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High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry Hardcover – May 17, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062009842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062009845
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is good stuff, and it’s written with flair. In fact, it made me want even more. ” (The Oregonian)

“A book full of aces...Even for those who know the outcomes of the many matches he recounts, Tignor’s descriptive prose and flair for dramatic writing make “High Strung” a true page-turner.” (Associated Press)

From the Back Cover

The golden age of tennis came crashing down suddenly at the 1981 U.S. Open. Bjorn Borg, the stoical Swede who had become the richest and most famous player in the sport's history, had just lost to his brash young rival, John McEnroe, in the final at Flushing Meadows. After his last shot floated out, Borg walked to the net, shook McEnroe's hand in silence, and disappeared from the game he had dominated for the last decade.

No one realized it at the time, but the era that Borg and the three other semifinalists at that year's Open—McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulaitis—had helped define had also ended. For nearly a century, the lawns of tennis had been reserved for wealthy amateurs—gentlemen, in the original British parlance—but in 1968, the game was opened to professionals and was forever changed. The 1970s were boom years for tennis. Thanks to charismatic young players and dramatic matches, participation skyrocketed in the United States and brought the game to a new peak of global popularity. In the ensuing decade, the sport would be taken further from its genteel roots than anyone thought possible.

Through the lens of that era's final tournament, the 1981 U.S. Open, High Strung chronicles the lives and careers of the men who made those Wild West days of tennis so memorable. The Swede known as "Ice Borg," who secretly harbored an inner madman. McEnroe, the tortured, bratty genius who was destined to slay his idol. Connors, the blue-collar kid who tore the cover off the ball—and the game itself—becoming a beloved antihero. Ilie Nastase, the Romanian clown who tested the outer limits of acceptable behavior and taste. Gerulaitis, the New York charmer and Studio 54 regular who was friend to them all. And Ivan Lendl, the robotic Czech who became a harbinger of tennis's high-powered future.

The struggles these men shared were as compelling off the court as they were on. Some thrived, some survived, some were destroyed, but none has ever been forgotten.


More About the Author

Stephen Tignor is the executive editor of Tennis magazine. He writes a daily blog on Tennis.com, where he has written about the sport for the past 12 years.

Customer Reviews

This book is a good read for any tennis fan.
Amazon Customer
As an avid tennis fan, I am always looking for good books about some of the tennis greats, and Steve Tignor's "High Strung" definitely filled the bill.
Joan
He also does a great job of weaving into the narrative the evolution of the traditions we find in the game today.
Jake

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Helen on August 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was watching the tennis channel and I overheard Darren Cahill give a raving review about this book. I am a tennis freak and thought I would give it a try, well, I was totally entertained. There was so much information that one could gather from this read. There must have been hours and hours of research to find out all the interesting facts. I have had many people come up to me and ask if they could read it after I was done. I wish the author would publish another book dealing with other tennis players, maybe of the more recent era. I recommend "High Strung" not just for tennis players, but for anyone who would like to learn more about these two individuals: McEnroe and Borg. two very high strung individuals. MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pugwash on May 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The 1970's, as the author adroitly points out, were the first generation of true professionals. There were no guidelines to teach the over-reachers how to behave, what to say in an interview, how to push humility.

This brought a generation of vivid characters who pushed the limits of behavior to cartoonishness. Not to say these were not phenomenal players and the matches were not epic. Short of the current triumvirate of Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal, the inhabitatants of this era may have been the best of all time.

There was the sphinx-like Bjorn Borg, beloved by men fans and women fans equally, if not exactly. There was the raw brilliance on the court, and the raw emotional behavior of John McEnroe, and the feisty, obnoxious, street brawling of Jimmy Connors. There was a cast of characters competing, like bad boy Ilie Nastase, and the ill-fated perennial runner up Vitas Gerulaitas constantly circling the front runners.

It made for dramatic tennis, great copy, but sometimes very ugly on court antics.

Borg, ultimately, was the only player on the tour McEnroe truly respected, and this elevated his game to its highest levels.

The author, Stephen Tignor, writes in a clear, concise manner, but has some deep insights into the psyches of these seminal players of their generation. He has an understanding of tennis history, and these players places in this hierarchy.

Thoroughly recommended read for the tennis fan and/or historian.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By holmes ghassemi on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Tignor takes you behind the scenes of one of the most intense, competitive, yet curiously respectful rivalries in the history of sport. Where the HBO documentary left off, High Strung picks up and paints a broad, engaging and complete picture of the tennis landscape well beyond the far-too-short period these two legends spent battling one another.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tabe on September 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It's unfortunate that Tignor chose the title he did for this book as it mars what is otherwise a pretty good book on the tennis world of the 1970s and 80s. However, he did choose that title and as such, the book fails. In 235 pages, we get a fair amount of material on Borg, a fair amount on McEnroe - and little on their actual tennis. Oh, the epic finals at Wimbledon and the US Open are covered but not much else. Instead, we get page after page after page of material on other players - Connors, Gerulaitis, Nastase, and multiple others. We get a couple pages on a McEnroe/Fleming doubles match and lots of descriptions of McEnroe meltdowns. Lost in all that is the actual rivalry which, quite literally, disappears for dozens of pages at a time.

So what are we left with? A good book on the tennis scene as it shifted from amateur to open/professional and the first superstars of that era. But a highly insightful analysis of a rivalry? No.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Leandro on August 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was very satisfying to re-enact the greatest match ever in centre court, even tough the Federer - Nadal rivalry has claimed a place among these legends, but to know the intimate way in wich Borg, and Mc Enroe came to be who they were, was a very different sort of tale, and one that we are not allowed to know as simple fans of the players and their sport.
There are many more chapters about Jimmy Connors, Nastase, Gerulaitis and others who made these years great for the sport, and who thrived in clay, grass, or the hard courts of New York. The most amazing fact is that Bjorn never conquered his personal nemesis: The US open and yet he's known as the greatest ever player who walked through the lawns of the sacred All England Lawn & Tennis club at the so called ' Championships'
It was a great read and it was worth every penny!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charbel Eid on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a big fan of Steve Tignor's writing on Tennis.com for several years, so I came in with a good idea of how descriptive and balanced his writing is. This book fulfills my expectations and exceeds them in a few areas. It is extremely well-researched and well-written, and Steve's hard work is apparent in the pages. The book flows between chapters, and is very fluid in its transitions.

What this book is not, is 220+ pages on Borg and McEnroe, and their rivalry. I actually don't quite understand how those involved decided on this particular title, because it's almost laughably misleading. Instead, this is a book about the late 70s and early 80s tennis scene, as the sport transitioned from the amateur to the pro days. The main characters do include Borg and McEnroe, but more than a few dozen pages are used to follow the exploits of Jimmy Connors and Vitas Gerulaitis, and to some extent Ilie Nastase and Ivan Lendl. The author also spends a good amount of the book setting the various scenes, describing the evolution of tennis in the US, its high-class and grass past, and the transition to the modern game. The rivalries and tensions that marked the 70s-80s era of tennis are wonderfully described.

I bought this book simply because I wanted to learn more about the history of tennis. I've heard so much about Borg, McEnroe, Connors, the "old days" and the raucous nature of tennis back then. This book takes the reader straight to that period of time, and lets them explore every facet of that world. I left feeling well-versed and even more intrigued by this bygone era. Highly recommended for pretty much any tennis fan.
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