Viewed through the lens of the fabled 1981 U.S. Open match between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, High Strung brings the golden age of tennis vibrantly alive once more. A fascinating chronicle that orbits around the four greatest, most enigmatic talents in the sport at the time—McEnroe, Borg, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulaitis—High Strung is a superior sports history, a must read for anyone who truly loves the game.
About 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 twelve years.
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