Is Jimmy Connors underrated in the scheme of things?

Discussion in 'Pro Tennis (Mens)' started by britbox, Mar 3, 2016.

  1. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    I ask the question as on another tennis forum, a couple of posters were comparing Connors to John Newcombe in a slightly unfavourable light.

    Really??

    Newcombe was a great player no doubt and won 7 majors, albeit including 1 amateur tour major and a couple of Australian Open titles when it wasn't the prestige event it is today. He also had a great Davis Cup record.

    But...

    I don't think the two can even be compared when it comes to greatness. Connors was a dominant champion in the early to mid 70s. As far as majors go, he'd probably have racked up a higher count if he'd regularly played Kooying (AO) and Paris. Nevertheless, he was the best player in the world for a time.

    Borg is justifiably given a place at the top table among the greats and rightly so, but I really don't think Connors was that far behind. Connors was older than both Borg and Mac and peaked before their primes.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. EdbergsGhost

    EdbergsGhost Masters Champion

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    Jimmy Conners was brash, in your face, no nonsense. It seemed that for him it was more about money and winning than the love of the sport. I doubt there were many outside of the United States that were fans. Even with the media here, there was a certain antipathy toward him when he was younger. In his match with Arthur Ashe at the Wimbledon Final, a casual listener might be led to believe the world would end if Ashe didn't win.

    As with many players, people and press warmed to him as he got older. His evening matches at the U.S. Open, were classics. Still, sometimes personality and perceptions will shadow one's career, long after it is over. I think that may be the case with Jimbo. I say this as someone who was a huge fan of the guy. He was often out-played, but rarely out-fought.
     
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  3. masterclass

    masterclass Pro Tour Player

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    Not by me. :yes:
    Jimmy is in my top 10 all time list - See CD's ..The Magnificent Seven: Your Own List of 7 Greatest Players of All Time thread.

    I didn't put him there only for his accomplishments, which were many and over many years.

    He, along with Borg, helped transition the game from the Amateur era to Open Era, in a few respects.

    1. From the primarily Serve and Volley game, to a more rallying type of game, slugging out it out mostly from the baseline.

    2. From the country club image, pristine, upper crust, gentlemanly sport, to a working class, in your face, hit the ball hard and intense style of play. Not that others hadn't had that before, Gonzales was no saint.
    Just that Jimmy really brought it to the mainstream and was someone with whom the average person could identify, a fighter, and left it all on the court. Many people didn't like his brash personality, but that was beside the point.

    Borg was Jimmy's polar opposite in manner on court, but was heroic in his own silent brooding style and had the Norse God looks about him.
    Teens (mostly girls), adored him, boys wanted to be like him. He was like a rock star of the tennis world.
    So Jimmy was the bad boy anti-hero - not far from the Nastase type, vs. Bjorn the stoic quiet hero.
    But being from the USA, Jimmy had a lot more market, than the Europeans.

    3. Jimmy was also a promoter of the game, similar to Bobby Riggs, though I'm not sure if they were motivated by the same thing.
    Tennis players were to become stars on the world stage, and Jimmy helped build an image, even if he was not liked by many.
    Like it or not, the goody goody image alone was simply too boring to bring the crowds and the ratings.
    Jimmy Connors set the stage for Johnny McEnroe "the brat", who would become well known for his antics questioning line calls and umpire decisions, but make no mistake, Jimmy was his elder and the more intimidating, though McEnroe wasn't one to back down much either. Perhaps John did become the player most likely to throw a tantrum and have the crowd boo him and throw things. Whereas, Jimmy knew how to control the crowd to his advantage, especially later as he was in the twilight of his career. When he played in the 1991 US Open, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

    At 40, he played 35 yr old. Navratilova in an exhibition dubbed "The Battle of the Champions". The match was played under rules to make it more competitive; Connors was allowed only one serve per point, and Navratilova was allowed to hit into half the doubles court. Each player received a $650,000 guarantee, with a further $500,000 for the winner. Connors won 7–5, 6–2. Navratilova made 8 double faults and 36 unforced errors. Connors, too, was nervous and there was a rumor that he had placed a bet on himself to win at 4:1. According to the Connors book "The Outsider" he placed a million dollar bet on himself, saying that he would lose no more than 8 games.

    4. Jimmy's longevity helped with continuity and transitioning tennis from his generation, the one after, and the one after that. This helps the sport's popularity continue on a steady path, even if its stars decline and retire. He was there when the pre-Open Era men were reaching the ends of their careers. He ushered out of majors the 39 year old longevity King Rosewall in 1974. He then had Borg, then McEnroe to contend with. He revived his career in the early 1980's, with Lendl starting to rise after Borg departed and later when McEnroe was floundering. He stuck around through Becker and Edberg's start, and pretty much until Agassi and Pete.

    In this respect, Federer is much like Connors. When Federer was in his early years, he played Sampras, he played Agassi, from the previous generations. He obviously played his own generation, and even as early as 2005, was playing the next generation, Nadal, then later Djokovic and Murray. He's stuck around long enough to play the 90's generation, Raonic, Tomic, Nishikori (very late 89), Dimitrov, etc. Now he's playing even the following generation of potential stars, Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Coric, Zverev, etc. Federer and has even trained at times with that latter group.

    It takes a very, very special player to hang around and be competitive with so many generations of players. One must not be burdened along the way with too many serious injuries; one must have the fire inside to keep competing, as normal life goes on, marriage, kids, etc.

    Some of Jimmy's longevity records may not be passed, some will be. It's a different time, and a different tour. But he certainly played his role to the hilt.

    Respectfully,
    masterclass
     
    #3 masterclass, Mar 3, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2016
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  4. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Excellent posts guys. Love the way you framed that @masterclass . Quality.
     
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  5. masterclass

    masterclass Pro Tour Player

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    Thanks. Here are Jimmy and John ... they were not known as the friendliest of players... but they stirred up the crowd. ;)

    .


    This wouldn't happen today with all of the code violations rules in place. I'm not saying we should have a lot of this... but tennis profits with a bit of drama.

    Respectfully,
    masterclass
     
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