AT 35, Jimmy Connors is well past his prime, yet even today no player is looked with as much reverence and awe as Jimmy. OF course, Connors has been losing more often these days. His ranking has come down. There has been an influx of young players in the circuit.

In an era, where increasing pressures and demands of the game have been cutting short careers of many a budding youngster even before it has bloomed, Connors has been a legend. He has kept going for almost two decades.

He was born Jame Scott Connors, but was nicknamed Jimbo, later when, his tennis career picked up.

The year 1973, saw three international players making their sensational debut in Wimbledon, They were aptly called the ABC of tennis —— Amritraj, Borg and Connors. They all became more than just popular, Borg and Connors for their tennis exploits and Amritraj for his off field activities as well. John Newcomb had then commented: “Of the three, Amritraj is more talented. And a complete player already, while Connors and Borg still have their rough edges”!

In 1973, Jimmy won his first Wimbledon —— no, not in the singles, but partnering llie Nastase in the doubles. In 1974, he lost just only four matches, clinching the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in the process. As bad luck would have it, he was not able to lay his hands on the French Open. Had he competed in that year, it is conceivable that he might have won the Grand Slam as well. He and Evonne Goolagong had signed a contract with World Team Tennis. Both were barred from Italian and French Championships by the respective federation of both countries. Connors did sue the French federation and the ‘Association of Tennis Professionals and the issue was later settled out of court, but it cost him his best shot at the Grand Slam.

If any consolation was needed that year Jimmy ruled tennis world, He was unanimously voted World No. 1. He was just 22 at that time. Then McEnroe was just 15, [van Lend] was 14, Anders Jarryd 12, Arias 10, Wilander 9, Edberg 8 and Becker 6! And amazingly in 1974, Jimmy won 99 of the 10 matches he played, an unbeatable record.

Connors is a tiger on the court. Flying, jumping, grunting and putting 0 much into every shot which was in contrast of the other top players like Borg and Nastase, to name a few. He had a primitive approach, strong confidence.

His rivalry with Borg has become a legend and for all those who were fortunate enough to see them play, it will be the best memories of the 70s.

Borg has four of his victories against Connors, of his best 10 up to the 80s which includes the epic 1977 Wimbledon final.

In 1982, almost in the autumn of his tennis days he did what professionals of his age only dream of. He won two major titles —— the Wimbledon and US Open the second time in his career.

‘Over the years, Connors has come to personify tenacity, resistance and resolution. And it 1s largely these attributes that Grand Prix event and in February, 1986, he was served a 70day suspension order for walking off the court in the fifth set of a match against current No. 1 Ivan Lendl at Boca Raton. The MIPTC ruling debarred him from all tournaments on the Grand Prix circuit but he was free to play special events and exhibitions.

Sadly, today Jimmy Connors is a shadow of his former self. The young players of today have conquered him. But the champion still fights strongly to stay in the race. But will he survive 1988?

Article extracted from this publication >> April 15, 1988