‘You cannot be serious!’
Special to the Post Independent
It took just a little over two hours for Rafael Nadal to defeat Tomas Berdych in the men’s tennis final at Wimbledon last week. The match was quick and uneventful, with Nadal handily claiming the eighth grand slam title of his career. There should be many more major titles in the talented Spaniard’s future.
The brief finals match created a dilemma for the NBC television cameras though, having a five-hour time slot to fill and no tennis to show.
Nadal’s tidy dispensing of Berdych turned into viewing good fortune for those of us who enjoy the occasional stroll down memory lane. Pressed for a good fill-in, the T.V. powers that be chose to replay parts of the classic 1980 Wimbledon final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, a match which is widely regarded as one of the best-ever played in the sport’s history.
The fourth set tiebreak, which was won by McEnroe in dramatic fashion, was shown in its entirety, complete with comments and narrative from Borg and McEnroe, who were in the NBC studio in London reliving the match that Borg, ultimately, pulled out by winning 8-6 in the fifth set for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon crown.
It was especially fun for me to watch the match again because Borg was one of my heroes growing up. He was like a human backboard, making the baseline his home and wearing down opponents with steady ground strokes and superb fitness, while never losing his cool or showing any outward emotion.
Though I like him now, and I think he’s the best tennis commentator in the game, I loathed McEnroe during his playing days. Johnny Mac was the spoiled brat from New York who lost his temper on the court often, and vehemently questioned line calls at every turn. His famous “You cannot be serious” tirade directed at an umpire after what McEnroe thought was an especially bad call in 1981 at Wimbledon, is both a funny and sad commentary on his behavior, at least in the early years of his career.
The 1980 Wimbledon match was entertaining because it was good tennis, the way the game should be played. The rackets were made of wood, the balls were white, and the outcome was based on movement, shot-making, stamina and calm resolve – not power alone.
The times were much simpler too, and it was refreshing to see. There was only one announcer from the BBC calling the match, not a host of “experts” yapping in your ear after every point. The television showed no instant replay and there was no “Shot Spot” for players to hold the game hostage by challenging every line call. When the cameras panned the packed crowd at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, not one person was talking on a cell phone or sending a text message. I wonder how those folks survived such deprivation?
It was great to listen to McEnroe and Borg, sitting side by side, talk about their feelings and thoughts at different points in the match and what type of strategy they were trying to employ in order to wrestle the championship from one another. The two greats still battle each other in tennis exhibitions and it’s obvious that there is great respect and mutual admiration between them as people and for what they have accomplished on the tennis court.
The 1980 final was much better than the 2010 final, but it was no disappointment to get to relive a special time from younger years and the wonders thereof.
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