HBO Sports’ newest documentary, McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice does an admirable job of chronicling the rivalry between tennis greats John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg in the 1980s, even if it feels a bit rushed.
The first 15 minutes is dedicated to each individual’s upbringing; unlike most rivalries, both had very similar backgrounds. One of the better moments is when they break down the differences in their games, right down to how they use their rackets (imagine if Larry Bird and Magic Johnson explained their shooting form). Obviously though, the best part of Fire & Ice is the epic marathon final set in the 1980 Wimbledon finals. When they get to this point, it seems as if everything slowed down and I really got a feeling for just how great it was; it was like watching Ali and Frazier trading haymakers.
However, the main problem with Fire & Ice was that it felt rushed; it only had a 60 minute run-time (personally I think any good documentary should run at least 80-90 minutes). It seemed to just focus on the basics, jumping from match to match with little or no attention paid to what happened in between. It isn’t until the final ten minutes that they get into Borg and McEnroe’s off-the-court life, and the majority of that is when both were finished with tennis. Even the epic 1980 Wimbledon final that, while the marathon final set was beautifully done, the first part of the match is almost completely skipped over. For someone who wasn’t alive during this time, I didn’t get the “feel” of the era.
While it’s no Ghosts of Flatbush or Curse of the Bambino, McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice is still another good edition to HBO Sports’ illustrious list of documentaries.
It premieres Saturday, June 11 at 10 p.m.
A few other funny/interesting tidbits:
• McEnroe channels his inner Michael Cera in his first interview as an 18-year-old at Wimbledon.
• McEnroe’s tantrum during the 1981 Wimbledon semis…even George Brett is impressed
• I enjoyed the opening/closing scenes where they had both walk out onto center court at Wimbledon, spliced in with footage of the 1980 match
• In one of the first exchanges they had, Borg told McEnroe to relax and that it’s “just a game”
• The fight between U.S. and British media at the 1981 Wimbledon after McEnroe’s press conference (nothing like seeing Charlie Steiner throw down)
• Liev Schreiber was the narrator…had no idea it was him