Wednesday 22 November 2017

Connors' hero status in New York suggests tennis needs worse players, not better ones

Jimmy Connors runs and swings during a match at Wimbledon held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club circa July,1982 in Wimbledon, London. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Jimmy Connors runs and swings during a match at Wimbledon held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club circa July,1982 in Wimbledon, London. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Donny Mahoney - Off the ball

Unlike my colleague Joe Molloy, I've been trying to get my head around my utter lack of interest in the US Open, once the world's second-best tennis tournament, but to my jaundiced eyes, now a twin brother in irrelevance to the Australian Open.

I grew up in New Jersey, a few bridges and tunnels away from Flushing Meadows. My uncle Mike used to go to the US Open in the early 90s, back when America had decent male players. The people he'd rub shoulders with sounded like half Gatsby, half Gordon Gekko.

The tennis was often incredible. Jimmy Connors was king of Queens. He was 39 in 1991 when he improbably made it to the semi-finals. His appeal was based on a simple fact: here was a man who was pretty bad at tennis beating players superior to him. Every dramatic set win included a manic pelvis thrust-fist pump combo.

As a kid, I hated Connors, but New Yorkers went wild for him. He was a performer.

Monday night's Nadal-Djokovic final sounded exciting. No 1 against No 2. The second set even included a 54-shot rally. But it was like two automatons volleying back and forth. It had nothing on Connors' rally with Paul Haarhuis in '91, which culminated with a lunging two-hand forehand winner. Women shrieked during the game as if they were watching Ryan Gosling photos being burned.

Maybe what tennis needs are worse players, not better ones.

DM

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