On this Fourth of July, America's tempestuous tennis fighter, John McEnroe, declared his independence from the King of Sweden, Bjorn Borg.
In what may in time be regardes as the most famous single match in the sport's history, McEnroe shattered Borg's incredible 41-match Wimbledon win streak in today's championship final.
Controlling his thundering first serves, his lighting volleys and his electric temper, McEnroe scored a clean 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 four-set triumph over the man who had won five consecutive Wimbledon titles.
The victory took on a bittersweet taste afterwards when the tournament committee recommended a $10,000 fine for McEnroe's behavior in his semifinal match Thursday against Rod Frawley.
The end today came so suddenly that even McEnroe could not, for a second, believe it.
The 22-year-old New Yorker started blankly at the linesman, whose hands were palms down, indicating that McEnroe's crisp forehand volley had, indeed, kicked up chalk deep in the corner. For the first time since 1975, Borg could not get to a shot on Centre Court when he absolutely had to reach it.
Then, reality hit McEnroe in the face, physically spun him around, as he fell to his knees facing his parents in the guest box and allowed his face to explode into an open-eyed, open-mouthed expression of joy, disbelief and relief.
For 200 minutes, McEnroe and Borg played on terms as even as they were supurb. At that moment, McEnroe had won 156 points, Borg 155.
And, at that 200-minute mark, Borg had just added the greatest chapter of his life to his reputation as the ultimate escape artist.
Borg, the implacable 25-year-old who always seems to be cornered, but never slain, had just dodged a match point.
Throughout all Borg's six years of adventure here, no man had ever before taken him to the extremity of match point. Not Jimmy Connors, who led him two sets to love here on Thursday, nor the seven other men who forced Borg to five sets only to lose.
McEnroe had reached that instant when, with one more well-placed shot, victory was his.
And what had he done? He'd butchered a simple backhand a yard wide, hacking like a tense weekender.
That Houdini trick by Borg topped a day when the title holder had saved himself from disaster repeatedly. Fourteen times, McEnroe had blasted and attacked until Borg aced a break point on his serve. And 13 of those time, Borg had won the point.
How many times could McEnroe mount his attacks with the best offense in tennis against Borg, the epitome of defense? When would McEnroe's will, the patience, and ability to throttle his hot temper, finally crack as those of so many others had before him?
Surely, Borg would preserve and endure stoically and, yet again, find a way to win when his foe snapped.
But this balmy afternoon, with a princess, a former king and a future queen in the royal box, Borghs luck and skill ran out.
The last two points, and absolute vindication, would belong to McEnroe.
First came a crushing overhead smash into the cheap seats to create a second match point. Then as befit his style all day. McEnroe charged the net, coming in behind a deep return of a weak Borg second serve. Borg tried one last forehand top-spin passing shot. But McEnroe, the quickest and best net man of his era, leaped to his left and punched that volley into Borg's vacant forehand corner.
Within minues, McEnroe, proudly wearing his U.S. Davis Cup jacket, was on national TV back to the States, saying in his most boyish and beamish way: Happy Birthday, America . . . hello Stacy (to his girl friend Stacy Margolin). Everything's okay . . . America, I didn't get a speeding ticket, I'm not a terrible person . . . All you people in New York, go out and party for me . . .
McEnroe's words to America were from the heart, but, earlier, he had helped his play with some words from his savvy head.
"'Close the door on him, close the door,' I kept telling myself," said McEnroe, who lost, 8-6, in the fifth set in last year's 55-game final against Borg -- a match that frequently has been called the most dramatic in history. "You can't let him back in the match."
McEnroe closed the door from start to finish this day. Never has this 5-foot-11 left-handed blend of power and finesse given to fine a demonstration of proper grass court techniques. "I really don't see why John ever loses to Borg on grass," said semifinalist Rod Frawley before the match. "He has everytool to beat him there."
This was the day he used them all. Nine times McEnroe served untouchable aces. On 37 occasions, he blasted service winners that Borg could not even put back in play. And 30 times, McEnroe blasted a serve, followed it to the net and put away a crunching volley. Finally, on 15 other points, McEnroe came to the net out of a rally and volleyed a winner.
That's 91 points for McEnroe on pure power tennis where he attacked and lef the best counterpuncher in tennis helpless to retort.
For two weeks, McEnroe has complained about many -- linesmen, umpires, referees, scheduling, the weather, the courts, the fans, the British press. He has called many people many things, some of them printable: "the pits of the world . . . imcompetent fool . . . idiot . . . disgrace to mankind." With today's recommended fine, McEnroe's penalty list at Wimbledon finished with two warnings, three penalty points, $2,250 in fines and $12,500 in recommended fines that will be decided upon by the International Tennis Council.
It is even conceivable that the ITC will decide on a suspension (of undetermined length) for McEnroe at some future date for his shenanigans here.
Nevertheless, of all McEnroe's complaints here, the one that has been closest to his heart has been his groaning about his own misplaced first serve -- the central weapon in his arsenal. "Can't beat Borg unless I serve better," he has said repeatedly.
"I picked a helluva match to served well," said McEnroe with his crooked grin afterward.
That is understatement in the extreme. One hundred times McEnroe cracked his first serve into play -- 100 to 164. And those were the 100 nails in the coffin of Borg's winning streak. By contrast, Borg, who served a supernaturally in the fifth set last year when he lost only three points in seven service games, was mortal this day, putting only 86 of 151 first balls in play.
Never was the contrast more telling than in the two tie breakers, in the second and third sets, which probably decided this match. McEnroe put nine of 10 first serves in play and won eight points, while Borg managed only four of nine.
As a direct consequence, McEnroe dominated both tie breakers, winning easily, 7-1, and 7-4.
"When he needed to win an important point, he hit his first serve in. His game depends absolutely on his first serve," said Borg, who, heretofore, was considered to have a monopoly on capturing big points. "He missed one serve in two tie breakers," said Borg with a shrug.
That eloquent shrug said, "That's what I'm suppossed to do."
In bizarre fact, it was McEnroe who was Borglike and Borg who was a touch like McEnroe.
This match, watched by Lady Diana Spencer, former King Constantine of Greece and Princess Grace of Monaco, had only one semiserious dispute in which the young, 38-year-old umpire had to look down sternly from his high chair and intone, "I saw it out." The man grousing was Borg.
On two other occasions, Borg recorded mild disapproval.
"One complaint exceeds Borg's average, and three constitutes the record," commented the man from the London Times.
McEnroe, by stunning contrast, was not only a model of deportment, but so unflappable that the crowd ended up cheering his manly, if somewhat showy, self-restraint.
In the second set, a rude fan in the standing-room-only crowd, some of whom paid as much as $1,200 per ticket to scalpers, shouted, "Call for the referee, John," just before McEnroe served.
McEnroe, upset, served one of his 10 double faults, then said to the fan, "Thank you, very much."
Later in that set, a very dubious line call cost McEnroe a break of Borg's serve -- particularly galling since McEnroe failed to convert the first 10 break-point chances he had. Normally, McTantrum might rage. This time, he put his hands on either side of his head and squeezed, as though trying to keep his brains from exploding. Then, subdued, he raised his arms in a mock victory pose -- triumph over oneself, perhaps -- and received a cheer.
The real, genuine test of McEnroe's self-possession, and the act of will which may have saved his day, came in the 10th game of the pivotal third set, Borg leading, 5-4, and trying to break McEnroe to grab the set.
At 15-30, McEnroe hit a volley an inch past the baseline. The linesman called it good, the point continued and McEnroe won it for 30-30. After play stopped, the umpire overruled the linesman, saying over the loudspeaker, "The ball was out."
McEnroe, preparing for his next serve, spun around as though bashed in the back of the head with a sap. Suddenly, instead of being 30-30 and no big deal, he was down 15-40 and facing a double set point.
In short, that one call could, without exaggeration, transform the entire match.
One shot hence, McEnroe could be behind two sets to one. "With Borg, two sets to one up is a lot different than two to one down," said McEnroe. "You have to stay ahead of Borg to beat him, that's all there is to it."
McEnroe went into a froglike crouch, leaning on his racket, as though straining with all that was in him not to unleash all the rage he has felt here at what he considers a cast of Wimbledon officials who are out to intimidate him with their authority.
McEnroe paced. He walked in circles. This was no joke. This was the match.
He composed himself. How he composed himself, Borg never will forget.
Crash: a booming first serve and a put-away overhead. Boom: a service winner down the middle to Borg's forehand.
Twice more in that game, Borg reached set point. And twice more McEnroe's serve-and-volley game rebutted. First, it was another identical service winner down the middle of the chalk, then a gutsy deep second serve and a volley.
Only against Borg has McEnroe ever totally constrained himself. He did it last year in the final. Let him say why.
"I know I need every ounce of me to beat him.
"I can't waste anything. On those set points, I not only didn't complain, I didn't even yell, 'Come on!' to myself."
"It was very important to win the third (set) when I had those four set points," said Borg.
"Maybe if I win just one of those points . . ." His voice trailed off.
The suddenly gracious McEnroe, the tennis genius who has an allergic reaction to smiling, actually managed to smile.
Slowly, he said, "I won Wimbledon."
All the details were washed out. How Borg broke in the fifth game of the first set to get an early lead.
How no one could break in the second set. How McEnroe sent a shudder through the crowd by double-faulting to break himself early in the third set. And how, finally, McEnroe, down, 4-1, in that crisis of a third set, finally broke back after Borg had held his serve his first 14 times.
"In a couple of hours, I'll start getting very relaxed," said the second American male to win Wimbledon on the Fourth of July in 104 years, Jack Kramer in 1947 being the other.
Finally, after all the abuse he has given and taken here, what flashed through McEnroe's mind as he knelt on Centre Court in his victory moment, when he accidentally dropped into that prayerful posture that borg seemingly invented and patented?
"I thought," he said with a grin, "'I gotta get up again, because Borg always does.'"
And, of course, after 3 hours 22 minutes of battle, at precisely 5:30 p.m. on an English summer evening, McEnroe still had enough spring left in his legs to pop up to the standing position, just as Borg always has.
That was appropriate. McEnroe has stolen the Wimbledon spotlight from Borg for this entire fortnight, either with his tennis, his tantrums or his talk. Now, he has commandeered both his crown and his gesture of triumph. In the pleasant evening, the crowd, including a pro-McEnroe harlequin in full red and green regalia and bells, gave McEnroe unstinting applause.However, they held back just a bit. They were waiting. Bjorn Borg walked out last for his second-place medal. And that, quite rightly, was when the cheering stopped and ovation began.
Frew McMillan of South Africa and Betty Stove of Holland spoiled a U.S. sweep when they won the mixed doubles title with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory over John and Tracy Austin.
Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver won the women's doubles, defeating Kathy Jordan and Anne Smith, 6-3, 7-6. Matt Anger won the boys title by downing Pat Cash of Australia, 7-6, 7-5, and Zina Garrison won the girls crown from Rene Uys of South Africa, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.