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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 June, 2004, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Street-fighter recalls battles of old
Wimbledon legend Jimmy Connors lifts the lid on his great rivalry with Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, his famous street-fighter style and why he fell out of love with tennis. Almost.

His style
Jimmy Connors winning Wimbledon in 1984
Connors was a fans' favourite - but an umpire's nightmare

"I was not a country clubber I was a parks kid and the way I played represented that.

"Winning 6-2 6-2 was a thrill - but figuring out a way to win matches from four-all in the fifth set, where it's about more than just tennis...

"Where you have to fight all the outside elements and inside demons...

"And fight to overcome a person at something where he is as good if not better than you...that was the best part of it and that I miss.

"You do not get that in any other activity, other than one-on-one tennis, an everything-right-there-in-your-face game.

"There is no pulling away the camera to another hole like in golf, or to another player, you are what you are - your faults and your successes are evident to everybody."

His era

"We were fighting for our dollars - tennis had to compete against football, hockey, basketball, baseball so to grab that fan, things had to happen.

"The group of guys I was with, Borg, Guillermo Vilas, Ile Nastase, they all had their own personalities on and off the court that drew attention to the game. I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

"Television started building our faces and our careers.

"When I was engaged to Chrissy (tennis player Chris Evert) people over here were far more interested in what I was doing off the court than on it."

Best players?

JImmy Connors in 1987
Born: 2 Sept, 1952 in Bellville, Illinois
Titles won: 109
Grand Slam titles: 8 Aus Open 74 Wimbledon 74, 82 US Op 74, 76, 78, 82, 83
Career earnings: $8.6m
Family: Son Brett, 25yo. Daughter Audrey 20yo
Lives: Santa Barbara
Hobbies outside tennis: Golf

Pancho Gonzales "Because of his size and the way he moved around the court."

Bjorn Borg/John McEnroe "To have had that rivalry with one player was something but I had it with two.

"I'd hope they'd say that about me - we had a triangle that was something special in sport.

"To have a rivalry where they knew they were going to bring out the best in me and vice versa..It was a special time.

"Borg and I - our games were matched in many ways though I was more aggressive. He never said a word; I said everything.

"McEnroe and I - it was who was going to butt heads the hardest."

US Open versus Wimbledon?

"Wimbledon fits some players better than others.

"Playing at Wimbledon was special but the effort and intensity I tried to bring to my game did not fit in as much as in New York.

"They looked at Bjorn Borg in London and liked his attitude - he might have been churning inside but he would not let that out.

"I think they respected that more than the fiery attitude of myself and McEnroe. I was more rowdy, yelling and screaming.

"I was willing to spill my blood out there - and to let them see it. I was not afraid to let people know how I was feeling. In New York they liked that but I don't think Wimbledon was ready for it."

Highlight of his career?

Reaching the semi-finals of the US open, aged 39 in 1991.

"To hear that kind of noise at a tennis match, so irreverent. If I would never have picked up a tennis racket for the rest of my life I could have walked away and never needed any more.

"When I stopped I had not one regret. I was able to fulfill everything I got into the game to do. I got into it to be the best and was lucky enough to achieve that."

Career after tennis?

Jimmy Connors with John McEnroe
Connors wants to set up a $1m doubles match with McEnroe
Connors stopped playing professionally in 1992, the year after his US Open swansong.

In 1993 he was one of the founders of the senior tennis tour, which began as three tournaments in America and has grown to 22 annual events worldwide.

"When we started, people like John McEnroe said it was just a bunch of old farts, dinosaurs, playing tennis. Now he is one of the guys ready to play every event!"

In 2001 Connors suddenly fell out of love with the game he had given his life to.

"I didn't touch a racket for three years. I got burnt out and tired with the game. I couldn't stand watching it, playing it or being around it. I walked away from it for good.

"Six months ago I thought 'well if I'm breaking myself down in the gym every day why not get back into tennis?'

"And I found a renewed love for the game. And everything it was to me in the past, it is to me now, just at a different level."

Connors is now attempting to get sponsorship for a $1m challenge doubles match between himself and John McEnroe versus Pete Sampras and a player of the current generation, to be staged in Las Vegas in spring 2005.

Favourite players now

Reigning Wimbledon champion Roger Federer: "His speed, power and the way he works the ball around the court".
US Open champion Andy Roddick: "His power is unbelievable".

Jimmy Connors was talking to BBC Sport presenter Sue Barker at the 2004 Wimbledon Championships.

Interview: Jimmy Connors

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