HBO Sports has started producing a documentary about tennis legends John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg “McEnroe-Borg: Fire & Ice” who forged an unforgettable rivalry on the court during their championship years of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Thirty-one years after the stirring Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Final that earned them a place among history’s great sports battles, MCENROE/BORG: FIRE & ICE debuts this May in prime time, exclusively on HBO.
The film will chronicle their back stories, prolific tennis careers and spirited rivalry, which propelled tennis into the international sports headlines of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. In addition, MCENROE/BORG: FIRE & ICE will spotlight their post-tennis careers as the two men went their separate ways, with McEnroe launching a high-profile broadcasting career as a commentator for NBC Sports, USA Network, CBS Sports and ESPN, while Borg chose a more private life.
Born Feb. 16, 1959 in Wiesbaden, Germany to Americans Kay and John Sr., who was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force, John Patrick McEnroe, Jr. was the fire to Bjorn Borg’s ice. McEnroe’s fierce passion for the game earned him seven Grand Slam singles titles, but also sparked intense criticism from those offended by his berating of umpires, fans and line judges. Although controversy followed McEnroe throughout his career, his talent, artistry and exquisite timing made him one of the best players of his generation.
In stark contrast, Bjorn Borg’s icy stoicism was a trademark of his dazzling career. Born June 6, 1956 in Sodertaljie, Sweden, he won 11 Grand Slam singles titles at a time when such Hall of Fame players as Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe were also in their prime. A master of the grass court, Borg won five straight Wimbledon championships from 1976 to 1980, establishing himself as one of the all-time greats. But his unrelenting mental and physical training regimen took its toll: Instead of embracing the rivalry he’d begun with McEnroe, Borg walked away from the sport when he just 26, leaving the tennis world to wonder why.
Their most memorable match decided the 1980 Wimbledon men’s singles championship. Boasting an unbending ground game, Borg was attempting to win for the fifth straight time, while McEnroe relied on a renowned serve and volley attack in pursuit of his first title. McEnroe easily took the first set, but Borg fought back to win the next two. The fourth set produced one of the sport’s finest hours, with McEnroe denying Borg’s seven match points, including five in the 18-16 tiebreaker, but Borg recovered to win 8-6 in the fifth.
This exclusive “Legends & Legacies” presentation will feature HBO Sports’ acclaimed combination of rare footage, archival photos and revealing interviews. In addition to McEnroe and Borg, interviewees include: brother Patrick McEnroe; Peter Fleming, McEnroe’s doubles partner; journalists Mike Lupica and Peter Bodo; Tony Palafox, McEnroe’s coach; Percy Rosberg, Borg’s coach; former Swedish women’s player Ingrid Bentzer; former Wimbledon chair umpire George Grime; British journalists Malcolm Folley and Tim Adams; and Swedish journalist Lennart Eriksson.
HBO Sports’ documentary unit has earned 30 Sports Emmy Awards®, including the Outstanding Documentary award each of the last three years, and eight Peabody Awards.
The executive producers of MCENROE/BORG: FIRE & ICE are Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein; producer, Margaret Grossi; interviewer and story editor, Mary Carillo; writer, Aaron Cohen; narrator, Liev Schreiber; editor, Jeff Reilly; music composed by Gary Lionelli.
Greenburg said “Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe are tennis royalty. Their rivalry was brief yet historic, and their individual life stories are fascinating and compelling. We hope to tell the full story of their rivalry and enduring friendship.”