* In the late 1970s, professional tennis held a firm grip on the United States, and no two players better personified the sport's growth than cool-as-ice Swede Borg and brash New Yorker McEnroe. In his first book, Fox Sports tennis columnist Cronin captures a series of pivotal events in the evolution of the sport from European to American dominance, from wood to metal racquets, and from staid players to a colorful cast of supporting characters including Ilie Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis, Jimmy Connors, and Guillermo Vilas. Despite its misleading subtitle, Epic recounts much than that magical 1980 season, with the marathon 1980 Wimbledon final serving as Cronin's hook. In that match, the veteran Borg (en route to his record fifth consecutive Wimbledon title) outlasted the upstart Mac (who grew up with a Borg poster on his bedroom wall) in a five-set showdown. Chapters containing point-by-point analysis of that match take advantage of the author's seasoned knowledge of the game, and a lengthy denouement recounts Mac's revenge against Borg at the 1980 U.S. Open. Although it appears he didn't have personal access to his protagonists, Cronin gets to the heart of Borg's genius and explores the catalyst for McEnroe's ugly on-court temperament, while providing context with historical and pop-culture references and mostly avoiding melodramatic play-by-play prose. (Apr.) (PublishersWeekly.com, 16 May 2011)
From the Inside Flap
From the moment that normally staid British tennis fans began booing like soccer hooligans as the brash and abrasive John McEnroe entered Wimbledon's Centre Court to face off against the revered, number-one-ranked Björn Borg, it was clear that something was changing. In fact, almost everything was changing.
In Epic, tennis writer Matthew Cronin takes you on an unforgettable journey back to the pivotal year of 1980 and the two landmark matches that transformed tennis from a quiet sport to a loud one, from a mostly European pastime to an American obsession, from the exclusive preserve of the country club elite to an everyman and everywoman's game. They also marked McEnroe's emergence as a superstar and the beginning of Borg's precipitous decline.
Cronin alternates crisp, thrilling accounts of the 1980 Borg/McEnroe showdowns at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, widely considered the two greatest tennis matches in history, with insightful excursions into the lives of these two great champions both on and off the court. You'll discover how Borg's long-time coach Lennart Bergelin cured the teenage Björn of some surprisingly McEnroe-like behavior and why McEnroe's coach Harry Hopman's attempt to tame his star pupil backfired completely. You'll also witness the serious locker-room consequences of McEnroe's on-court tantrums and find out why Borg sometimes felt that he had sacrificed too much in his quest for greatness.
Apart from their mutual love of tennis, the two men emerge as polar opposites: Borg, the "Ice Man," was a pure, vintage baseliner famous for the machinelike consistency of his game. His reserved, polite, and even modest behavior epitomized what many viewed as the finest traditions of tennis. "McBrat" was a slightly crazed serve-and-volleyer whose blistering outbursts against court officials offended traditionalists but whose passion for the game attracted millions of new fans to the sport.
Complete with a touching portrait of the friendship that developed between Borg and McEnroe and a heart-stopping re-creation of their unforgettable fourth-set tiebreaker at Wimbledon, Epic is must reading for anyone old enough to remember one of the greatest rivalries in sports history or young enough to have missed it.