Tennis Identity

“HIGH STRUNG: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and the Untold Story of Tennis’s Fiercest Rivalry.”

HIGH STRUNG Book Cover HIGH STRUNG: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis’s Fiercest Rivalry by Stephen Tignor hits bookstores tomorrow.

2011 happens to be the thirtieth anniversary of the last Borg/McEnroe Grand Slam finals meeting, the 1981 U.S. Open; the cool Swedish Adonis vs. the ill-mannered American Superbrat.

That Open marked the end of an era and not just in the world of pro tennis. I recall a chalkboard at our town courts where people listed the time they arrived and kept track of who was playing too long. Young mothers wearing ruffled panties and short skirts brought playpens courtside for their mid-morning game. Borg was gorgeous, McEnroe unbelievable, and tennis was cocktail party topic; the game had over-arching magic.

The fuel behind it all? The personalities and rivalries of the pro game. Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, McEnroe, Borg and more. The shot-making, good looks and on-court behavior were absolutely fascinating in the relatively dry world of sports coverage (“the agony of defeat” excepted). Who didn’t want to watch a match to see what Connors or McEnroe would do next?

As HIGH STRUNG visits one of the most marked rivalries of the 70s/80s it also explores the growth of the tennis industry that today is a finely tuned machine. IMG and Nike (McEnroe wore one of the first pairs of Nike tennis shoes) are both woven into this read that presents the battles alongside the rise of tennis marketing and the undercurrent outrageousness that pervaded the sport.

Tennis is back for sure but it IS different. Marquee players have learned that keeping emotions in check will help them to win and well entouraged personalities keep private lives under the hood. I enjoyed this revisit to an old and very entertaining tennis era.

My only complaint (I am Swedish) Tignor spelling Bjorn without the ö. Like Söderling, it’s a different name without the dots. Björn…that’s it. Otherwise, all good.