Saturday, July 16, 2011

Boys Back In Town

The sky was black and the lights were shining brightly, a video tribute started on the board, with the song “The Boys are Back in Town” – it was one of those sports moments.

It had been 17 years since the boys were last in town. It’s John McEnroe whom hails from Manhattan, and has his tennis academy placed on Randalls Island, but Bjorn Borg loves the city too. "It’s one of my favorite places. I always have a nice experience coming to New York. It is a great city," Borg said before yesterdays match at Sportime Stadum.

John McEnroe (USA) photo by Fred Mullane

Their last serious match was in 1981 when John McEnroe drove Borg to retirement after defeating him at the US Open to claim the number one ranking. They never faced each other competitively again. Although many in the tennis world deemed Borg’s quick retirement a mistake, to this today he is content with the decision. "I didn't have any regrets. The only thing maybe, was I wish I had played John a few more times," Borg said.

While they vacationed with their families last week, McEnroe poached the idea of Borg filling in for the injured Jimmy Connors of the Philadelphia Freedoms. "He asked me if I wanted to come over and play and I said of course! The respect I have for John on the court and off the court is enormous. He is a good friend of mine and to me it was not a tough decision," Borg said.

McEnroe was a little hesitant to ask, but because it was to benefit the academy Borg was an obvious choice. "He has quite honestly saved my ass. Its’ a big fundraiser, and all the money is going to the academy to try and provide some more opportunities. It was awesome and much appreciated that Bjorn was willing to step in here," McEnroe said.

For both players it’s more than just another match. "I think every time I walk on the court with John it’s going to be special," Borg said. It is special because it brings back memories of what Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe did for the sport, something they both take a great deal of pride in. They brought a certain buzz to the sport. “Tennis was at a different level (when we played) compared to where it is today,” Borg said.

McEnroe joked before the match, that his teammates were putting pressure on him to win, yet he explained a greater purpose for the event. "What's really more important is that we hopefully leave people walking away from this feeling like they had a great evening. And hopefully we can bring back a little magic," McEnroe said.

And for one evening, in one set, magic was alive in Manhattan. McEnroe and Borg were facing off, and the crowd was captivated. Borg looked sharp early, dominating the first game, and smacking two consecutive aces to grab the third game as well. He was hitting the ball hard, side to side, past McEnroe. But McEnroe started to place the ball in the corners and took advantage of Borg’s decline in agility. McEnroe won the 8th game to force a nine point tiebreaker, which he won on an ace of his own.

“He is still a fighter. He still wants to win all the time, and he still plays a lot of tennis, he is a great competitor,” Borg said post match.

Bjorn Borg photo by Fred Mullane


Most importantly however, the buzz that McEnroe looked to create was in full force. The crowd gave a standing ovation as the two tennis titans embraced. McEnroe’s win gave the Sportimes a 17-16 lead over the Freedoms, yet it didnt matter.

They had played 4 sets and had one to go, but the crowd was more concerned with what they just saw, then the outcome of the match. They had just witnessed what lacks from the sport today. 30 years past their prime McEnroe and Borg brought buzz that current players just don’t bring. That’s why McEnroe started his tennis academy at New York Sportime.

“It seemed like [the buzz has] slipped, so step by step we need to get more people into it,” McEnroe said, “You need better athletes, and have to try to get some of the athletes that go play basketball, football, etc. into tennis.”

All proceeds from Thursdays match, went to the Johnny Mac Tennis project, an organization dedicated to exposing young athletes in the greater New York Metropolitian area to competitive tennis regardless of their economic circumstance.”

“We want to change some lives, and we have begun it win the McEnroe Academy which has just completed its first year, and now with this event, in which we hope to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to making sure that what we are doing is accessible to all,” Claude Okin, CEO of Sportime clubs and the New York Sportimes said.

Notes:

The Philadelphia Freedoms (2-7) did take the victory over the New York Sportimes (6-3).

The Sportimes led going into the final set of the night. Yet, Beatrice Capra defeated the previously undefeated Martina Hingis by a score of 5-2 to give the Freedoms a 21-19 win.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

McENROE vs BORG TONIGHT 7pm

In 1981, John McEnroe got his revenge- he defeated the stoic Bjorn Borg to win the US Open, and claim the rank of best in the world. So devastated by the defeat, and the prospect of no longer being considered best in the world, the deflated Borg retired soon after.

Tonight Tennis Hall of Famer Bjorn Borg matches up against McEnroe once again, as he fills in for the injured Jimmy Connors as part of the July 14th WTT match between the defending Easter Conference champion NY Sportimes and the Philadelphia Freedoms at Sportime Randall’s Island in Manhattan.

In 1974 Tennis great Billy Jean King, cofounded the ground-breaking World Team Tennis. WTT is tennis like you have never seen it before. It features the biggest names in the sport, competing in a unique coed team format.

The matches consist of two Co-Ed teams made up of 2 men, 2 women and a coach. WTT features on field coaching, and substitutions. Each match is 5 sets- Men’s and Women’s Singles, Men’s and Women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.

The fan friendly WTT has changed the scoring as well. Instead of the standard 15, 30, 40, love scoring, WTT scores 1, 2, 3, 4. They play no advantage scoring, so at 3 all in a game, next point wins. At 4 all in a set a 9 point tiebreaker is played, first to five points wins the game. The league plays lets, overtime and super tie breakers.

Tonight’s matchup reunites Fire and Ice and raises money to benefit the The Johnny Mac Tennis Project.

“We are elated that Bjorn answered John’s call to step in for Jimmy on what will be a fun and important night for tennis in New York," said Claude Okin, Sportimes CEO. "The relationship that Bjorn and John have is very special. Theirs is truly one of the great rivalries in sports history, and seeing them both on court, in New York, will be a great treat for everyone there. And the funds we raise that night will be critical in helping us to assist talented young people in learning the great game of tennis in New York City."

Tickets sold by the Project raise funds to provide scholarships, coaching, transportation and other financial assistance to qualified young tennis players in the greater New York area. Recipients will attend the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, which is completing its first year at Sportime Randall’s Island.

Ticket prices for the match will be $250, $150 and $60; special VIP tickets are also available; please consult your tax advisor concerning the tax deductibility of ticket purchases. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 888‐WTT‐NYC1 or visit nysportimes.com.

Although it was the ’81 US Open that gave McEnroe the title of best in the world, it is the 1980 matchup at Wimbledon that captivated the nation. In an epic battle, McEnroe won an 18-16 tiebreaker, yet it was Borg who won the match. That match is still considered one of the best all time.

In their Hall of Fame Careers both McEnroe and Borg collected a ton of hardware. McEnroe won seven Grand Slam singles titles. He won four Wimbledon championships and three U.S. Open titles. Borg won 11 Grand Slam singles titles.

For more information on the facility, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy or the NY Sportimes, visit www.SportimeNY.com/Manhattan or http://www.johnmcenroetennisacademy.com/