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 Borg went on to win 8–6. This match is widely considered one of the best tennis matches ever played. McEnroe defeated 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 straight match victories at the All England Club. At the US Open in the same season, McEnroe was again victorious, winning in four sets, afterwards Borg walked off the court and out of the stadium before the ceremonies and press conference had begun. 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.
In March 2006, when Bonhams Auction House in London announced that it would auction Borg's Wimbledon trophies and two of his winning rackets on 21 June 2006, McEnroe called from New York and told Borg, "What's up? Have you gone mad?" The conversation with McEnroe, along with pleas from Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi, eventually persuaded Borg to buy out the trophies from Bonhams at an undisclosed amount.
Official matches (Borg 7–7 McEnroe)
|Grand Slams (1-3)|
|WCT Finals (0-1)|
|ATP International Series (4-3)|
|1.||1978||Stockholm||Hard (i)||SF||McEnroe||6–3, 6–4|
|2.||1979||Richmond||Carpet||SF||Borg||4–6, 7–6(10–8), 6–3|
|3.||1979||New Orleans||Carpet||SF||McEnroe||5–7, 6–1, 7–6(8–6)|
|5.||1979||WCT Finals, Dallas||Carpet||F||McEnroe||7–5, 4–6, 6–2, 7–6(7–5)|
|7.||1979||Masters, New York City||Carpet||SF||Borg||6–7(5–7), 6–3, 7–6(7–1)|
|8.||1980||Wimbledon||Grass||F||Borg||1–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–7(16–18), 8–6|
|9.||1980||US Open||Hard||F||McEnroe||7–6(7–4), 6–1, 6–7(5–7), 5–7, 6–4|
|11.||1980||Masters, New York City||Carpet||RR||Borg||6–4, 6–7(3–7), 7–6(7–2)|
|13.||1981||Wimbledon||Grass||F||McEnroe||4–6, 7–6(7–1), 7–6(7–4), 6–4|
|14.||1981||US Open||Hard||F||McEnroe||4–6, 6–2, 6–4, 6–3|
Invitational matches (Borg 4-4 McEnroe)
|1.||1979||Velo Tennis Cup, Vienna||Carpet||F||Borg||3–6, 6–1, 6–4|
|2.||1979||Brooklyn Masters, Milan||Carpet||F||Borg||1–6, 6–1, 6–4|
|3.||1981||Molson Light Challenge, Toronto||Carpet||SF||McEnroe||6–3, 3–6, 7–6(10–8)|
|4.||1982||Swan Lager Super Challenge, Perth||Carpet||F||McEnroe||6–1, 6–4|
|5.||1982||AKAI Gold Challenge, Sydney||Carpet||RR||Borg||3–6, 6–4, 7–5, 6–2|
|6.||1982||Europe vs. Americas, Barcelona||Carpet||RR||McEnroe||6–3, 2–6, 6–4|
|7.||1982||European Community Championship, Antwerp||Carpet||SF||McEnroe||2–6, 6–4, 6–3|
|8.||1983||Suntory Cup, Tokyo||Carpet||SF||Borg||6–4, 2–6, 6–2|
|1.||1981||Benson & Hedges Challenge, Sydney ||Indoor||–||Borg||6–0, 6–4|
|2.||1981||Benson & Hedges Challenge, Sydney||Indoor||–||Borg||6–2, 6–4|
|3.||1981||Benson & Hedges Challenge, Melbourne ||Outdoor||F||McEnroe||6–4, 1–6, 7–6, 6–4|
Breakdown of their rivalry
- All matches: Tied, 11–11
- Official matches (ATP website): Tied, 7–7
- Outdoor hard courts: McEnroe, 2–1
- Clay courts: None
- Grass courts: Tied, 1–1
- Indoor carpet/hard courts: Borg, 9–8
- 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
- Official finals (ATP website): Tied, 4–4
- Invitational matches: Tied, 4–4
- "Ten great tennis rivalries". The Independent. July 8, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
- ATP Tour. "Borg-McEnroe Rivalry". Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
- Phillips, B.J.; Banta, Ken (1981-07-13). "Sport: Fire and Ice at Wimbledon". Time. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Borg to auction off Wimbledon trophies". Usatoday.com. 3 March 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "McEnroe fick Borg på andra tankar". DN Sport (in Swedish). 28 March 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
- "Borg Routs McEnroe By 6-0, 6-4". The New York Times. UPI. February 20, 1981.
- "McEnroe Salvages Victory Over Borg in Series Finale". The New York Times. UPI. February 22, 1981.
- Borg-McEnroe head-to-head at the main tour