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Jimmy Connors

"bad Boy" Of American Tennis

Connors gained public attention not only from his powerful two-handed backhand and his excellent return-of-serve, but also for his emotional outbursts and antics on the court. "He has been called tennis champion, punk, maverick, and street fighter rolled into one," wrote Daniel B. Wood of the Christian Science Monitor in April of 1985. "When he's up, he struts like a rooster and crows like a bullfinch. When he's down, he grunts and curses like a guttersnipe, wielding his racket switchblade-style toward the crowd."

Connors and American tennis rival John McEnroe were easily labeled the "bad boys" of American tennis for their frequent outbursts, arguments with umpires, and playing to the crowds. "They are great characters, American toughs from the 'if-you-don't-like-the-call-kick-dirt-on-the-umpire' school," wrote Sally Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in June of 1992. "But for years McEnroe and Connors have unapologetically believed that brazenness could substitute for class." Despite the criticism from the media and sometimes from the fans, both Connors and McEnroe believed that they added personality to the sport and they often claimed that many of the world's best tennis players were simply boring. "I wasn't afraid to wear myself inside out and let you see me," Connors told Bud Geracie of Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service in January of 1994. "See where my heart lies. See where my guts are. See what I'm thinking. I was happy for you to see that. The guys today aren't giving you anything to see."

Connors' passion for tennis did not always translate into tournament wins. After his spectacular performance in the Grand Slam events of 1974, Connors became the number one player in the world. He held this position from 1975 until 1978, which is still the record for the longest continuous streak in men's tennis. However, Connors began to struggle in his matches against other top players, particularly at Grand Slam events. He had a difficult year in 1975, when he ended his relationship with fiancée Chris Evert and then lost the Wimbledon finals to Arthur Ashe, the man he was suing for not allowing him to compete at the 1974 French Open. Connors did manage to win the doubles title at the U.S. Open that year, although he lost the singles title in the final. Connors regained the U.S. Open singles title in 1976, when it was a clay court at Forest Hills. He won again in 1978 when the tournament was moved to the hard courts of Flushing Meadows. He is the only tennis player to win the U.S. Open title on three different surfaces.

In the late 1970s Connors became a family man. In 1978 he met Patti McGuire, the 1977 Playboy Playmate-of-the-Year, and the couple was married just three months later. In 1980 they had their first child, Brett David. At first Connors found it difficult to balance his family life with his professional career, and his marriage almost ended in divorce in 1983. However, the couple was able to reconcile and they even had another child, Aubree Leigh, in 1985.

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