BBC "Full length version" of Borg-McEnroe is incomplete

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by krosero, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Dec 3, 2006
    This is probably the strangest thing I’ve seen on a tennis DVD. The BBC copy of the 1981 Wimbledon final between McEnroe and Borg is advertised as “THE FULL LENGTH COLOR VERSION”, but actually a lot of the match has been discretely cut out.

    As best as I can tell, about 40 service faults have been cut out. These are all first serves, so that the second serves that followed look like first serves.

    It’s not easy to tell that cuts have been made, but looking closely there is some obvious evidence. I’ve posted it on YouTube:

    You never know what is going to be taken down from YouTube, so I’m going to describe it in words too (I actually wrote this before I had decided to make a clip):

    At 1-2, 30-15 in the first set (17 minutes into my disc), Borg steps up to the line to deliver a first serve. One ballboy is stationed at each net post. The camera then shows a brief close-up of Borg bouncing the ball once and tossing it up; the serve lands in as the long shot of the court returns. But now both ballboys are at the post underneath the umpire’s chair – as if one of them had run across to pick up a serve that landed in the net.

    Obviously, Borg would have stopped his service motion if a ballboy had decided right then (inexpicably) to cross the court so he could join the other ballboy before the point began. The close-up of Borg lasts only 3 seconds, and all it shows is Borg serving.

    That’s all I have on YouTube, but you can see the same thing happening when McEnroe reaches 6-3 in the third-set tiebreak. One ballboy is stationed at each net post. This case is less obvious because the camera cuts away for more than 3 seconds; but when the long shot returns to show what is supposed to be McEnroe’s first serve, the two ballboys have joined each other at the netpost on the left.

    That serve by McEnroe is actually hit like a second serve, with less pace than all his other serves in the tiebreaks. The New York Times, the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated all report that he missed only one first serve in the two tiebreaks combined; the Times reports that he missed one in the third-set tiebreak.

    In his press conference Borg noted the same thing (ruefully), that McEnroe missed only one serve in two tiebreaks.

    On the BBC version, he misses none of his serves. All of them are hit hard like first serves, except the funny one at 6-3, which must be the second serve reported in the press.

    At 4-5 in the third, McEnroe saved four set points held by Borg. On the fourth (2:21 on my disc), the Post reported that he hit a “gutsy deep second serve.” On the BBC version it’s a first serve; but it’s hit like a second serve.

    Also, you can see Borg standing far back to prepare to receive a first serve. The camera cuts away and returns, but then you can see Borg standing in closer as if to receive a second serve.

    McEnroe stayed back on just one serve that I can remember, a few minutes later when he held game point for 5-all. On the BBC version it’s a first serve; but again it’s hit like a second serve.

    And it borders on unbelievable, for McEnroe to stay back on a first serve on grass.

    I was taking stats using the BBC version, and I kept asking why Borg was serve-and-volleying so little behind his first serves. But a lot of these were actually second serves.

    I don’t know exactly the number of faults that were cut out, but it’s around 20 for each player. That’s my estimate when I compare the service percentages I got using the BBC version, against the service percentages reported in the Post and the Times.

    Using the BBC version, I have Mac serving at 74%, Borg at 69%. The NY Times has Mac at only 62% and Borg at 55% (much closer to their figures in the 1980 final). The Washington Post has them at 61% and 57%, respectively.

    The discrepancy with my stats is what made me think that something was wrong. But even more than that, it’s interesting that the Times and the Post apparently did independent counts, because their figures disagree slightly with each other; yet they both report about 40 fewer successful first serves than I did.

    For one reporter to miss 40 service faults and call them first serves is hard to believe, in itself. Maybe it’s believable that he just made a mistake in the final calculations. But it’s another thing altogether for two reporters to make the same mistakes(s) so that they end up with more or less the same percentages.

    The Post has McEnroe making 100 of 164 first serves (61%), while the Times has 104 of 167 (62%). Using the BBC, I get 121 of 164 (74%).

    The Post has Borg making 86 of 151 first serves (57%), while the Times simply reports 55%. With the BBC, I get 104 of 150 (69%).

    My figures coincide with the press pretty closely on the number of first serves attempted (ie, the total points played), so I wondered why there was such a large discrepancy on the total number of first serves that fell in.

    In the tiebreaks alone, the Post has Borg making 4 of 9 first serves. On my copy he made 5 of 9. The Times has him making 1 of 4 in the first tiebreak, while I have him at 2 of 4.

    And as noted, the Post and the Times agree that Mac made 9 of 10 first serves over the course of the two tiebreaks, while I saw him make all ten.

    At 1-2 in the first, Borg appears to make 3 of 5 first serves. But at the end of the game Maskell says that Borg made only 1 of 5. And indeed Borg only hit one serve flat and hard; the rest look like second serves.

    (The BBC announcers sometimes do get that stat wrong, and it’s worth noting that Mark Cox said that McEnroe had made all his first serves in the tiebreaks, disagreeing with the Post and the Times).

    The BBC version gives me some weird figures for success on second serve. Mac is at 20% in the first set, 33% in the third, and he finished with just 42%. Borg is at 85% in the second set, and 25% in the third. His overall success rate of 52% is believable; the only problem is that it's ten points higher than McEnroe's.


    I have an “official” copy of the BBC coverage, bought at Amazon. It’s copyrighted 1997 by the AELTC, and it’s all on a single disc. The match includes all the commentaries on the changeovers but runs only 3 hours 11 minutes (not including material on the disc before and after the match). The Centre Court clock, however, had 3 hrs. 22 mins. for the elapsed time at the end. The press reported 3:22 as the elapsed time. And the promotional material on the back on the DVD case also mentions that the contest lasted 3 hours 22 minutes – but actually the disc itself runs only 3 hours 22 minutes, including the material before and after the match.

    If 40 service faults were cut out, that would make the match about 10 minutes shorter.

    I downloaded the BBC version offered at Wimbledon’s official site, and it’s the same as the one at Amazon: Ditto for the one offered by Megaupload:

    Tennis Warehouse is selling the same version I bought at Amazon:, going by the image of the cover; I haven’t bought it.

    I bought a videotape version at Amazon ( that is the same as my DVD, though it looks like a different release. At the bottom left of the sleeve, there is no “SRO” logo, unlike the DVD I have, which was released by Standing Room Only Entertainment.

    What I’d like to do is find a version of the NBC coverage.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  2. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Dec 3, 2006
    Published stats

    Here's the Washington Post:

    The stats from the New York Times:

    Sports Illustrated had the same stats as the Times:

  3. scotus

    scotus G.O.A.T.

    Jul 5, 2005
    Have you watched the official DVD from Wimbledon?

    You can buy it or rent it from Blockbuster/Netflix.
  4. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Dec 27, 2005
    do you know if the '80 W final was edited at all?
  5. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Dec 3, 2006
    I haven't checked any match except 81W, but 80W runs just as long as it should on my copy: 3 hrs. 53 mins, as reported in the press.

    It runs over 2 discs, a BBC version released by SRO.

    I had them serving in the low 60s, in line with the NY Times:

    Nothing else in my stats looks unusual about that match.

    ETA: don't know if I put this in the thread for the '80 final, but my count confirms all the stats in this passage in the Post:

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  6. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Dec 3, 2006
    Blockbuster's looks like the same "Classic Match" series as the one I bought at Amazon. The run time is 3 hours 26 minutes, four minutes shorter than what is listed on the Amazon page.

    I'm willing to rent it, but why would the rental version be different from the one at Amazon and the one downloaded from
  7. Murray_Maniac

    Murray_Maniac Banned

    May 23, 2008
    Thanks for the heads up. As u know, I have the 80 final & Im verry sure that they didnt cut the 1st serve faults. I havent bought this one yet. Im kinda dissapointed too. Sure, it cuts down some "worthless" time, but at the same time ya miss the actual stats. Im sure you & Moose know this, when u take stats, ya really start to notice how the 1st serve percentages affects play. What a bummer.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2008
  8. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Dec 3, 2006
    It's so true, you don't truly see what the players are doing; in a sense you just seeing them finishing points; and what you do see is deceptive, if you think the point was on first serve rather than second.

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