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Tennis: McEnroe up for 'special' Borg clash

By David Kelly

It may be 26 years since they clashed during their incredible hey-day but John McEnroe says there is always "something special" about battling rival Bjorn Borg.

In the late 1970s and early '80s they came together like fire and ice and the whole world was enthralled.

Their two clashes in the Wimbledon finals of 1980 and 1981 are etched in world sporting folklore. They transcended the sport, and still do.

Only a couple of months ago they came head-to-head on the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Eindhoven and a sold-out crowd of 8,000 witnessed the event.

On February 22 they will meet for possibly the last time in Belfast's Odyssey Arena as McEnroe has said that 2008 will probably be his last year competing on the Tour.

"Every time Bjorn and I play it's a different feeling, it brings back incredible memories... the way we played against each other," said McEnroe.

"He knows what I'm going to do and I know what he's going to do and it's a matter of execution and there's a sense from the crowd, a sense of expectation and it's incredible.

"I didn't think he would be back playing on the Tour but it's good because I'm not the oldest guy playing out there but I don't know how long that will last because I know how difficult it was for me. It's an opportunity that I didn't expect to happen."

A sell-out at the Odyssey is expected for Friday night and with Pat Cash, Henri Leconte and defending champion Anders Jarryd also in action over the four days last year's attendance of 20,000 will certainly be surpassed.

Three-times Wimbledon champion McEnroe is certainly relishing his return to Belfast, having enjoyed himself on and off the court.

"The competition is getting tougher but maybe I'm getting older - could that be?," he says.

"I'm looking forward to going back to Belfast because the crowds are great and for me being in Ireland was great.

"I feel like it's a farewell, though. I just can't keep up this pace. I've been doing this almost 15 years on the seniors tour. I feel you gotta walk out before they push you out.

"The fire is still there, it's just not as bright as it was.

"As you get older you get a better perspective but certainly we are out there to entertain.

" Sometimes I feel the frustration. Tennis is a tough game to master and as you get older you try to hang on, to stay at a level and that can be frustrating.

"I think people who get out there and play can relate to me with that frustration but whereas with Bjorn it seems that nothing bothers him which is pretty amazing.

"I think people look at me and say that's the more normal guy!"

Nicky Dunn, chief executive of the Odyssey Arena, said: "It would be hard for fans to find a better line up for the return of Tennis Legends to Odyssey Arena.

"With two strong groups and 18 matches in total, there will be plenty of wonderful tennis on offer for the public. We look forward to welcoming these tennis greats to Belfast."

Borg and McEnroe will be in the same group as Mikael Pernfors and Jeremy Bates, while Cash and Leconte will do battle with Chris Wilkinson and Anders Jarryd.

Full Odyssey Line-up:

Thursday 21st February at 2pm: Järryd vs. Wilkinson; Bates vs. Borg

Thursday 21st February at 7.30pm: Leconte vs. Cash; Doubles; McEnroe vs. Pernfors

Friday 22nd February at 2pm: Bates vs. Pernfors; Leconte vs. Wilkinson

Friday 22nd February at 7.30pm: Järryd vs. Cash; Doubles; McEnroe vs. Borg

Saturday 23rd February at 2pm: Cash vs. Wilkinson; Doubles; Borg vs. Pernfors

Saturday 23rd February at 7.30pm: McEnroe vs. Bates; Doubles; Leconte vs. Järryd

Sunday 24th February at 2pm - Finals: Runner up Group A v Runner up Group B; Winner Group A v Winner Group B

Tickets for Tennis Legends are available now. Tickets are available by calling 9073 9074, in person from Odyssey Arena Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets and via .

Belfast Telegraph

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