Jimmy Connors was the original tennis rebel, he burst onto the tennis scene in 1974 like no one had done before, and he was the first rock n roll tennis star. His biggest weapons were an indomitable spirit, a two-handed backhand and the best service return in the game. He also ignited a tennis boom with his wicked metal racket, his storybook romance, his vulgar antics and his renegade behaviour. He dominated the men’s game in 1974 and had an excellent chance of winning the Grand Slam but was denied the opportunity by being banned from playing the French Open having won the other 3 slams. In response he chose to boycott the next 4 years of Roland Garros.
Connors was ranked world's no 1 for 5 years in a row from 1974 thru 1978 even though this was disputed by a lot of people especially in 1977 when he didn’t win a grand slam title. What affected Connors was that the world and he thought he would dominate men’s tennis for many years to come, but when this didn't happen for him he found it difficult to accept.
He also liked his fame too much. He dated Chris Evert and ‘a Miss World’ followed by string of other beauties, he gained 20lbs in weight at the beginning of 1975 due to his playboy lifestyle. This reflected in him losing all 3 of the Grand Slam finals he played in, against 3 opponents he should have beaten easily. He partly made up for this by winning the unique 2 Las Vegas challenge matches against Laver & Newcombe. These were tennis’ first million dollar winner takes all matches. The two challenge matches captured the imagination of the public especially in the US, tennis was well and truly in its ‘Golden era’ and Connors was its main star. While tennis fans enjoyed Connors' gritty style and his never-say-die attitude, they often were shocked by his antics.
His sometimes appalling on-court behavior, like giving the finger to a linesman after disagreeing with a call did not help his approval rating. Connors, never played the self-promotion game or, to be more exact, he never played it well. Though he became a crowd favourite, he was even referred to as ‘The People’s Champion’. From 1982 onwards, he alienated a lot of tennis insiders along the way.
If Jimmy didn’t like you, you knew it. And he didn’t like a lot of people. During the early part of his career, Connors frequently argued with umpires, linesmen, the players union, Davis Cup officials and other players. He was even booed at Wimbledon -- a rare show of disapproval there for snubbing the Parade of Champions on the first day of the Centenary in 1977.
In this time Connors went from one clothing sponsor to the next as they couldn’t keep up with his demands. He started his career being sponsored by Fred Perry, followed by Sergio Tacchini and then moving onto Robert Bruce JC. He finally settled with Cerruti 1881 in 1980 with a 4 year sponsorship deal. This was the most expensive tennis clothing of its day and to this day Cerutti 1881 still haven’t done a remake and then once again in the twilight stages of his career he reverted back to Robert Bruce JC. After being a supporting act to Borg and McEnroe from 1979 thru 1981, ‘Jimbo’ returned to being the number 1 tennis player in the world in 1982 after winning his 2nd Wimbledon title and his 4th US Open crown. This was partly helped by Bjorn Borg retiring from the game at the end of 1981. Connors had suddenly become what seemed like overnight ‘The People’s Champion’. From being the crowd’s villain to a huge hero of the game. He continued to gain popularity in the tennis world with what seemed like one heroic match after the other, climaxing with his unforgettable run to the US open semi-finals in 1991 at the grand old age of 39.
He finally stopped playing on the Men’s circuit at the end of 1992. Looking back on his long career it’s widely accepted he wasn’t the best player of all time, but he certainly was its most important and exciting. Connors is releasing his autobiography next year and it’s very eagerly anticipated as there are very few players that are able to say that they were at the top of their sport for 20 years! Even to this day, approaching his 60th birthday on 2nd Sept 2012 he is still playing and competing in exhibitions against the likes of Agassi, Sampras & Courier all 20 years his junior. A quite remarkable achievement by a very remarkable player, whom is the one and only James Scott Connors.
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