The 1970s Glory Days of Tennis

The 1970s was tennis' heyday. Players spoke from the heart and not from their sponsors...and wore very tight short shorts.
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The 1970s was tennis' heyday. Players spoke from the heart and not from their sponsors...and wore very tight short shorts.
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Don’t get me wrong I can watch Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic all day long and if Rafael Nadal wore sleeves and Andy Murray had testicles, them too.  However, there was a period let’s call it “Pre-Lendl”, from about 1979 to 1983 when everything was in line, perfect, sublime.  The clothes were right, loads of tight fitting Sergio Tacchini or Fila gear, hard soled Adidas, Nike or Diadora shoes and multi-layered plywood rackets by Dunlop, Donnay and Wilson.   The players were like Gods and the rivalries were intense. I don’t think you see that now, players are like corporate representatives of both the sport and the sponsors. John McEnroe spoke to the press and fans from the heart, he didn’t go find a sponsor’s cap and thank Santander for stumping up the money for the tournament.  It does make you wonder why sponsors seem to insist on this, like fans care about the sponsor. It’s like some bloke from Birds Eye standing in front of your telly with the script to the fish finger advert reading it through so you fucking listen this time instead of making the tea in the ad-break.  It used to be enough that they had their name plastered across the court sides but no they have to infiltrate every part of it.

John McEnroe spoke to the press and fans from the heart, he didn’t go find a sponsor’s cap and thank Santander for stumping up the money for the tournament.

The sight of McEnroe clad in Tacchini, shod in Nike and carrying a Dunlop MaxPly as his weapon of choice and Borg similarly in Fila / Diadora / Donnay was the entre with a feast to follow.  Their matches were such intense pulsating affairs that you could not take your eyes off the court. Each man was visibly driving himself to the edge and then being pushed further pushed by the other. Jimmy Connors, who annoyingly went for an early metal Wilson racquet and his own brand of shit clothing, was still at the top of his game at this time but didn’t capture the imagination as Johnand Bjorn did.  They each won 7 of their 14 matches with John having the edge in finals (5-4) and Grand Slams (3-1).  To us Borg was apparently the ice cool Swede and McEnroe the brash New Yorker they were under the exact same pressure they just dealt with it differently, Borg bottled it up and McEnroe lashed out against it and everyone within earshot.  They were great friends off court too but when Borg dropped the bombshell that he was retiring in April 1983 it devastated McEnroe.  He limped on and still won things but the reason for pushing himself to be better had gone and his head was turned to other arguably more destructive influences for a while.  It’s been great to see him rise to the top in the commentary game, he doesn’t pull punches as you’d expect and his autobiography “Serious” is the same as you’d expect.

There were other guys around at the time, Lendl, Leconte, Mecir, Noah, “Leeds Fan” Edberg, Wilander, Gerulaitis, but none captured the intensity ofBorg and McEnroe or wore cooler clothes and shoes.

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