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Jimmy Connors



By Nancy Gill Mc Shea


Wimbledon’s “Wave Sunday” will forever be remembered in the archives of tennis as Jimmy Connors’ Day. In fact, several Jimmy Grand Slam event performances – dating from the 1970s into the 1990s — qualify as the stuff of folklore. I witnessed many of them live or on TV, so let’s go retro and take a quick look at Wimbledon in 1987. My husband and I were vacationing in San Francisco and I watched Jimmy recover from 1- 6, 1- 6, down 1- 4 in the 3rd to prevail in 5 sets over Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors in the round of 16. Pernfors sensed that his moment of reckoning was imminent and said, “That’s what Jimmy does!”


Now fast forward to the spinning excitement at Wimbledon when Jimmy showed up on a late June Sunday in 1991. He was 39 years old at the time, had netted 3 Wimbledon titles in his 24-year career – 2 in men’s singles, l974 (defeated Ken Rosewall), 1982 (beat John McEnroe) along with a 1973 men’s doubles title with Ilie Nastase – and he responded joyously to a new freedom on the court. VIPs of “The Championships” departed from strict rules and 100-plus years of tradition to allow play for the first time on the middle Sunday – or mid-fortnight, to be correct – after a rain-plagued week. Shocking, indeed!


Jimmy Connors

Not at all shocking, however, to Jimmy and the young crowd that stood for hours to buy cheaper seats for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the grounds of the proper All England Club. They were not impressed by the tournament’s long established protocol of civility. Determined to have a good time, they challenged the elite sensibilities, sensed that Jimmy enjoyed interacting with the fans and was the perfect candidate to help them celebrate the occasion. When he arrived on Centre Court, the fans shouted “Jim-mee, Jim-mee,” jumped up in unison, gave him a raucous ovation and showered him with the Wimbledon Wave.


Connors loved it and said afterward that Wimbledon should admit regular fans more often. He clanked two rackets together like a conductor to lead the crowd’s chanting and reveled in the display, according to one news report, even though he lost to American Derrick Rostagno in the round of 32. Rostagno said there was so much energy he couldn’t hear himself think.


Noise didn’t bother Jimmy. “It was like New York every day, right there….my kind of crowd,” he said. A few months later, I watched Jimmy trigger similar emotional reactions in New York during a few matches at the 1991 U.S. Open. He played Patrick McEnroe in the first round. Patrick’s Mom Kay warned Jimmy to go easy on her baby and he seemed to obey. Jimmy was down 2 sets and a break in the third when my daughter Colette, who had worked with Patrick as a ball kid, said, “Let’s go Mom, you know what Jimmy is going to do!” Sure enough, most of the crowd bailed, several hundred fans moved to the front row seats and Jimmy prevailed, 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Jimmy again generated fan hysteria in the round of 16 when he was losing to American Aaron Krickstein 2-5 in the fifth set a few days before his 40th birthday. We were there and watched him gyrate all over the court in Louis Armstrong Stadium, trade barbs and cheers with fans and at one point complain to the chair umpire, “I’m 39 years old out here trying to do my best!” Jimmy finally outlasted Krickstein 7-6 in the fifth and bowed to Jim Courier in the semis.


It’s tempting to tag on a retro glance at the 1984 U.S. Open Super Saturday late night semifinal, another raucous affair featuring John McEnroe’s 5-set victory over Jimmy Connors. But we are still applauding fresh young talent at the the 2018 Wimbledon Championships so we’ll revisit that drama on another day.


Want a quick laugh From Dusan Vemic? click below


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