John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg played each other only 14 times spanning just four years, with each player winning seven matches. McEnroe played Ivan Lendl more often, and McEnroe's matches against Jimmy Connors featured far more bitterness.
However, the Borg-McEnroe rivalry captured the public's imagination the way the others did not.
Their matchup was compelling for several reasons.
First, it featured the two best players of the era. From July 1979 to August 1981, Borg and McEnroe traded the No. 1 ranking seven times.
Second, their personalities and playing styles were polar opposites, creating an intriguing dynamic.
Borg was the stoic, handsome Swede with the long blond hair. A story by the Telegraph called Borg the first rock star of tennis. He won five straight Wimbledon titles from the baseline, using extreme topspin on his forehand and an accurate two-handed backhand.
McEnroe was the petulant Superbrat who could blow up at any moment, according to an ESPN.com story. He was the consummate serve-and-volley player. McEnroe took balls on the rise and hit them flat in an effort to get to the net as soon as possible to utilize his excellent volleying skills.
Third, they played several epic matches, most notably the 1980 Wimbledon finals, which some consider the greatest match ever played. The 34-point fourth-set tie-breaker may have been the most riveting 22 minutes of tennis ever played.
Long-time New York Times tennis writer Neil Amdur was enthralled by Rafael Nadal's 2008 victory over Roger Federer.
"But," he wrote in the New York Times in 2011, "after watching chunks of the 3:53 McEnroe-Borg final at an HBO screening, I am tempted again to reaffirm its place as the sport's single most compelling piece of court magic.
"The drama of the 18-16 fourth set tie breaker in McEnroe-Borg was like a riveting, unscripted theatrical experience."
Finally, the Borg-McEnroe matchup carries the allure of leaving us wondering what might have been.
When Borg lost to McEnroe in the 1981 U.S. Open finals, the Swede essentially quit tennis. He never played another Grand Slam event, and there was never a good explanation why. Borg was 25.
McEnroe was 22 at the time, and three of his four Grand Slam titles to that point had come against Borg in the finals. McEnroe would win three more major titles, but none after age 25.
Borg's departure affected McEnroe. Time magazine wrote, "McEnroe would later say that he never quite recovered psychologically, nor enjoyed tennis as much, after his old foe walked away."
"I don't think people understand it was a James Dean type of rivalry—it came and went," Mary Carillo said in that ESPN.com article. "And McEnroe never had another rival that made him aspire."