A Tale of Two Tennis Movies

Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in Battle of the Sexes, while Shia LaBeouf plays John McEnroe in Borg vs McEnroe.
Chris Tilly
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Typical – you wait years for a tennis movie, then two come along at once! With Wimbledon currently in full effect in West London, movie studios are clearly jumping on the bandwagon, releasing posters and trailers for both tennis movies scheduled for release in 2017. And we’ve got all the details here.

Borg vs McEnroe

Borg vs McEnroe revolves around the clash of two tennis titans of the 1970s and ’80s, with Sverrir Gudnason playing Björn Borg and Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe. The film’s official synopsis is as follows…

Borg/McEnroe is a film about one of the world’s greatest icons Björn Borg and his biggest rival, the young and talented John McEnroe and their legendary duel during the 1980’s Wimbledon tournament. It’s a story about two men that became legends and the price they had to pay.

There’s been controversy, however, as the ever-outspoken McEnroe wasn’t asked for input or advice during the making of the movie, and he isn’t happy about it. “It doesn’t seem like they are all that interested in talking with me,” he told Vanity Fair back in September. “I don’t know how you can do it without ever meeting me.”

He added: “It’s difficult even for tennis players to re-enact what they did. So how in the hell is an actor going to do it on a court? It looks fake. They look like actors who can’t play. You see these guys, they go out there and they barely even know how to play tennis. Hopefully, they’re focusing on stuff off the court.”

Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes concerns another sporting duel, but this is a far stranger one, as the synopsis explains…

In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between women’s World #1 Billie Jean King and ex-men’s champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs was billed as the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90m viewers around the world. As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles.

The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett developed. And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons, at the expense of his family and wife Priscilla. Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms and boardrooms that continue to reverberate today. 

The script for Battle of the Sexes is written by Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy, while the film is directed by Little Miss Sunshine helmers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King while Steve Carell is Bobby Riggs, with the cast rounded out by Elizabeth Shue, Andrea Riseborough and Sarah Silverman.

Borg vs McEnroe is due out in September while Battle of the Sexes will hit screens in October. Here’s hoping they’re both better than that appalling Wimbledon film that came out a few years back. And for your viewing pleasure, THIS is the greatest tennis scene ever committed to film…

Chris Tilly
At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.