HBO's spectacular documentary
John McEnroe and Björn Borg's rivalry lasted just five years, but was highlighted by some of the greatest matches in tennis history, most notably the 1980 Wimbledon final with Borg in his prime and McEnroe as the young gun who finally gave The Emperor a true challenger. HBO captures that indelible moment and more, including Borg and his meticulous routine and McEnroe's incorrigible behavior and unwillingness to train.
The subjects interviewed outside the two protagonists make the story even more compelling. Patrick McEnroe provides insight into his stubborn older brother's private feelings, while Borg's tennis coach, Percy Rosberg, reveals his pupil's thoughts on an attempted comeback. A former Wimbledon umpire shares what it was like to be on the other end of a McEnroe tirade.
While the two men reflect generously on their rivalry, they spend very little time together talking about the tennis itself. They reminiscence at Centre Court about the great 1980 Wimbledon final, but they never sit down and play off each other on camera like they once did on court.
Ideally, you'd want to see Borg return a McEnroe verbal backhand, or McEnroe handle a Borg quip like he did the tennis ball that would torpedo off the Swede's tightly-strung racket.
But the separate interviews -- Borg in a white room with the sunlight washing out the background and McEnroe in a black shirt with a darker setting -- still work for the viewer. McEnroe's fire -- something he may be more remembered for rather than his seven Grand Slam singles titles -- is apparent in his interview. He oftentimes shows his competitive flair as if the rivalry didn't die with Borg's sudden retirement just as the American was gaining a step on the man who made him great.
HBO delivers a terrific documentary on a friendship birthed by a rivalry. A rivalry that doesn't need to take the side of who was better than whom, but one that was just fun to watch.