The tennis players Björn Borg and John McEnroe met 14 times on the regular tour and 22 times in total, with their on-court rivalry highlighted by their contrasting temperaments and styles. Borg was known for his cool and emotionless demeanor on court, while McEnroe was famed for his court-side tantrums. Their rivalry extended between 1978 and 1981, with each player winning seven times against the other. Because of their contrasting personalities, their rivalry was described as "Fire and Ice".
In 1980 McEnroe reached the men's singles final at Wimbledon for the first time, where he faced Borg, who was aiming for an Open Era record fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. At the start of the final McEnroe was booed by the crowd as he entered Centre Court following his heated exchanges with officials during his semi-final clash with Jimmy Connors. In a fourth set tie-breaker that lasted 20 minutes, McEnroe saved five match points (seven altogether in that set) and eventually won 18–16. However, he was unable to break Borg's serve in the fifth set and the Swede went on to win 8–6. This match is widely considered one of the greatest tennis matches ever played. McEnroe exacted his revenge by defeating Borg at the US Open final the same year in five sets.
In 1981 McEnroe returned to Wimbledon and again faced Borg in the men's singles final. This time it was the American who prevailed and defeated Borg to end the Swede's run of 41 consecutive match victories at the All England Club. At the US Open in the same season, McEnroe was again victorious, winning in four sets. Borg retired shortly afterwards, having never won the US Open, despite reaching four finals. Their final confrontation came in 1983 in Tokyo at the Suntory Cup (invitational tournament), with Borg prevailing 6–4, 2–6, 6–2.
Borg 11-11 McEnroe (ATP website 7-7)
|Masters / WCT Finals|
|ATP Grand Prix|
|Unofficial Invitational Tournaments|
|2||1979||Richmond||Carpet||SF||Borg||4–6, 7–6(8), 6–3|
|3||1979||Vienna||Carpet||F||Borg||3–6, 6–1, 6–4|
|4||1979||New Orleans||Carpet||SF||McEnroe||5–7, 6–1, 7–6(6)|
|6||1979||WCT Finals, Dallas||Carpet||F||McEnroe||7–5, 4–6, 6–2, 7–6(5)|
|8||1979||Brooklyn Masters, Milan||Carpet||F||Borg||1–6, 6–1, 6–4|
|9||1979||Masters, New York City||Carpet||SF||Borg||6–7(5), 6–3, 7–6(1)|
|10||1980||Wimbledon||Grass||F||Borg||1–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–7(16), 8–6|
|11||1980||US Open||Hard||F||McEnroe||7–6(4), 6–1, 6–7(5), 5–7, 6–4|
|13||1980||Masters, New York City||Carpet||RR||Borg||6–4, 6–7(3), 7–6(2)|
|14||1981||Molson Light Challenge, Toronto||Carpet||SF||McEnroe||6–3, 3–6, 7–6(8)|
|16||1981||Wimbledon||Grass||F||McEnroe||4–6, 7–6(1), 7–6(4), 6–4|
|17||1981||US Open||Hard||F||McEnroe||4–6, 6–2, 6–4, 6–3|
|19||1982||AKAI Gold Challenge, Sydney||Carpet||RR||Borg||3–6, 6–4, 7–5, 6–2|
|20||1982||Europe vs. Americas, Barcelona||Carpet||RR||McEnroe||6–3, 2–6, 6–4|
|21||1982||Antwerp||Carpet||SF||McEnroe||2–6, 6–4, 6–3|
|22||1983||Suntory Cup, Tokyo||Carpet||SF||Borg||6–4, 2–6, 6–2|
Breakdown of their rivalry
- Hard courts: McEnroe, 3–1
- Clay courts: None
- Grass courts: Tied, 1–1
- Carpet courts: Borg, 8-6
- Grand Slam matches: McEnroe, 3–1
- Grand Slam finals: McEnroe, 3–1
- Masters matches: Borg, 2–0
- Masters finals: None
- Davis Cup matches: None
- WCT Finals matches: McEnroe, 1-0
- All finals: Tied, 6–6
- Invitational matches: Tied, 4-4
- Exhibition series: Borg, 4–2
- "Ten great tennis rivalries". The Independent. July 8, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-08. "Time span: '78–81 (14 matches) Head to head: McEnroe 7 Borg 7 Grand Slam finals: Four; McEnroe won three Wimbledon: Two finals, 1980, 1981; one each Relatively speaking, this pair didn't play too many times. But the fireworks when they did meet produced some of the most memorable occasions, with two ass-kicking Wimbledon finals as part of that. It was Ice Man v Crazy Guy. The quiet Swede with liquid nitrogen in his veins against the hot-head big mouth who told us "You cannot be serious," and made a catchphrase out of saying "Are you kidding?" to umpires. Wimbledon, 1980, fourth set, that tie-break. Fifth set, 8–6. Instant classic. Rivals supreme."
- ATP Tour. "Borg-McEnroe Rivalry". Retrieved 2009-06-18.
- Phillips, B.J.; Banta, Ken (1981-07-13). "Sport: Fire and Ice at Wimbledon". Time. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Borg-McEnroe head-to-head at the main tour