Mac the Nice finds blondes have more fun

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2000, 12:00am

There were plenty of tricks and treats last night as two of the legends of the game, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, served out a Halloween special at the Cathay Pacific Champions tournament at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre.

McEnroe let his hair down, or was it on, as he treated the large crowd with all the virtuoso of a showman. And Borg pulled out an unusual bag of tricks, showing he, too, can match his illustrious peer volley for volley.

The match perhaps brought back memories to the older generation in the crowd, a large number of whom clamoured for McEnroe's and Borg's autographs at the end of the match.

There were no screaming teenagers in the mob, only mums and dads who must remember the golden days when the pair enthralled the world.

The result, by the way, was a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) victory to McEnroe. But no one cared who won or lost. All that mattered was to see them both on the same court for the last time in Hong Kong.

Borg, 44, has said he will cut back on the number of tournaments he will play next year on the Senior Tour and definitely not travel to this part of the world.

McEnroe seemed determined to give him a farewell to remember. The American got into the party mood when he masqueraded as the Swede, borrowing a Borg lookalike wig from a merchant banker in the UBS Warburg box.

He put it on, and then asked Borg: 'I got it on the right way?' Keeping a straight face, McEnroe said afterwards: 'I'm losing my hair so I'm starting to use wigs more. It makes me feel younger.'

The blond hairpiece did not stop McEnroe from winning his serve. But when Borg won the next game, McEnroe tore his hair out and stomped on it. In the past, that would have been a real tantrum.

But time has mellowed the 41-year-old rebel. He still wears denim jackets and has an acerbic tongue, but yesterday he was more prone to just staring at the line rather than the linesman.

Borg said: 'I always enjoy playing against John.' In the twilight of his career, it is the enjoyment that has kept him on the Senior Tour for the past eight years. But feeling he has to commit himself more to the family and home life, things will change soon for Borg.

His departure will leave a void in tennis. At least McEnroe will still be around, but the other half of a relationship from which a super-rivalry was born, will be no more.

Their contrasts were the foundation behind the epic battles they have fought over the decades.

They were like chalk and cheese. The left-hander with the feather-like volleys against the right-hander with a punishing two-fisted backhand. The serve-and-volleyer against the baseliner. Hot-head versus cool nerves. The molten flames against the inner steel.

'Our personalities were different and as such our games are different,' said McEnroe. 'Like a boxing fight depends on style, our styles complemented each other. There was nothing I didn't like about Bjorn.'

When it was Borg's turn to answer the same question, he said: 'I agree with everything John said.'

Simple and succinct. That has always been his style. McEnroe is the talkative one. His mouth is as well known as his tennis. It is hard to say what aspect of his game the fans come to see. If it was the mouth, they left disappointed last night.

'The officiating was great tonight,' said McEnroe. There was no Halloween horror story. But if you watched hard enough, you might have seen many a magical moment. Not hard, when you had two of the greatest tennis players in history on the same court.