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John McEnroe Became No.1 on This Day in 1980

This is a special day in tennis history as it was on March 3, 1980, exactly 37 years ago, when John McEnroe - one of the greatest icons of the sport - became No.1 in the world for the first time.

Touted for years as a future No.1, it was a phenomenal 12-month stretch between March 1979 and March 1980 that propelled him to the top of the rankings, winning 103 of 115 matches and 12 titles in those 12 months - including the first of his seven career Grand Slam titles at the 1979 US Open.

McEnroe recently spoke to Sky Sports about Andy Murray’s rise to No.1, and he described the feeling of ascending to the top ranking. “When you climb that mountain it’s extremely exciting, particularly when you’re young and working your way up, and getting the respect of the other players, and the beginnings of a career,” he said. “What does change is you become a much bigger win - people are trying to devise ways, especially the people right behind you, but anyone, really - and you’re looking over your shoulder more, because people will start trying to come up with things to throw you off.

“You’ve got to be ready for that, but that’s not as exciting as working your way to that point.”

McEnroe certainly handled that pressure well when he was No.1 - he would win three more US Opens (1980, 1981 and 1984), three Wimbledons (1981, 1983 and 1984) and amassed a total of 170 career weeks at No.1. He also finished four years as year-end No.1 (1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984).

As if that weren’t enough, he won nine Grand Slam men’s doubles titles (seven with Peter Fleming, one with Mark Woodforde and one with Michael Stich), one Grand Slam mixed doubles title (with Mary Carillo) and reached No.1 in doubles (spending 269 weeks there - only the Bryans had more).

Here’s a snapshot of what the world was like when McEnroe became No.1 on March 3, 1980:

- There were six more American men in the Top 10: Jimmy Connors (No.3), Vitas Gerulaitis (No.4), Roscoe Tanner (No.6), Gene Mayer (No.8), Harold Solomon (No.9) and Eddie Dibbs (No.10).

- Another lefty, Martina Navratilova, was No.1 on the women’s side.

- The No.1 movie in the US was Kramer Vs Kramer starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep.

- The first Friday The 13th film hadn’t been released yet (there are now 12 of them).

- The No.1 album on the Billboard 200 was The Wall by Pink Floyd.

- The No.1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen.

Read more articles by John Berkok

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