One of the most riveting and infamous rivalries in tennis history was between Americans John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. One was arrogant temperamental, while the other was brash and self-confident and that certainly made for chaotic entertainment and memorable occasions at Grand Slam tournaments in the late 1970’s and early 1980s. While Connors admits his feelings towards McEnroe have calmed down over the years, he expect to feel a certain anxiety when he steps onto the court across from his old rival for the PowerShares Series Tennis Tour.
“I guess my relationship with Mac, ever since when we stopped playing, I guess that’s documented how it was when we played.” Connor said on a media conference call. “I guess the further you get away from being what you used to be, the calmer things should get. But there’s no guarantee about that I don’t get around as much, see a lot of the guys as much. I’m sure there will always be a quiver when we’re around the tennis, which is normal. Even though things have gone on in the past, the days of playing for US Open and Wimbledon championships are gone, there will always be that little feeling of anxiousness that you run into somebody that you had such a great rivalry with.”
“To slough that off, that will never happen for me.” he added. “That was pretty special. To slough that off and say it’s something we had and move on, I mean, it is, but there’s still that little feeling of something about it.”
The eight-time Grand Slam champion also discussed how his generation shaped the future for tennis, even though it was looked upon with controversy at the time. The former world No. 1 believes that the rivalries during that era, along with the larger-than-life personalities of players such as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and himself, helped push tennis in an entirely new direction.
“What you had back in the day, I say it’s something special because I was a part of it. I played with a lot of great guys that were great players and had their own charisma and personality. But at the time you didn’t like it, you didn’t want it, and you criticized us for being like that, for trying to lead tennis down a different path, to create more interest in a game that needed a shot in the arm. So now you have what the game has produced. You have a lot of guys who are great players, go out and give everything every time they walk out there. They might be a little bit different in the way that they approach things. Not that it meant more to me or Mac or Borg or whoever, but the way you said it, kinder and gentler. Might be a sign of the times. I don’t know.
I’m not that privy to everything that goes on in the game anymore, so I don’t know exactly what that is. I just go back and say it. It would be very hard to believe that if Mack ever beat me in the finals of a major event that he’d come over and give me a hug. I just don’t see that happening.”
Connors is scheduled to play in next week’s PowerShares Series events in Nashville on Wednesday and Charlotte on Thursday. Each event will feature the rematches from the Super Saturday men’s semifinals from the US Open 30 years ago in 1984, Ivan Lendl playing Pat Cash and Connors playing John McEnroe.