|John McEnroe (USA) photo by Fred Mullane|
While they vacationed with their families last week, McEnroe poached the idea of Borg filling in for the injured Jimmy Connors of the Philadelphia Freedoms. “He asked me if I wanted to come over and play and I said of course! The respect I have for John on the court and off the court is enormous. He is a good friend of mine and to me it was not a tough decision,” Borg said.
McEnroe was a little hesitant to ask, but because it was to benefit the academy Borg was an obvious choice. “He has quite honestly saved my ass. Its’ a big fundraiser, and all the money is going to the academy to try and provide some more opportunities. It was awesome and much appreciated that Bjorn was willing to step in here,” McEnroe said.
For both players it’s more than just another match. “I think every time I walk on the court with John it’s going to be special,” Borg said. It is special because it brings back memories of what Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe did for the sport, something they both take a great deal of pride in. They brought a certain buzz to the sport. “Tennis was at a different level (when we played) compared to where it is today,” Borg said.
McEnroe joked before the match, that his teammates were putting pressure on him to win, yet he explained a greater purpose for the event. “What’s really more important is that we hopefully leave people walking away from this feeling like they had a great evening. And hopefully we can bring back a little magic,” McEnroe said.
And for one evening, in one set, magic was alive in Manhattan. McEnroe and Borg were facing off, and the crowd was captivated. Borg looked sharp early, dominating the first game, and smacking two consecutive aces to grab the third game as well. He was hitting the ball hard, side to side, past McEnroe. But McEnroe started to place the ball in the corners and took advantage of Borg’s decline in agility. McEnroe won the 8th game to force a nine point tiebreaker, which he won on an ace of his own.
“He is still a fighter. He still wants to win all the time, and he still plays a lot of tennis, he is a great competitor,” Borg said post match.
Bjorn Borg photo by Fred Mullane
Most importantly however, the buzz that McEnroe looked to create was in full force. The crowd gave a standing ovation as the two tennis titans embraced. McEnroe’s win gave the Sportimes a 17-16 lead over the Freedoms, yet it didnt matter.
The Sportimes led going into the final set of the night. Yet, Beatrice Capra defeated the previously undefeated Martina Hingis by a score of 5-2 to give the Freedoms a 21-19 win.