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July 06, 2009
Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT
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July 06, 2009

The Vault

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | July 13, 1981

Bloody Yank!

An American superbrat wins his first Wimbledon

The Bjorn Borg--John McEnroe final was a rematch of their five-set classic at the All England Club and the third installment of their Grand Slam rivalry. Curry Kirkpatrick reported from Centre Court.

When it finally ended in the gathering greens and grays of a long Fourth of July afternoon, he was alone. Just he and his racket and the ball coming shoulder high on the left. There were no more "incompetent fools" or "disgraces to mankind" in the chair. There were no more "cheats" on the lines. There were no "vultures" in the stands, no "trash" or "liars" in the press box and none of the other persecutions, real and imagined, which had been visited upon him for a fortnight. Now it was only he, reaching out on the forehand and jabbing a volley. When the ball landed smack in the corner, clean and clear where nobody could overrule the call or replay the point or "screw" him, he had beaten them all. Most of all, John McEnroe had finally beaten the great Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon. For that he will be remembered long after his outrageous behavior and guttersnipe quotations are forgotten.

It had taken a thoroughly preposterous six Wimbledons, with Borg winning 41 straight matches, for this moment to arrive. The scores were 4--6, 7--6, 7--6, 6--4, and when the Centre Court clock struck 5:30 p.m., at the instant the championship changed hands, McEnroe looked to the sky for a moment, transfixed by what he had accomplished. Then he whirled to salute his family in the visitors' box. Brother Mark already had the champagne out.

McEnroe, 22 in 1981, would win Wimbledon twice more and finish with seven career Grand Slam singles titles and 10 more in doubles.

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