|Jimmy Connors, Miami, Florida 2007|
James Scott “Jimmy” Connors (born September 2, 1952, in East St. Louis, Illinois) is a former World No. 1 tennis player from the United States.
Connors won eight Grand Slam singles titles and two Grand Slam doubles titles with Ilie Năstase. He was also a runner-up seven times in Grand Slam singles, a doubles runner-up with Năstase at the 1973 French Open, and a mixed doubles runner-up with Chris Evert at the 1974 US Open. He held the top ranking for a then-record 160 consecutive weeks from July 29, 1974 to August 22, 1977 and an additional eight times during his career for a total of 268 weeks.
In 1974, Connors became the second male in the open era to win three or more Grand Slam singles titles in a calendar year (Rod Laver being the first in 1969 and having been joined since by Mats Wilander, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic). Connors is also the only person to win US Open singles championships on grass, clay, and hard courts.
Connors won a record 109 ATP tournaments, 15 more than Ivan Lendl, and over 30 more than Roger Federer and John McEnroe. His career win-loss record of 1243–277 (81.77%) is third after Björn Borg (82.7%) and Ivan Lendl (81.8%), and he holds the record for total number of wins for a male player.
Connors won three year-end championship titles, including two WCT Finals and one Masters Grand Prix. He also won 17 Championship Series titles (1973–1984). He was the first male player to rank no. 1 for more than 200 weeks in total and the first male player to be no. 1 for more than five years in total. He is the only male player in the open era to win more than 100 singles titles during his career and also holds the record for most major quarterfinals (41) reached. He is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time due to his many records in the game.
Connors grew up in Belleville, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. He played in his first U.S. Championship, the U.S. boys’ 11-and-under of 1961, when he was only eight years old. Connors’ mother, Gloria, took him to Southern California to be coached by Pancho Segura, starting at age 16, in 1968.
In 1970, Connors recorded his first significant victory in the first round of the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, defeating Roy Emerson.
In 1971, Connors won the NCAA singles title as a Freshman while attending the University of California, Los Angeles and attaining All-American status. He turned professional in 1972 and won his first tournament at Jacksonville.
Connors was acquiring a reputation as a maverick in 1972 when he refused to join the newly formed Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the union that was embraced by most male professional players, in order to play in and dominate a series of smaller tournaments organized by Bill Riordan, his manager and a clever promoter. However, Connors played in other tournaments and made his first big splash by winning the 1973 US Pro Singles, his first significant title, toppling Arthur Ashe in a five-set final, 6–3, 4–6, 6–4, 3–6, 6–2.
In 1968, Connors’ mother Gloria sent her son to work with Pancho Segura in Southern California. Segura refined his game, mentored him, and provided the court strategy that made Jimmy great.
Connors was engaged to fellow tennis pro Chris Evert and together they both triumphed in the singles events at the 1974 Wimbledon Championships; a feat labelled “The Love Double” by the media. Their engagement was broken off shortly before the 1975 Wimbledon championship. Former Miss World Marjorie Wallace was engaged to Connors in 1977 but in 1979, Connors married Playboy model Patti McGuire. They have two children and live in the Santa Barbara, California area.
In the 1990s he joined his brother John Connors as investors in the Argosy Gaming Company which owned riverboat casinos on the Mississippi River. The two owned 19 percent of the company which was headquartered in the St. Louis metropolitan area of East Alton, Illinois. Argosy narrowly averted bankruptcy in the late 1990s and Jimmy’s brother John personally sought Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In the liquidation, Jimmy, through his company, Smooth Swing, acquired the Alystra Casino in Henderson, Nevada, for $1.9 million from Union Planters Bank, which had foreclosed on John. John had opened the casino in 1995 with announced plans to include a Jimmy Connors theme area. It was shuttered in 1998 and became a magnet for homeless and thieves who stripped its copper piping. The casino never reopened under Jimmy’s ownership and it was destroyed in a May 2008 fire.
In October 2005, Connors had successful hip-replacement surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
On January 8, 2007, Connors’s mother and long-time coach, Gloria, died at the age of 82.
On November 21, 2008, Connors was arrested outside an NCAA Basketball game between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of California at Santa Barbara after refusing to comply with an order to leave an area near the entrance to the stadium. The charges were dismissed by a judge on February 10, 2009.[18