Back at Wimbledon, where it all started

Roger Federer has faced Rafael Nadal forty times in the past seventeen years, nine of those matches coming in Grand Slam finals. Since 2006, he has played 50 times against Novak Djokovic, including twice in five-set Wimbledon championship matches that Djokovic won. Furthermore, 58 matches between Nadal and Djokovic have been played, nine of which have taken place at the French Open.

In contrast, between 1978 and 1981, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe participated in 14 matches. Nevertheless, they gave rise to one of the most intense and well-discussed rivalries in sports history.

Forty years ago, as the sun began to set and shadows spread across Louis Armstrong Stadium, over 18,000 fans witnessed an odd conclusion to an all-too-brief period that featured two of the greatest players in history. Initially, they marveled as the native New Yorker McEnroe defeated Borg 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and forty minutes to win the US Open for the third time in a row. However, what transpired at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, next confused and worried people.

Borg was nowhere to be seen as McEnroe elevated the champion’s trophy and gave his parents, Kay and John Sr., a hug. He’d left out the ceremonial after-game press conference. He had hurriedly taken a shower and boarded a waiting station wagon after leaving the stadium with his longtime coach and confidant, Lennart Bergelin. He would never be seen competing at the U.S. Open or any other major tournament again.

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