Jimmy Connors is a retired American tennis player, who was a dominant force in the game during the 70s and 80s.
Universally regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Connors won as many as 8 Grand Slam titles and was a long-time World No. 1. He is also credited with revolutionizing the sport, helping pave the way for the modern baseline-oriented style of play and the popularity of the two-handed backhand.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: Champion (1974)
French Open: Semifinalist (1979, 1980, 1984, 1985)
Wimbledon: 2-time Champion (1974, 1982)
US Open: 5-time Champion (1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1983)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
No. of weeks at No. 1: 268
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Connors was one of the first high-profile players to make a living out of playing from the baseline. In an era dominated by serve-and-volleyers and net-rushers, Connors opted to use counterpunching as his main weapon, using his opponents' pace against them and forcing them to hit one extra shot.
Connors hit very flat groundstrokes off both wings, which meant his forehand in particular was prone to errors. He didn't have the traditional heavy topspin that most left-handers generate, and relied instead on pace and placement to win forehand exchanges.
His two-handed backhand, on the other hand, was accurate and powerful, and was a revolutionary shot for its time. Along with Bjorn Borg, Connors helped make the two-hander the preferred choice for most baseliners, combining consistency with versatility to outlast a majority of his opponents.
Connors' serve was not a strong point of his game, and lacked the wicked swerving slice that many left-handers have. However, his return made up for that, as he frequently sent back powerful serves with interest to take control of a rally.
The American was very quick around the court, and could easily retrieve fierce shots struck by his opponents. While he didn't volley much, he was capable of putting away short balls at the net when playing on quick surfaces.
All that said, Connors' biggest strength was probably his mental strength. He never gave up - not during a point, and certainly not during a match, and forced his opponents to produce their best over and over again if they wanted to beat him. More often than not, they failed to do that.
Significant Jimmy Connors records
Connors was like a machine on the court, and he was also like a machine in the history books. He has several all-time records to his name, the most significant of which are as follows:
- Most career titles of all time: 109
- Most career finals of all time: 164
- Most career matches played: 1,535
- Most career matches won: 1,256
- Only player to win the US Open on 3 different surfaces: grass (1974), clay (1976) and hardcourt (1978)
- Most consecutive years ranked inside the top 3: 12
- Most consecutive weeks ranked inside the top 3, 4, 5 and 10: 507, 651, 659 and 788 respectively
Connors was born in Belleville, Illinois, and claims to have started playing tennis at the age of two. His first coaches were his mother Gloria Thompson and grandmother Bertha Thompson, and by the age of eight he was already participating in the Under-11 US Championship.
Connors was involved in a high-profile relationship with women's tennis legend Chris Evert from 1974 to 1975. He later married Playboy model Patti McGuire in 1979, and the couple have two children: a son named Brett, and a daughter named Aubrey.
Connors was one of tennis' first global superstars, even if he was painted as the villain in comparison to his more polite peers like Bjorn Borg and Arthur Ashe. He thrived on adversity, and by looking at everyone as the enemy - the players, the umpires, even the crowd - he created a lasting impression of being the anti-hero.
But he was an immensely successful anti-hero, and created so many records that the greats of today are still struggling to catch up. His determination and longevity will likely remain unmatched for a long time to come, his prolific results even more so. Roger Federer, for all of his greatness, is still some way adrift of breaking Connors' record of 109 career titles.
Connors set the template for the modern baseline-oriented game, and was one of the first to show that counterpunching could be a wildly successful style. His backhand was similarly path-breaking, and his influence on the tennis world's consciousness will likely remain undimmed forever.