MCENROE / BORG
Brooklyn, New York - 2023
Although they only played each other 14 times, McEnroe versus Borg became one of the most celebrated rivalries in the history of sport and New York played the lead role in its final denouement. When McEnroe defeated Borg in four sets in the US Open Final of 1981 at Flushing Meadows, Borg left the stadium immediately and never played in a major tournament again. He was just 25 years old.
The late 1970s and early 1980s were heady days for the US Open. New York was rocking to a disco beat and American men and women dominated the higher seedings. In the latter stages of the men’s tournament, McEnroe would often face fellow countrymen such as Jimmy Connors and Vitas Gerulaitis. McEnroe and Gerulaitis - both New Yorkers and good friends - were known to head for Studio 54 once their night matches were over at Flushing Meadows.
My plan was to celebrate this era by hosting a little gathering on a New York subway car from the same period. The way to do this was to hire the New York Transit Museum for the day and dress one of the period cars as if it were 1981. I had my lead in the wonderfully unique John McEnroe; a formidable and gritty New Yorker who wears a subway look with ease. I asked him to bring his guitar which, of course, like a tennis racket, he plays left-handed and plays well.
Today’s McEnroe was joined on his subway ride by characters all styled in the same era. Borg was a necessary extra somewhere in the carriage and we found a strong look alike. He was joined by a couple of Pan Am stewardesses and then, of course, it being New York, we had to make reference to the Village People. The final piece of the jigsaw was the subway adverts on the left and my team did a fine job finding the McEnroe Nike advert.
That would have been one hell of a journey on the subway. Whatever John McEnroe’s journey from here, it will not be normal, as I would have thought he would hate to be called normal. To be number one in the world for 170 weeks is the mark of a fiercely competitive character. It was an honour to spend time with him.