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 Wednesday, August 23
String Music
More Info on John McEnroe

 By Fred W. Kiger
Special to

Signature Game
July 5, 1980 - McEnroe, dubbed "Superbrat" by the English press, was booed as he made his way to Centre Court at Wimbledon. His opponent was Bjorn Borg, who was seeking his 35th consecutive win at the All-England Club and fifth straight title.

The 21-year-old McEnroe, appearing in his first Wimbledon final, won the first set easily before losing the next two. With Borg leading 5-4 in the fourth set, McEnroe refused to wilt and saved two match points and won the game. After each held serve, the match went into a tiebreaker - and history.

Five times Borg held match point; five times McEnroe escaped defeat. For 22 breath-taking minutes, the two slugged away, enthralling the fans with their superb shotmaking. Finally, on the 34th point of perhaps the most exciting tiebreaker ever played, McEnroe prevailed, winning 18-16.

In the fifth set, McEnroe did not let down. He played well, but Borg played better. McEnroe lost 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6, but the "brat" from New York left the court to cheers and had served notice that his heart, guts and talent were at least equal to his mouth.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Upon McEnroe's arrival in 1972 at Trinity School in Manhattan, headmaster Dr. Robin Lester said, "If you lined up all 300 boys in his approximate age group...and asked us to place them in the order of who was most likely to succeed as an international athlete, John would have come in 299."

  • At Trinity, McEnroe had his most success in soccer. As a senior at left wing, he led the team in scoring.

  • McEnroe's childhood idol was Rod Laver.

  • In 1978, McEnroe, a freshman at Stanford, won the NCAA championship by defeating North Carolina State's John Sadri, 7-6, 7-6, 5-7, 7-6. In what some have called "one of the greatest matches in college tennis," the duel lasted four hours and the difference between their aggregate point total was one (McEnroe 144, Sadri 143).

  • McEnroe joined the pro circuit later in 1978. It took him only three years to be ranked No. 1 by the ATP computer - the youngest to be so ranked at 21 years, 15 days.

  • McEnroe's first Davis Cup participation came in 1978 when the 19-year-old helped the United States to a 4-1 win over Great Britain. He would compete in Davis Cup play for 12 years, during which he set or shared 20 U.S. Cup records.

  • The Borg-McEnroe confrontation at the 1980 U.S. Open final rivaled the confrontation the two had at Wimbledon earlier that year. McEnroe outlasted the Swede, 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that went 55 games and covered four hours and 13 minutes, 20 minutes longer than their Wimbledon marathon.

  • Dunlop specially crafted a racket for him, the McEnroe Maxply, which had an angular grip sized 4 5/8 and weighed 13 ounces strung. Although his racket was strung at a relatively low 50-52 pounds of tension, McEnroe still went through more than 100 sets of gut a year.

  • In the five months following his 1981 Wimbledon victory, McEnroe's Dunlop Maxply rocketed an astronomical 240 percent in U.S. sales.

  • From 1980-85, McEnroe reached No. 1 on 14 different occasions. At the end of every year from 1981 to 1984, he was ranked No. 1.

  • McEnroe was the ATP's Player of the Year in 1981, 1983 and 1984. He and partner Peter Fleming were the ATP's Doubles Team of the Year in 1979 and 1981.

  • At one stretch in McEnroe's career, he was ranked No. 1 in doubles for a record 257 weeks. He would win 77 men's doubles titles and one mixed (at the 1977 French Open with Mary Carillo).

  • McEnroe made his Worldwide Senior Tennis Circuit debut in 1995, winning the Moscow Champions.

  • In 1998, McEnroe became the first person other than Jimmy Connors to end the year as the top player on the Worldwide Senior Tennis Circuit. He also finished No. 1 in 1999.

  • McEnroe had won 20 WSTC titles in 11 countries and five continents going into 2000.

  • McEnroe was enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., on July 10, 1999.

  • In September 1999, McEnroe was named captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team. His team barely escaped defeat in their first two outings in 2000, defeating Zimbabwe and the Czech Republic both by 3-2 margins, before losing to Spain 5-0, in the semifinals.

  • McEnroe loves to play electric guitar and has said, "Ideally, I'd like to be a rock star, but that's only a dream."

  • His John McEnroe Foundation targets causes for children.

  • His John McEnroe Gallery in New York City features the work of some of his favorite artists.

  • He is married to musician Patty Smyth. His first wife was actress Tatum O'Neal. McEnroe is the father of six.


    SportsCentury biography of John McEnroe