Simon Reed

Who’s the GOAT? 7-McEnroe v 10-Edberg

Simon Reed

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Last week's Greatest Of All Time match-up saw Andre Agassi beat Radael Nadal in our tightest clash so far. Agassi progresses to the quarter-finals, where he will come up against Bjorn Borg.

This week's match should prove to be another classic encounter, with two of the best ever serve and volleyers in the game going head-to-head as hot-headed American John McEnroe faces ice-cool Swede Stefan Edberg.

Under our GOAT rules each match is three sets, one on each surface. Here's the rundown on the two contenders.

John McEnroe

Nationality: American

Seeded: 7

Grand Slam titles: 7

Australian Open: Semi-final (1983)

French Open: Finalist (1984)

Wimbledon: Winner (1981, 1983, 1984)  

US Open: Winner (1979, 1980, 1981, 1984)

Stefan Edberg

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Nationality: Swedish

Seeded: 10

Grand Slam titles: 6

Australian Open: Winner (1985, 1987)

French Open: Finalist (1989)

Wimbledon: Winner (1988, 1990)

US Open: Winner (1991, 1992)

Real-life head-to-head 

McEnroe wins 7-6 (McEnroe won three on carpet and four on hard court. Edberg won one on carpet, three on hard court and two on grass). Edberg won two of their three Grand Slam meetings, both at Wimbledon, while McEnroe won their US Open clash.

Simon Reed's Verdict: 

It's a match-up that really takes you back to how tennis used to be played.

Their careers didn't quite intertwine. McEnroe won his last Grand Slam in '84 and Edberg won his first in '85, but I have a fairly strong and clear view of how the match would've gone. 

If we start on clay, I think that Edberg would've won that set.

He had a better record at Roland Garros, generally. Both of them made the final once and I think it would've been very close. But I think I'd just give it to Edberg 6-4. 

And that's it for Stefan as far as I'm concerned.

I see Mac winning the grass set at Wimbledon.  

They both won multiple Wimbledon titles and it would be a very, very close call - real vintage serve and volley from both players - but I see McEnroe just edging it, by one service break, or maybe even a tie-breaker.

McEnroe's serve was so good, I doubt that Stefan would have broken it, and I can see John breaking Stefan's serve once in a set. Stefan's serve could break down occasionally, so I'd give it to Mac.

And the third set - assuming it's in New York as Mac never went much to Australia - I'd give Mac the edge. In front of his home crowd he was always at his best: he won the US Open four times, winning three in a row and then a fourth in '84.  

At his peak, he was the best in the world on hard courts, whereas Stefan vied with Boris Becker over that period and didn't have the same dominance.

That said, I think it would be a tight-ish third set with just the one service break in it - but Mac would come through.

Generally speaking I think both players were among the top five volleyers of all times, maybe even the top three.

Stefan's backhand volley was impeccable - he just never missed. His backhand was very strong from the back court, but his forehand could sometimes be a little bit of an irritant. 

His serve was absolutely fine 90 per cent of the time, but could break down under pressure.

McEnroe's was a better serve than Stefan's: not the most powerful serve of all time, but perhaps the most difficult to read. McEnroe also had no weakness on the ground strokes and was a fantastic volleyer. 

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But he wouldn't have got to Stefan if he tried any of his antics, that's for sure. Stefan would've just ignored it, so McEnroe doesn't have that in his locker.

But rather like McEnroe never tried anything on with Borg, I don't think he'd have done it with Stefan. He had too much respect for him.

With two serve and volleyers, the rallies can sometimes be too short, and you'd be lucky to have rallies over a dozen strokes, maybe a handful of times in a match.

But these two guys had so much talent, you'd never be bored. Stefan was probably the quickest of his time around the court, but McEnroe was the quickest thinker. It'd be terrific watching them.  

Final Verdict

McEnroe wins 2-1

4-6 (clay) 7-6 (grass) 7-5 (hard court)


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