16th February marks the birthday of one of the most talented yet outrageously temperamental players in men’s tennis, John McEnroe of America. The former World Number 1 won 7 singles Grand Slams in his career. The most difficult of them all was the Wimbledon Championship of 1981 against Björn Borg after McEnroe had finished finalist to the Swede a year earlier in 1980.
On his birthday we look back at those 2 amazing weeks John McEnroe had on the grass courts of the All England Lawn tennis club, which culminated in the 1st of his three Wimbledon titles.
Beginning The Run
McEnroe started the tournament as the second seed. He beat fellow countryman Tom Gullikson in 3 quick sets to go past the 1st round. In the 2nd round match John McEnroe had to dig a little deep but ultimately came through in 4 sets against the gritty Mexican player Raul Ramirez.
The 3rd and 4th round matches against fellow American’s Robert Lutz and Stanley Smith presented a little challenge. McEnroe overcame both the opponents with relative ease. He was now quickly through to the crucial second week, in pursuit of his first title on the lawns of SW19.
The Crucial Matches
In the quarter-final John McEnroe met South Africa’s Johan Kriek in what was expected to be a tight contest on paper. Kriek had beaten some strong opponents in the first week but McEnroe was a different league altogether. He was too much determined at this stage and badly wanted the title. The American raced through in 3 straight sets, dominating from start to finish.
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In the semi-final match McEnroe was up against Australia’s Rod Frawley. The Australian threw everything at the McEnroe but the American was ready with the answers at every stage and every shot. The match was won in 3 very tight sets and McEnroe was back in his 2nd successive Wimbledon final.
The Final Frontier
Entering the court in the final would have haunted John McEnroe for a moment or two. A year ago he was bitterly disappointed after losing to Björn Borg in a 5 set thriller despite winning the 1st set. A year on he was so near to the trophy but the same opponent stood in between one more time.
Borg who was chasing his 6th successive Wimbledon title won the 1st set. The match looked utterly in favor of the Swede. McEnroe however was too good and too determined a player to miss out on the second chance.
He displayed great tennis tactics in the next 2 sets, making full use of his excellent serve and volley skills. The 3rd and the 4th sets would go to a tie breaker. It was the American who came out victorious in both the breakers putting himself within the reach of the Wimbledon men’s trophy.
A set away from victory McEnroe raised his game. For the 1st time in 6 years tension was visible on Björn Borg’s face at Wimbledon. The Swede finally succumbed to McEnroe losing the 4th set, the game and the championship. McEnroe had now realised his childhood dream of becoming the Wimbledon Champion. It was the most special moment of his illustrious career.