ohn McEnroe and Bjorn Borg are dissecting the career of Roger Federer and picking the single moment that stands out in an illustrious career which draws to a close at the O2 Arena this weekend.
Looking back on 20 Grand Slam titles and 103 tournament wins, the instance that springs to mind for McEnroe is the 2008 Wimbledon final loss to Rafa Nadal, which lasted nearly five hours.
“There’s still a lot of talk about my match against Bjorn at Wimbledon in 1980 and I lost, so it’s okay to pick a Roger loss as that one moment,” he said. “That was, at that time, the greatest match I ever saw. It’s okay to remember one that he lost because of the way that he lost. He couldn’t give any more.”
McEnroe is adamant there is no psychology at play in picking a loss, as Federer gets ready to play a final time, for Borg’s European team against McEnroe’s Team World line-up from Friday in the Laver Cup.
Borg’s pick, meanwhile, is Federer’s 2009 French Open win, his only title at Roland Garros enabling him to complete the career clean sweep of Grand Slams. The Swede has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal for the Laver Cup, with tennis’s answer to a Beatles reunion in the form of Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in his team.
McEnroe said: “Bjorn’s got a dream team, but you’ve got Roger announcing his retirement, Andy struggling to get back to as healthy as before and Rafa’s wife back at home expecting a baby, so that gives us some hope.”
It is the coming together of a quartet responsible for 66 Grand Slam singles titles for a final time in competitive tennis.
Of the reunion, Borg said: “It’s unbelievable that this thing can even happen. It’s never going to happen again, to be a part of this with all these guys.”
Since Federer’s retirement announcement last week, the Laver Cup has taken the shape of a glorified farewell for Federer, even if he only plays in the doubles — as he hinted yesterday.
Since that announcement, McEnroe has argued it is the hottest ticket in town. The fact tickets on resale sites have been listed as high as £15,000 would back that up.
“It’s huge Roger announcing he’s going to stop,” said McEnroe. “It’s like what happened at the first week of the US Open with Serena Williams. It definitely adds to the intrigue of the event.”
For Team Europe, Borg knows he has a void to fill once Federer retires, but he has capable replacements, with Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner waiting in the wings.
He said: “Roger is one of the greats and what he did for tennis is unbelievable. He’s given the sport so much, he’s such a nice personality and is loved all over the world. Another player like Roger is going to be very difficult to find.”