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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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“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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Could be more concise. Could be less pages. The author writes whole chapter that have nothing to do with Borg and Mac except that they played in the same era as theses two.Published 2 months ago by booklover50
I found this book on par with the best, like Agassi's Open, I could not put it down. Really good stories about the players of this aera, stories that are not just taken from... Read morePublished 8 months ago by guitarsailor
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It reads like a history of the most amazing tennis era. Very well-written.Published 9 months ago by Orphycat
Enjoyed this book. Well written. Captured my attention throughout Recommended to anyone that wants to recapture the beginning of the open eraPublished 12 months ago by Monica Heidkamp
I enjoyed this story and history of the evolution of tennis. I played a lot of tennis in the 1970's and 1980's and followed all the professional players. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
One of the great rivalries in tennis history,left you a little in the dark about Borgs mindset ,was it the drugs or the pressuresPublished 16 months ago by George Hild
While the subject material for this book is quite intriguing, Stephen Tignor's treatment of this exciting moment in tennis history is sophomoric and really would have benefited... Read morePublished 19 months ago by John Gilman