John McEnroe's Tantrum and Talent Brought Him Greatness on the Tennis Court
John McEnroe was born on February 16, 1959 in Wiesbaden, Germany. He is a former World No. 1 professional
from the United States. McEnroe won seven Grand Slam singles titles — three at Wimbledon and four at the U.S. Open — nine Grand Slam men's doubles titles, and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title. He is remembered for his shot-making artistry and supreme volleying; for his
matches against Bjorn Borg; for his fiery on-court temperament, which frequently
landed him in trouble with umpires and tennis authorities; and for the
catchphrase "You cannot be serious!" directed toward an umpire during a match at
Wimbledon in 1981. Clearly, he was more concerned with his remarkable skills
than strategic public relations. He was inducted into the International Tennis
Hall of Fame in 1999.
McEnroe's game combined shot-making artistry, deft volleys, and a fast, attacking style of play. His sharp reflexes enabled him to return the biggest serves and passing shots masterfully, and the variety, delicacy, and quickness of his play delighted crowds. But McEnroe also quickly became known for his competitive fire and volatile temper. Verbal outbursts seemed to be a key way in which he motivated himself to battle through tough situations during matches, but this frequently got him into trouble.
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In 1980, John McEnroe reached the men's singles final at Wimbledon for the first time, where he faced Björn Borg, who was gunning for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. At the start of the final, McEnroe was booed by the crowd as he entered Centre Court following heated exchanges with officials during his semifinal victory over Jimmy Connors. But the match itself was arguably the greatest Wimbledon final ever. In a fourth-set tiebreaker that lasted 20 minutes, often simply called "that tie-breaker," McEnroe saved five match points and eventually won 18-16. McEnroe, however, could not break Borg's serve in the fifth set, which the Swede won 8-6. This match was called the best Wimbledon final by ESPN's countdown show "Who's Number One?" and "one of the three or four greatest sporting events in history" by ESPN personality Mike Greenberg.
John McEnroe avenged that loss two months later, beating Borg in the five-set final of the 1980 US Open.