Borg Vs. McEnroe

Filed in Film by on April 6, 2018 0 Comments

In 1980, at the age of 24, the Swedish tennis champion Bjorn Borg was at the top of his game, having won a succession of Grand Slam titles, including four consecutive Wimbledon titles. Now he was chasing his fifth Wimbledon title, but one of his fiercest competitors, the 20 year-old American John McEnroe, was determined to dethrone him in the final round.

Their much anticipated rivalry forms the backdrop of Janus Metz’s taut feature film, Borg Vs. McEnroe, which opens in Canadian theatres on April 13.

In terms of personality, the pair were as different as sunshine and rain. Borg was quiet, unassuming and brooding, a gentleman on the court, but he suffered from anxiety attacks. McEnroe was volatile and boorish, capable of arguing with a referee if he disagreed with his call. As a result, he was deemed a “super brat by one British tabloid. Due to his tempestuous behavior, he was generally popular with fans and players. “Nobody likes you,” a competitor says at one juncture in the movie.

Given their diametrically opposed personalities, much of Borg Vs. McEnroe is a character study replete with flashbacks of their respective youths.

As a teenager, Borg was something of a juvenile delinquent, prone to emotional outbursts. At one point, he was suspended for his unsportsmanlike antics, jeopardizing a promising career. Thanks to his coach, a patient man, Borg straightened himself out and went on to become one of the greatest players of all time.

McEnroe is not as meticulously scrutinized as Borg, who’s at the center of the film. What we do learn in fleeting fashion is that he was a math whiz and that his parents expected a lot from him in academic achievement.

The movie takes place mostly in Britain and careens from one decade to the next as Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and McEnroe (Shia LaBoeuf) are fleshed out as flawed human beings. The climax is reached at the championship match between them at Wimbledon.

Sverrir Gudnason, right, and Shia LaBeouf star as tennis rivals

On the eve of their match, Borg is worried that he’ll lose and that no one will remember he won four Wimbledon finals in a row. “Everything I’ve done has led up to this moment,” he says. Neither his fiancé (Tuva Novotny) nor his coach (Stellan Skarsgaard) can calm his frayed nerves.

McEnroe, on the other hand, drowns out his nervousness in a disco. Too cocky for his own good, he predicts that Borg’s days as a champion are numbered. “Borg the machine will soon break down,” he’s quoted as saying in a newspaper article.

Their suspenseful game, rated as the best Wimbledon final in history, unfolds in a riveting 19-minute sequence. McEnroe wins the first set, but Borg regains his composure, setting up a classic match.

With convincing performances from Gudnason and LaBoeuf, Borg Vs. McEnroe turns into a titanic struggle between a legend who senses that his reign may be dribbling to an end and a challenger who thinks he owns the future.







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