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Epic: John McEnroe, Bjrn Borg, and the Greatest Tennis Season Ever Hardcover – April 1, 2011
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
The center of the story, the 1980 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, is well told. Although I understand why some reviewers didn't like Cronin's decision to alternate chapters on the Wimbledon final with background chapters, it actually increased the tension of the match for me (even though I obviously knew how it ended).
Another strong point is the inclusion of the comments of former players on McEnroe and his antics. I really enjoyed the perspectives of players like Sandy Mayer, who despised McEnroe's antics and tennis' unwillingness to crack down on him but who nevertheless marveled at his genius on the court.
If Cronin had simply focused on the tennis, this would have been a better book. He does have a tendency to get too cute with his writing - his references to McEnroe's attacking the cords (net) started to drive me crazy halfway through the book - but all in all, his storytelling is sound. The bigger problem for me is that he inserts descriptions of what was going on in the United States and around the world without ever linking it to the Borg/McEnroe story. My sense is that he was trying to connect the Borg/McEnroe rivalry to the broader context of the times, but he rarely makes the connection explicit (the only time is when he compares McEnroe to Ronald Reagan, a connection which I found utterly unconvincing).Read more ›
1. Page 112 -- During 4th set Wimbledon tiebreaker -- "It's 5-5 but the Swede has two serves to close it out." REALLY. If Borg is serving he has one serve remaining then serve goes back to Mac. Minor point but this is a tennis writer? Has he ever played a tiebreaker? Watched one? This is a big miss.
2. Clumbsy attempted linkage of presidential election of 76, Eagles album, disco, Saturday Night Fever movie release and soundtrack popularity and punk rock scene. Reeks of someone who did not live through the era and skimped on research. As another reviwer pointed out, Carter was elected in 1976. Eagles album released early 77, SNF released Dec. 77, not a phenomenon until next year.
3. Fawning worship of Carter: "sought to calm the nation in his cool and measured southern drawl." And, the Midwest slept better after SALT II accord reached, Carter's unsung accomplishment that kept us safe. I recall Carter as more of a scolder and whiner than a soother and being from the Midwest I can assure you that most did not give a hoot in hell about another treaty the Soviets would cheat on. Must have been why he was reelected, wait, he lost big.
But, OK when it sticks to tennis.
Perhaps Sports psychologist Jim Loehr summed the answer up best, "Today, people can't play the game they were watching on TV. It's like it's become a sport outside their reach, so they go back to a time when life was slower, the ball was slower, and the rackets were primitive ...Big money has changed the game."
Cronin does far more than document the action on the court in detailed play-by-play. He sends us back in time to the mid 1970s when the disco craze competed with Sex Pistol groupies. We are transported into the golden days of tennis giants like Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, and Billie Jean King. We are given an intimate peek at the private lives of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe as they emerge into the circle of tennis greats while still in their teens, then relive the final contest where they battle for the title.
For those of us who remember the tension and drama, it is a refreshing trip.
Reviewed by Casey Corthron
This book falls far short of the epic achievements it documents. The chronology of events in the book is tough to follow, whether in the chapters about players' lives or those about the actual matches. Matt tries so hard to provide historical context to the tennis but ends up giving so much information that it's just confusing. In the sections about the actual matches, the writing is so convoluted that once or twice I couldn't even figure out who won the point or the game!
I looked forward to reading this book, and I'm really sorry to say that it's been as disappointing as a much-hyped Grand Slam womens final that ends with a score line of 6-1 6-0.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Alot of information but not put together well. The author tried to give context by providing information about currents events occurring at the same time as these matches, but he... Read morePublished 16 months ago by moviekat10
I have loved tennis since I was a boy. I grew up watching McEnroe and Borg. This is a fascinating inside look at two of tennis' best players and the rivalry they had on the... Read morePublished on February 24, 2014 by Mark Bowser
the book was well written and well researched. the author clearly did his homework.clearly enjoyed book, a must read foe tennis fans.Published on November 24, 2013 by Dave Moeller
Good memories from the 80's, you realize the way thing were, so you can maybe figure out how things are nowPublished on August 21, 2013 by JESUS BACA ESTRADA
I liked the book but I think it misses the point....there wasn't much rivalry between Borg and McEnroe.... Read morePublished on June 6, 2013 by Atticus62
A great read and interesting insight but did notice a number of inaccuracies. On page 49 It was claimed Borg at 17 years and eleven months in 1974 was the youngest ever male... Read morePublished on September 4, 2012 by tennis maestro
'Epic' is a must read for tennis enthusiasts as well as sports lovers as it recreates the magical and intense drama that unfolded with clash of the titans.. Read morePublished on August 26, 2012 by sarita
Mr. Cronin's book is interesting, but it would have to be given the subject material. However, the timeline would be very difficult to follow if you didn't already know the story. Read morePublished on May 31, 2012 by Zach Dillinger
Cronin has done a great service to tennis fans, giving them a wonderful insight into the lives of those on the tennis tour. Read morePublished on July 23, 2011 by Joel D. Vaughan