The 20 minute–long, fourth set tiebreaker between tennis rivals John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg at 1980’s Wimbledon has been called (by ESPN) “the most riveting episode in the sport’s history.”
For three hours last Monday afternoon, as Wimbledon 2012 got underway halfway across the world, hundreds of Financial District lunch-breakers were treated to a three-fifths as riveting retread of the Borg-McEnroe faceoff, on a plaza outside of 121 King West.
“The Tie-break,” created and performed by artists Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen, recreated the legendary match, shot-by-shot and tantrum-by-tantrum—except that it was played on a specially created mini court, 40 per cent smaller than regulation size.
The pair debuted the performance at last year’s Nuit Blanche. That staging took eight months of practice to nail down, and the play was repeated for 12 hours, through the entire night.
Monday’s event—celebrating the new headquarters of National Bank, a Wimbledon sponsor—was decidedly shorter: three hours long, on the miniature court.
“You couldn’t do a full serve on a court this small, so we put the ball into play and follow the structure we had at Nuit Blanche,” said Neuspiel, who played Borg. “But we didn’t take it as seriously because of the scale. We just tried to make it a nostalgic homage.”
The spirit was still there. Some passersby recognized the scene from October’s all-night iteration, while others stopped to watch simply by virtue of being enthusiastic tennis fans, and shouted support from the sidelines.
“Those players induce certain memories in fans,” said Neuspiel. “But it’s not like anyone was mistaking us for the real people.” That said, Pugen, as the anger-prone McEnroe, can quite convincingly fling a racket.