High Strung

High Strung : John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry

3.86 (272 ratings by Goodreads)
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For all the upsets, unexpected career turnarounds, and bizarre instances of violence tennis has produced, there have been few moments more stunning to fans than the one that occurred immediately after the men's final at the 1981 U.S. Open. Bjorn Borg, the stoical Swede who had been the game's most respected gentleman and resolute competitor for the better part of a decade, lost to his younger and brash rival John McEnroe and walked straight out of Louis Armstrong Stadium at Flushing Meadows, an unsightly breach in decorum. Borg's career had suddenly ended, and so had the era of tennis that he and the three other semifinalists at that year's Open-McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulaitis-along with Ilie Nastase-defined. That period, which lasted roughly from 1971 to 1981, is now remembered as a golden one for the sport. As late as 1968, tennis was reserved for amateurs-gentlemen, in the original British parlance-as it had been since its invention a century earlier. But for the first time in 1968, tennis opened its Grand Slams to the professional rank, and the sport took its place among the world's big-money sports.
Recreational participation boomed, while at the professional level a group of charismatic young players brought the sport to a new peak of international popularity. "High Strung" narrates a landmark year in the sport's history, the lives involved, and chronicles the broader innovations in the 1970s that spread to all of America's major sports and athletes: agents, merchandise deals, even the idea of signature shoes, all of them owe their existence to the personalities and professional conduct of this new set of players. Distinctly ungentlemanly, they took the game farther from its roots than its officials and fans thought possible, and would cause upheavals in the very equipment they held in their hands as racquets evolved and the game shifted from finesse to power. The 1981 U.S. Open was the metaphorical end of the earth for 1970s tennis, and "High Strung" explores the lives and careers of the four players who defined the era
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 160.02 x 231.14 x 27.94mm | 476.27g
  • Harper
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 8-Page Colour Insert
  • 0062009842
  • 9780062009845
  • 275,142

Review quote

"This is good stuff, and it's written with flair. In fact, it made me want even more. " -- The Oregonian "A book full of aces...Even for those who know the outcomes of the many matches he recounts, Tignor's descriptive prose and flair for dramatic writing make "High Strung" a true page-turner." -- Associated Press
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Back cover copy

The golden age of tennis came crashing down suddenly at the 1981 U.S. Open. Bjorn Borg, the stoical Swede who had become the richest and most famous player in the sport's history, had just lost to his brash young rival, John McEnroe, in the final at Flushing Meadows. After his last shot floated out, Borg walked to the net, shook McEnroe's hand in silence, and disappeared from the game he had dominated for the last decade.

No one realized it at the time, but the era that Borg and the three other semifinalists at that year's Open--McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulaitis--had helped define had also ended. For nearly a century, the lawns of tennis had been reserved for wealthy amateurs--gentlemen, in the original British parlance--but in 1968, the game was opened to professionals and was forever changed. The 1970s were boom years for tennis. Thanks to charismatic young players and dramatic matches, participation skyrocketed in the United States and brought the game to a new peak of global popularity. In the ensuing decade, the sport would be taken further from its genteel roots than anyone thought possible.

Through the lens of that era's final tournament, the 1981 U.S. Open, High Strung chronicles the lives and careers of the men who made those Wild West days of tennis so memorable. The Swede known as "Ice Borg," who secretly harbored an inner madman. McEnroe, the tortured, bratty genius who was destined to slay his idol. Connors, the blue-collar kid who tore the cover off the ball--and the game itself--becoming a beloved antihero. Ilie Nastase, the Romanian clown who tested the outer limits of acceptable behavior and taste. Gerulaitis, the New York charmer and Studio 54 regular who was friend to them all. And Ivan Lendl, the robotic Czech who became a harbinger of tennis's high-powered future.

The struggles these men shared were as compelling off the court as they were on. Some thrived, some survived, some were destroyed, but none has ever been forgotten.
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About Stephen Tignor

Stephen Tignor is the Executive Editor of Tennis magazine. He writes a daily blog on Tennis.com, where he has written about the sport for the past twelve years.
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Rating details

272 ratings
3.86 out of 5 stars
5 21% (58)
4 49% (133)
3 25% (68)
2 4% (12)
1 0% (1)
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