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High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  60 reviews
“A book full of aces....A true page-turner.”
Associated Press

“This is good stuff, and it’s written with flair.”
The Oregonian

High Strung by Stephen Tignor is the gripping untold story of the fiercest rivalry in the history of professional tennis. Viewed through the lens of the fabled 1981 U.S. Open match between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, High Strung brings the golden ag
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Harper (first published April 27th 2011)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  356 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Start your review of High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis's Fiercest Rivalry
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Full of fascinating stories about the late 70s and early 80s in tennis as well as the broader context of tennis history in which they occurred. It often strayed away from the rivalry for long periods of time, which almost led to me giving it three stars, but those digressions were interesting, so I'm going with four. It is a bit misleading to say that this book is about the rivalry between McEnroe and Borg when it is really about men's tennis from about '78 through '81, which happened to be domi ...more
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fantastic yarn of the 70s & 80s tennis tour. Though billed primarily as an account of the rivalry between the iceman Bjorn Borg & the mercurial John Mc.Enroe, it also covers the history if the sport, the gradual change of tennis as a game for aristocrats to a game for fun loving, hard playing (& hard partying) amateurs (the Aussies living up to this description the best) to the early days of the modern professional era to the end of the wooden raquets to the beginning of the power game (starte ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Nastase, Gerulaitis: They were a cast of characters, and each of them had a different idea about how the game should be played. Tignor captures not just the personalities and the strategems of the various players, but the feel of the era and why these matches have taken on a kind of timelessness. I really enjoyed this book. It's a breezy read and a lot of fun. ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, bio
I don't read books about sports or athletes (I might have a grant total of 3, ever), so thanks to the Summer Challenge for suggesting.

I loved watching tennis as a kid and into my teens. Back when we had just 4 or 5 channels *total* on TV {oh, the dark ages}, Wimbledon took up a huge amount of time on NBC. Grand Slam final matches dominated weekend viewing hours.

I really enjoyed this book. Tignor keeps it moving and interesting as he paints a fairly detailed picture about Borg, McEnroe, the ten
Oct 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Whenever I discuss my love of pro tennis with a skeptical listener -- which is basically any time I discuss it with anyone -- I try with minimal success to explain why it's unquestionably the most interesting major sport. I should just hand them a copy of this book, which poetically captures the game's compelling grandeur, its inherent sadness, the weird fluidity of its generations (Federer played Agassi, who played Connors, who was already a veteran by the time Borg and McEnroe emerged, etc.), ...more
Alan Pond
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book!

Loved it! Very enjoyable. Lots of interesting, behind the scenes info about the players, rivalries as their epic battles. Fun, easy book to read.
Douglas Perry
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Professional tennis in the 1970s always has been the perfect subject for a book. You’ve got jet-setting athletes, disco, cocaine, short-shorts, sideburns and a newly freewheeling attitude about sex. How could you go wrong?

There is a problem, however. A lank-haired Swede named Bjorn Borg dominated this so-called "Golden Age" of tennis. Awed observers called him The Viking God, and while the moniker fit, it wasn’t enough to make him interesting. It was always his absence -- his inward focus that e
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was great and a fun read
Rene Salomon
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
The end of the wooden raquet era is captured wonderfully in High Strung.
The 1981 US Open was the last Gran Slam tournament won with the wood racket. It was also the end of the mystical era of Bjorn Borg, who at the ripe old age of 25 plays his last Grand Slam match.
Borg had over 200 career tour titles, has anyone ever topped that in just 10 years of playing ?
So many great inside stories, my favourite being the one about "no one beats Vitas Geralitis 17 times in a row !" Of course except for the
Aravind Nagarajan
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A nice, fast read about tennis in the '80s. Although I did not watch any of these players play, I've always been fascinated by them since I read McEnroe's autobiography.
The writer uses the backdrop of the rivalry between Borg, McEnroe and Connors to explain the dynamics that were in play when tennis transitioned to the Open Era. Very interesting information and a lot of quirky anecdotes.
Madame Jane
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-library
The 1980 mens tennis final at Wimbledon felt like a movie. Two competitors were the opposite. One was mature, cool - Borg. The other young, brash, impatient - McEnroe. Both would be utter legends in the game. This books begins with the 1980 Wimbledon final, victory for Borg and ends with the 1981 US Open final, McEnroe's victory and Borg's last grand slam match. The book was highly entertaining, and also delves into the tennis careers of Vitas Gerulaitis and Jimmy Connors. I will be reading this ...more
Jay Dwight
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A compelling depiction of one of the golden eras of tennis, dealing primary with Borg's time at the top, his usurping by McEnroe and then delving into the years that followed.

Definitely worth a read if you are a tennis fan.
Kaitlyn McGrath
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive look at the 70s and 80s era of the men’s game. It’s about much more than McEnroe and Borg and weaves the stories of the other top players at the time — Connors, Gerulaitis, Lendl — into the narrative as well. Any tennis fan will enjoy this book.
Paul Bifford
Apr 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Not what I expected, but I loved the stories and the insight. I didn't know the story of the shift from amateur tennis to a pro tennis circuit. It certainly went beyond just Borg and McEnroe into Connors and Vitas Gerulaitis. ...more
Carlo Battisti
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delightful. It's incredible what happened in those last 70s ... Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Gerulaitis, Nastase, Vilas, Lendl ... ...more
Christoffer Sodemann
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully nostalgic, even for someone who was not alive at the time.
Steve Tignor is my new favorite writer!
Mrigaen Kapadia
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A really good insight into the tennis world of the 70s and 80s.
Dan Walker
Mar 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, sports
Contrary to the cover, this book isn't just about Borg and McEnroe. It covers a plethora of characters from the "roughneck" age of tennis, when professional players first began getting paid significant dollars for their efforts. Contrary to popular myth, McEnroe wasn't the only brat of that day - there were a number of characters who could qualify for that label. This book covers them all.

It truly was a unique time. The beginning of the "Open" era, as it is known. Instead of barnstorming like ci
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The Borg, Mac-daddies, Tennis nuts
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction, sport
I really enjoyed this book. It took me straight back to my childhood - one of my strongest family memories is of us all sitting down to watch the Wimbledon finals year after year, and the players in this book were my heroes. (Straight after the final my brother and I would recreate the match over our back gate, which was conveniently net-high. He was always Connors/McEnroe and I was Borg).

I loved reading this book so much that I went to YouTube and tracked down clips of the matches and was delig
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tennis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oliver Bateman
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
tignor's done the original journalism over a long career of writing for tennis mags, and regardless of how this book sold--there were a couple borg/mcenroe/connors books that dropped around this time, plus a 30 for 30--this was probably the best. it's a fun, breezy read that can be knocked out in a couple of hours, yet it still conveys the drama of tennis' move into the big time $$$ and the role of the big three (plus some others, like nastase, vilas, gerulaitis, et al.) in making that happen. ...more
keith koenigsberg
This may be the single worst sports book I have ever read. It covers a fascinating era of sport, but adds nothing new to the base of knowledge. Clearly no new interviews were conducted. The author zooms confusingly around in time without leaving us clues to follow, within a match he talks about set 3, then the final point, then set 4, then set 1. Maddening. But even worse, this guy writes like an unschooled kid, and if the book was proofread or edited, it does not show. Sentences like this act l ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
This quick read is a fascinating look at the era of tennis I am slightly too young to have witnessed for myself. Sadly, I know John McEnroe more as a commentator and Bjorn Borg as that dashing man in the stands at Wimbledon. Reading "High Strung" cast their accomplishments -- as well as those of Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis and others -- into a whole new light for me.

With "High Strung," author Stephen Tignor shows how the gap between the amateur era and the professional era was bridged with l
Sandra Danby
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: tennis
I was a tennis-mad teenager, playing every minute of summer days in East Yorkshire. My obsession was fuelled by the big names of Open tennis, new and exciting, loud and brash. Nastaste, Connors, Gerulaitis, Smith, Ashe, all the Australians, and of course Borg and McEnroe. This book tells the story of the Borg/McEnroe dynamic, finishing with their last Grand Slam final at the US Open in 1981. It’s more than that though, it’s a history of modern US tennis with chapters explaining the genesis of th ...more
Mark Dodson
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
This really exceeded my expectations on several levels. The title refers to Borg and McEnroe, but in addition, it's really about the transition in the late '60s and early 70s to the open era with the top pros dominating the traditional big tournaments like Wimbledon and the US Open. I remember hearing about Borg, McEnroe, and Conners back then when I was a kid. But not having followed or played tennis until the mid eighties I was not aware of the background of these players and how the game went ...more
Dale Stonehouse
Jan 30, 2012 rated it liked it
My status as a casual tennis fan might be the only reason I did not give this book a higher rating. For a tennis fanatic who remembers the beginning of the pro era and the pre-technology racquets and balls, this should be a great read. McEnroe and Connors were always good for a controversial quote or on-court antic, and Borg was almost a curiosity he was so good. The author does not contend that the players of old were better than today, but they were different. Different styles of play, more co ...more
Audrey Babkirk Wellons
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book uses on Grand Slam tennis tournament in 1981 as the starting point for talking about the atmosphere and changes that came to the world of men's tennis in the late 70s and early 80s. There was a lot of history (the origins of tennis, the amateur system and the subsequent open era) that I didn't know and which was almost as fascinating as the portraits of player--McEnroe, Borg, Nastase, Lendl, Connors--that I only knew from their roles as commentators or coaches or legends.

Really enjoya
Holly Cline
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook, sports, nypl
I started to read High Strung with expectations of all Borg & McEnroe all the time. What I got was a comprehensive view of tennis during the height of their rivalry. The transition from amateur to pro tennis that came before and the transition from wood rackets to power tennis that came after. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time spent on players other than Borg and McEnroe. Connors, Gerulaitis, Lendl & Nastase each get entire chapters devoted to them, helping to shape the full era o ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wish Tignor was more logical about his presentation throughout the book. I think something as simple as a table of contents, or more straight-forward chapter titles would have helped. Tignor told the story of Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Gerulaitis, and others in an anachronistic way that became very confusing after a while. Once Tignor focused on the 1981 US Open in the last 1/3 of the book, things came together nicely...but I wish Tignor indicated that he was getting to his point.
I love this book because it relives one of the greatest rivalries in sports. Since I wasn't around back in the 70's and 80's, I don't really know what it was like around the time of Borg and McEnroe. But in this book it tells you about the two different lives that they had and the rituals they had before matches.It also shows you that two opposites from different backgrounds can share the same in common. Two tennis legends.

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