McEnroe vs Borg: the 16th match…. in Tesco? And words on Henman

Sharp marketing by Tesco: an ad aiming for people who are, well, my sort of age (though my wife, younger, says it works for her too). Showing on lots of TV sets near you if you’re in Britain. Watch it for the brilliant final shot.

(Or watch it on YouTube.)

(As I recall it their rivalry ended with McEnroe 8-7 ahead. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

And briefly some words on the departure of Tim Henman: he’s a much, much better player than so many people have given him credit for. The problem though that he had was that people couldn’t identify with the emotions he felt; there wasn’t enough heart-on-sleeve for their liking.

So millions of people who have no idea at all of what it means, physically and especially mentally, to play at the very top level of any sport – hell, people whose idea of hard intense exercise is climbing the stairs – were rude about his accomplishments. Sorry, but he was a really good player who could have got a Slam had he not run into Sampras, and Federer, and been desperately unlucky to run into an inspired Goran Ivanisevic and rubbish weather in one of his six Wimbledon semifinals. Six. You have to be so tough mentally to do that. People never understand this aspect of pro sports: that you’re going up against people who have just about the same abilities as you, so that every single point you’re having to fight and fight to win it. All through the match. All day, every day. That’s your professional life: being meaner and more determined than the person you walked onto court with.

Yet my friend Jenny Colgan was right about one thing: people will prefer Andy Murray. Reason being that he’s more emotional on court: he lets you empathise with him. You can see what he’s thinking, to some extent (though generally what a tennis player is thinking is “Right. Next point. Win it. I’ll serve to the forehand/backhand/body”). That ability to empathise with the emotion was one of the things that kids liked about McEnroe. Which is why he’s still used in marketing and adverts today. As above. (Fantastic that Borg doesn’t say a word. Which is of course the point too.)

Plus Murray has the potential to be one of the top three players in the world if he can get past this year’s injury.


  1. It’s not really quite true Charles that Henman “ran into” Federer in the sense that this denied him a grand slam. Tim had shot his bolt by the time Feds was around – recall it was Tim himself who knocked Federer out at Wimbldon 2001, before losing to Ivan in the semis after numerous rain stoppaged, as you allude to…

  2. Err, OK, fair point on Federer. My point though is that winning one of those titles is about the slimmest of margins, and even to be consistently just off the top is an amazing achievement that normal people who don’t watch and speak to people involved in top sports find it very hard to understand.

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