Jimmy Connors has revealed that Pancho Gonzales gave him some useful advice before his first match against Arthur Ashe.
Connors and Ashe faced each other for the first time at the final of the US Pro Tennis Championships in Boston in 1973. The former beat then-World No. 1 Stan Smith in the opening round before defeating Ray Moore, Dick Stockton, and Cliff Richey to reach the title clash.
"In the first round, I was drawn against world number one and top seed Stan Smith. I attacked him with my groundstrokes, I don't think he knew what hit him and won in straight sets. I then beat Ray Moore, Dick Stockton, and Cliff Richey to reach the finals, where number two seed Arthur Ashe stood in my way," Jimmy Connors wrote in his memoir.
Connors said that Gonzales told him he was better than Ashe. The two-time US Open champion also advised the then-20-year-old to attack his serve and play aggressively.
"Pancho knew Ashe well, they were friends from his days at Beverly Hills, and he had plenty to say to me just before the match: 'Jimbo, he's good, but you are better. He plays quiet, confident, so rattle him. Attack his serve from the start by returning hard and deep down the middle. Cut off his angles and be aggressive,'" Connors wrote.
"I followed Pancho's advice, jumping on Arthur's serve at every opportunity. I had to, because the match would hinge on the ability of one of us to come up with something out of the ordinary. I kept at it, never letting him settle into a rhythm, and it paid off. We battled for three hours before I won, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2," he added.
Jimmy Connors won six out of seven matches against Arthur Ashe
Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe locked horns on seven occasions, with most of them coming in finals. Connors leads the head-to-head 6-1.
The only time Ashe came out on top was arguably the biggest meeting between the two at the 1975 Wimbledon final. He beat Connors 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to become the first black man to win the grass-court Major. It was the only Grand Slam encounter between the two.
The final meeting between Connors and Ashe came in the final of a tournament in Memphis in 1979. The former won 6-4, 5-7, and 6-3.