Watch The Matches That Made Jimmy Connors The Greatest Tennis Player In History
It’s not just the staggering record of 109 singles championships he won or the five years he was ranked number one in the world or the 12 years he was ranked in the top three of men’s tennis that places Jimmy Connors above EVERY player that played in the Open Era of Men’s Tennis–as tennis great Arthur Ashe stated before his passing–it’s the quality of those wins and the surfaces they were won on that separates him from the pack.
To this date no other player in the history of the game has beaten the greatest Clay Court player (Bjorn Borg in finals of 1976 U.S. Open–on clay that year), the greatest Grass Court player (John McEnroe in Wimbledon finals of 1982) and the greatest Hard Court player–with the exception of himself–(Ivan Lendl in finals of 1982 & 83 U.S. Open) in a grand slam finals. It would be like someone beating Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in their primes in the finals of the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the French Open, respectively. It immediately puts you in the conversation of being the greatest all around player in the history of the sport. Now keep in mind that he accomplished that while only playing half of the grand slams during his hey day.
Given the fact that most of Connor’s strongest competition came against players who had a significant size advantage, how was he able to out perform them and play at a world class level for nearly 30 years? He had a prodigiously high tennis IQ, a fanatical work ethic and the ability to tap into a never-ending reservoir of contempt for his opponent–hey, you take fuel where you can get it! But, in addition to all of that, he also had a coach who gave him the tools to succeed at the highest level of the game for a long, long time.
Economy is the essence of genius and of Jimmy Connor’s tennis game, as taught to him by his mom and coach, Gloria Connors. That meant sacrificing the high margin-of-error training-wheels that topspin offered in favor of hitting the ball flat with no safety-net. Those flat ground-strokes and the use of a second hand on his backhand required perfect timing, pin-point accuracy and high torque-per-pound generated foot speed to get to the ball early (see the last video below for evidence of Jimmy’s amazing foot speed).
It also helped that he had the best return-of-serve twitch-muscle the game has ever seen. It’s that return-of-serve that enabled him to, at age 37, obliterate John McEnroe in the 1989 Toulouse Grand Prix Final, demolish Stefan Edberg in the 4th round of the U.S. Open in 1989 and beat Michael Stich, recent Wimbledon champion, in Memphis at the age of 40.
Take a look at four matches that separated Connors from every other player who’s ever picked up a tennis racket:
1. Jimmy Connors beats Bjorn Borg in finals of 1976 U.S. Open held on Clay (that victory along with his victory over Borg and Guillermo Vilas at the U.S. Clay Court Championship Finals in 1974 and 1979, respectively, suggests that Connors would have taken his share of trophies home had he played the French Open during the five years he was the #1 ranked player in the world):
2. Jimmy Connors beats John McEnroe in the 1982 Wimbledon finals on Grass (it should be noted that beating McEnroe in 1982 would be like beating Sampras or Federer in their prime at Wimbledon):
3. Jimmy Connors beats Ivan Lendl in the 1983 U.S. Open finals on Hard Court for the 2nd year in a row:
4. On the way to his semi-final run at the 1991 U.S. Open at age 39, Jimmy Connors reminds people why he’s the number one tennis attraction of all time:
Check out the high torque-per-pound generated foot speed exhibited in this brief highlight video of Connor’s career (The man had wheels second to none):
Check back on these pages for a proper, comprehensive analysis of Jimmy Connor’s peerless tennis record where I’ll demonstrate that he’s not only the greatest tennis player in the Open Era but that he stands shoulder to shoulder with any athlete in any sport in this or the last century.
Here’s a short list of his fellow tennis Hall Of Famers who couldn’t match Jimmy Connor’s grand slam achievement (Search Engines: this list is for you): Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Mats Wilander, Guillermo Vilas, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.