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John McEnroe, Nelson Mandela net a connection

John McEnroe and other celebrities attend the New

John McEnroe and other celebrities attend the New York City premiere of HBO's documentary McEnroe-Borg: Fire and Ice. Videojournalist: Robert Cassidy (June 7, 2011)

Even a third of a century later, John McEnroe said people ask about his loss to Bjorn Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon final “a hundred times more’’ than any other match.

That includes Nelson Mandela, who once told McEnroe he listened from his jail cell.

“I felt like a complete jerk that he listened to the match at the Robben Island prison when I was whining about the call,’’ McEnroe, an ESPN analyst for this year's event, which begins Monday, said on a conference call to promote the tournament.

"It certainly gave me some perspective about the situation I was in.  I shouldn't have had a whole lot to complain about.

"At the same time I feel immensely proud that in some way I was able to connect with people beyond your wildest dreams, the type of people you would be able to connect with that said I would have given $10 million that he felt it was an honor meeting me.  I felt ludicrous him saying he was honored meeting me.

"It was amazing he didn't seem to have an ounce of bitterness or resentment towards anyone when I was lucky enough to meet him.  It was certainly a moment I will never forget, or an hour.  I gave him my racquet that I played with at that time.  I saw him pick it up and hold it.  I felt lucky that I was able to be part of that."


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