Jimmy Connors, the challenged superstar of the 70s and 80s, celebrates his 60th birthday on September 2. Before discovering his first autobiography, "The Outsider", it's time to blow out the candles with the 10 best...
Jimmy Connors, the challenged superstar of the 70s and 80s, celebrates his 60th birthday on September 2. Before discovering his first autobiography, "The Outsider", it's time to blow out the candles with the 10 best ball of the most violent sniper in history. Ten shock sentences. Ten firecrackers.
1/ “I'll chase that son of a bitch Borg to the ends of the earth. I'll be waiting for him. I'll dog him everywhere. Every time he looks round he'll see my shadow.”
Wimbledon 1978: Borg outperforms Connors in the final and the American lashes out in his own way. Yep, that's how tennis stars would speak back in the seventies! And it worked: two months later, Jimmy put his money where his mouth was the U.S. Open final.
2/ “At the US Open, there will be 127 losers… and Me.”
Connors loved playing with fire, of course, but in 1974 where he won almost everything, Jimmy crushed all-comers in New York, topping it off with a 6-1 6-0 6-1 victory over Ken Rosewall in the final. Anyway, another statement that could have been ridiculous and that ultimately, made history.
3/ “Kiss me before you do that to me... You son of a bitch... Get out of the chair... You're a bum... Get your ass out of the chair... Don't give me that crap... You're an abortion. It’s my birthday you can’t do that to me.”
At the U.S. Open 1991, in his now legendary match against Aaron Krickstein. As in his heyday, Connors abuses the referee and everyone finds it great - it earned him a standing ovation. David Littlefield doesn't say a word and just lowers his head, as if he hasn't heard him. Reaching the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the fourteenth time, in the week of his 39th birthday, Jimbo had electrified the fans worldwide for two weeks, it was impossible to imagine him being disqualified. This is called having full powers. Legend.
4/ “isn’t this what they paid for, this is what they want!”
The same match against Krickstein. The 20,000 spectators at Centre Court of Flushing Meadows are dancing in the stands: Connors has just equalized at 6 games all in the fifth set. This kind of atmosphere has never been seen in tennis, either before or after. Any other player would have remained focused, silent. Not Connors. Galvanized by the cheers, he stared at a camera and with a smile delivered his genius marketing slogan. "Isn't this what they paid for, this is what they want" - which is also now the catchphrase of his Twitter account.
5/ “I love to play with kids who could be my children. Besides, it might be the case. I spent quite a lot of time in Vegas.”
Comments made by Connors just before his quarter-final against Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open 1988 and 100% bad taste. That's what made Agassi write in his autobiography that Connors was "rude, scornful and full of himself." We look forward to reading the reply in Jimbo's book.
6/ “Asshole! Jerk!”
December 1984, in the BNP Paribas Davis Cup final… The meeting turns into a blood-and-thunder affair: Connors and McEnroe obviously didn't want to play. As usual, it's the man in the chair that feels the heat. These words from Connors caused a sensation but, again, he had the last word: "What's the use in penalising me when I fight my arse off to play on clay in December?"
7/ “Ok, listen to me, I’m sick of your behavior, you are really a kid. You really have the mental age of my kid”
Connors’ motto: never keep anything to himself, say everything immediately. In semi-finals at Roland Garros, Connors came to the net and lectured his young doubles partner with his index finger raised – was it an attempt to intimidate him or a real irritation at the many protests of McEnroe? Both, probably. McEnroe, a little surprised, didn't say a word. FYI, Connors’ son was then... 4 years old.
8/ “I had some time before going to see my wife who’s about to give birth”
Poor Alain Escoubé felt very lonely behind the microphone of French TV channel TF1 in 1979 when he asked Connors why he finally came back to Roland Garros after a five-year absence. A stupid question gets a stupid answer.
9/ “I am happy to keep carrying the game on my shoulders, but it should be time for me to pass the flame on to the younger guys. The problem is that they all seem to want to pass it on. If they don’t want it, fine, I’ll keep it! But careful guys! I’m not going to pass it on to you because you’re not worthy!”
During the summer of 1991, the doyen of the tour was surprised to be still winning matches as his fortieth birthday drew near and sent this cutting remark to the other players. This is what Federer, Nadal or Djokovic could be saying in a few years if the younger generation has still not shown their promise... But will they ever dare?
10/ “People don't seem to understand that it's a damn war out there.”
Flat shots, roars on every shot, angry gestures after a good point, insults and violence, Connors consigned to the past - almost single-handedly - the good old-fashioned ways of Lawn Tennis. And damn the good behavior! In the 70s, he's the number one ambassador of this "new" tennis: the game as a full show.
By Julien Pichené