Join Date: Dec 2006
From the New York Times:
September 14, 1981
McENROE DEFEATS BORG FOR 3D TITLE IN ROW
By NEIL AMDUR
John McEnroe frustrated Bjorn Borg in four sets yesterday and won his third consecutive United States Open singles title. The 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory made McEnroe the first player since the legendary Bill Tilden (1920-1925) to win three straight national crowns. It also assured him the No. 1 ranking for the year, widening the gap between other challengers. But the fury and dimension of previous McEnroe-Borg duels were missing in this match at the National Tennis Center.
The match ended in strange circumstances, with McEnroe kissing his mother and happily g reeting his father on the court, but with Borg leaving before the traditional awards ceremon ies. Borg, despondent, had lost an Open final for the fourth time an d had been unsuccessful for the 10th time in his quest for the elusiv e title.
As he left, he was surrounded by seven city plainclothes officers because of another telephoned death threat received earlier in the day. The first, by an anonymous male caller, came on Saturday, 90 minutes before Borg beat Jimmy Connors, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, in the semifinals. Borg was informed of the threat by Lennart Bergelin, his coach, after the Connors match.
Neither Bergelin nor Borg knew of the second threat. According to Ed Fabricius, a tournament official, it was received at 4:45 P.M. at the center's switchboard, about the time Borg was taking t he first set from McEn roe.
McEnroe, who watched part of the Borg-Connors match on television after his five-set victory over Vitas Gerulaitis on Saturday, said he was aware of the first threat against Borg. Asked if he thought that Borg might have been distracted yesterday because of the threat, he said, ''It's possible.''
''It seemed like he didn't play his game,'' said McEnroe, the lefthander from Douglaston, Queens. Borg went directly from the court to the locker room, skipping the postmatch news conference. He showered and left the center through a dark back stairwell, led by security men.
His mother, father and maternal grandfather, who were attending the Open for the first time, returned to Borg's home in Sands Point, L.I., with his wife, Mariana.
''Bjorn was very disturbed about losing,'' Bob Kain, his representative for the International Management Group, said last night, ''and he was concerned about the death threat, enough that he wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.''
The Open has haunted Borg over the years, as Wimbledon became Ken Rosewall's competitive graveyard. No right-hander has won the men's crown since 1973. McEnroe said of Borg, five times a winner at Wimbledon and six times at Paris: ''This is the only place where he's put so much pressure on himself.''
McEnroe, who received the $60,000 singles prize, plus a $6,000 bonus from the Grand Prix, knows how to put pressure on Borg, particularly on fast surfaces like grass, indoor carpets or the DecoTurf II asphalt here.
The pressure comes from Borg's knowledge that McEnroe can hurt him in many ways - with his high-kicking left-handed serves, penetrating first volleys and attacking game. And while Borg was able to bury Connors with 14 aces and grooved ground strokes at one speed, he was now up against a player who was content to hit deep, offspeed shots in rallies, ''junk'' that frequently induced Borg into uncharacteristic unforced errors, or allowed McEnroe to pick the time for aggression. That Big Serve
The serve has become the most important element in their matches. Borg won the 1980 Wimbledon five-set duel by dominating the finish with 19 service points in a row; McEnroe's serve was the decisive weapon here last year in five sets, and again in a four-set triumph at Wimbledon.
Yesterday, Borg managed 72 percent of his first serves in the first set, to McEnroe's 48, and the Swede got a break at love in the seventh game. But in the next three sets, Borg got in only 40 of 81 first serves, 49 percent, hardly consistent enough to keep a player of McEnroe's talent from dictating the flow of rallies.
At 2-5, 30-0 in the second set, Borg served a double fault, and then another to drop the set; he had seven double faults in the match.
The diversity of McEnroe's game, often overlooked because of his serve-and-volley skills, was never more evident than in the eighth game of the third set. That game seemed to drain Borg.
Borg broke serve for a 3-2 lead, then held for 4-2. McEnroe held and opened the eighth game with a crisp backhand cross-court pass, a crunching shot that can restore confidence. McEnroe Turns to the Lob
Borg evened at 15-all when McEnroe's forehand went wide. Then Borg attacked and positioned himself near the net. Instead of trying to drive the ball directly at or past him, as Roscoe Tanner had attempted to do unsuccessfully in a four-set quarterfinal loss to the Swede, McEnroe used a delicate offensive weapon, the forehand topspin lob.
Last year, McEnroe said, friends told him that he had forgotten about the lob. ''When Bjorn comes in,'' he said later, ''he stands close to the net, and if you hit the lob right, there's a good chance you'll get the point.''
At 15-30, Borg again moved in aggressively. This time McEnroe answered with a nother backhand cross-court pa ss. As if to drive home the message that he could combine force and t ouch more than once, he lofted a forehand topspin lob over Borg for t he break point, held serve at love and broke him in the 10th game for the set.
Borg might not have been the same player after the eighth game, seemingly dispirited that McEnroe had dissected him so deftly, and uncertain whether to stay back or attack. But McEnroe's confidence soared.
''That's one of the best games I've played on someone else's serve in a long time,'' he said, reflecting that ''suddenly, I felt I could hit just about any shot.''
Borg was never in the fourth set. He lost his serve at 15 in the fourth game, broke McEnroe to put the set back on serve, but then sent two back hands past the baseline at 30-all.
He saved 2 match points from 15-40 in the eighth game. McEnroe opened the ninth with a double fault, then took the next 4 points, the first on a cross-court backhand volley and the others on serves that Borg could not handle. Record Total Attendance
The capacity crowd of more than 18,000 brought the total attendance for the $1-million tournament to 351,424, a record. Anne Smith won two doubles titles, women's and mixed, with Kathy Jordan and Kevin Curren as partners.
At a time when many players have spurned doubles because of its commitment, McEnroe collected $13,200 as doubles champion (with Peter Fleming) and Miss Smith $26,040 for her showing as singles quarterfinalist and her doubles titles.
That McEnroe was alone among the four semifinalists who combined singles and doubles, doing it successfully at Wimbledon and here, was another tribute to his talents.