Jimmy Connors knows a thing or two about sporting rivalries – just ask John McEnroe – and he has now had his say on the burgeoning contest between men’s tennis’ new big four; Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray. The feisty American claims that these modern rivalries are “soft rivalries” compared with those in his day, and uses his relationship with compatriot McEnroe to reinforce his point. Connors claims that this rivalry was “not only on the court, but off the court too”, whereas modern day players tend to put their differences aside once their matches come to a close.
These comments were made as Connors promoted his new memoir ‘The Outsider’, and a number of other comments made at the same time reveal a little more about the man himself and his strength of feeling about the game and how he played it. Connors claimed that on court he was driven by “the two R’s – Rage and Revenge”, which does make the current player’s rivalries pale a little in comparison. The veteran also revealed a childhood incident in which he witnessed a brutal assault on his mother at a local tennis court, only for her to return to the same place the following day as an act of defiance. This memory drove Connors towards his single-minded aggression and focus on court, and may have been a key factor in explaining why his blood ran hotter in his rivalries than in almost any other.