What will be acclaimed for a day, discussed for a week and remembered for a year, is that John P. McEnroe Jr. won the Wimbledon Gentleman's Singles title today in the 104th year of the championships.
What will be celebrated as long as tennis is played, and perhaps as long as man considers sport one of his performing arts, is that Bjorn Borg went 41 consecutive matches, and more than six years on the calendar without losing at Wimbledon.
When McEnroe is recalled, it will be as the man who battled both Britain and Borg, and beat them both. The 22-year-old son of New York, who is at once idealistic and ill-mannered, smart and sassy, waged a fortnight's war with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and a four-set struggle with Borg.
McEnroe came out ahead of the AELTCC by winning roughly $44,000 as singles champion and $9,000 as half of the doubles championship team with Peter Fleming. That total is weighed against $2,250 in fines, plus another $12,500 which the All England has recommended for his profanity and conduct bringing tennis into disrepute.
His victory over Borg is simpler to compute: 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4, in 3 hours 22 minutes.
McEnroe's tennis, blemished only by his tongue, left for him a significant landmark here. Like other young people who call their elders "idiots" . . . and "fools," McEnroe presumable will grow up one day and be forgiven, even as he learns to forgive.
For Borg, however, a far larger and more permanent statue has been erected here. When the greatest achievements of world sport are mentioned, his doings on Centre Court here must rank high.
In a sense, it is typical of Borg that he appears not to know precisely what he has done.
"It is a pretty good record," said the Swede.
Jocks are trained to see their own weaknesses first, and all other things second. The pursuit of perfection at the highest levels of sport demand it: the man who must hit a tennis ball more than 100 mph and have it land within inches of its target is concerned with his flaws since he long ago learned to take his great gifts for granted.
Thus Borg says that his primary goal for this season was not, and is not, winning Wimbledon, though of course, he gave that full effort. No, Borg is bedeviled by his 0-for-9 record at the U.S. Open, the only major championship he has not won.
That victory, he believes, is the only tangible impediment to his being regarded finally as the greatest tennis player ever. Borg does not seem to know that, no matter what he does for the rest of his life, the overwhelming probability is that his tennis epitaph will be this: 41 in a row at Wimbledon. Borg should not ask for more. No record in tennis equals it, and few performances in any sport can match it. Borg's only rival for Greatest Tennis Monument is Bill Tilden's mark of 42 straight wins at the U.S. Open from 1920 through 1925, including six titles.
That is the standard for most victories in major championships play: Borg might have equaled that feat today, then perfunctorily broken it in his first-round mismatch next year.
However, tennis was small-time then. Tilden paddled through calm waters. Borg has swum through pirhana here.
Eight times, Borg has found himself a set behind and, twice, he has been in arrears, two sets to none. In all, he has required a fifth set eight times.
In addition to the high level of competition, the pressure of being the holder, and the necessity of playing well seven times in a 12-day span, Borg has accomplished his feat at a phenomenal tactical disadvantage.
By and large, Borg has played clay-court-style baseline tennis on a slick grass surface created for the powerful, gambling serve-and-volley style. While Tilden's game was perfectly constructed for the Forest Hills grass of the '20s, Borg has built his record on the one surface in the world that is worst for his game.
Among other players, that is the true distinguishing mark of Borg's streak and the single fact that proved to them that his superiority was not chiefly in talent but in temperament.
All athletes seek a magic blending of relaxation and concentration -- an ability to perform at maximum exertion with minimum internal stress. In this age, Borg is unsurpassed as an example of that singular cast of mind.
Everything in him, all the way down to the unfathomable substrata of the psyche where modern man so often finds his most self-destructive impulses, seemed to work in concert with his purpose and not, as in the lives of normal men, against him.
"In a tight spot, I naturally relax," he said, unable to explain and wisely unwilling to question. "When I most need to hit my best shot, that is for sure when I always hit it."
Perhaps the word "always" is simply a flaw in Borg's usually excellent grasp of English. Or, perhaps, it is simply a certainty of self that few people ever know.
Again today, Borg did not lose, he simply was beaten. He and McEnroe met at the Olympian heights of their game and waged their struggle with excellent winners, not sloppy errors. Whenever either was in direst straits, that is when he played best. For instance, each player had 15 break points against the other's service. In those crises, the man with the advantage of having the ball in his hand refused to lose the point. Each only converted two of his 15 break points.
After his match did, Borg raised himself even one notch higher. The chink in his Scandinavian armor has always been, in a sense, that he seemed so emotionless, so nearly lobotomized, that his resistance to pressure seemed as much a fluke as a virtue.
After his loss, Borg was asked, "Have you felt pressure during the streak?"
"A lot," said Borg with an uncharacteristically large smile.
"All through the fortnight?" The BBC queried.
"For the last two years," countered Borg.
And he began to laugh, as though his secret could finally be told.
Bjorn Borg is like the rest of us after all.
And that makes his streak, and the stubbornly excellent way in which he ended it, all the more valuable.