Friday, February 21, 2014

Connors Fined $20,000

On Feb. 21, 1986, tennis legend Jimmy Connors was in the midst of a semifinal match against Ivan Lendl in the Lipton International Players Championship in Boca Raton, Florida when he took his criticism of the umpire just a little bit too far.

In the sixth game of the fifth set, Connors loudly protested what he thought was a bad line call. After a series of warnings, the umpire penalized Connors a point. But this just made things worse for Connors - as did the game penalty that followed after further protest. Past the point of no return, Connors was ultimately defaulted for refusing to continue play. Meanwhile, an unfazed Lendl would continue on to win the tournament.

Following Connors’ outburst, the Men's International Professional Tennis Council conducted an investigation and concluded that his conduct constituted "aggravated behavior." The Council then suspended Connors for 10 weeks and fined him $20,000. Connors would later miss the French Open, becoming the first player to be suspended during a Grand Slam tournament.

Former professional tennis great Jimmy Connors on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1974, more than a decade before his outburst at the Lipton International Players Championship.

Connors would go on to have a brilliant tennis career including 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 U.S. 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.

In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, ranked Connors as one of the 21 best players of all time.[

Connors won more matches (1,337) than any other male professional tennis player in the open era. His career win-loss record was 1,337–285 for a winning percentage of 82.4. He played 401 tournaments and through many years it was a record until Fabrice Santoro overcame it in 2008.

Connors was the only player to win the US Open on three different surfaces: grass, clay, and hard. Connors was also the first male tennis player to win Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces: grass (1974), clay (1976), and hard (1978).

Connors reached the semifinals or better in one of the tennis majors a total of 31 times, a record recently surpassed by Roger Federer. Connors' achievement is particularly remarkable considering that he entered the Australian Open Men's Singles only twice and that he did not enter the French Open Men's Singles for five of his peak career years. Of the 31 major semifinals Connors contested, he managed to win 15 of them and progress to the final. Roger Federer holds the record for most consecutive semifinal appearances at these events.

Connors was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998 and Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Hall of Fame in 1986.

At a time when most other tennis pros played with wooden rackets, Connors pioneered the "Wilson T2000" steel racket, which utilized a method for stringing that, had been devised and patented by Lacoste in 1953.

"The T2000 set the wood racquet traditionalists on their ears with its lightweight steel construction. It didn't need a racket-press (it didn't warp), and its slender framework meant less wind resistance."

He played with this chrome tubular steel racket until 1984, when most other pros had shifted to new racket technologies, materials, and designs. The T2000 in the eighties "had the aura of a dinosaur – it had been introduced in 1968."[

In 1984, Connors switched to the new Wilson ProStaff that had been designed especially for him. But 1985 again found Connors playing with the T2000. Not until 1987 did he finally switch to a graphite racket when he contracted with Slazenger to play their Panther Pro Ceramic. In 1990 Connors signed with Estusa.

Connors also used lead tape, which he would wind around the racket head to provide the proper "feel" for his style of game.

Connors did commentary with NBC-TV in 1990 and 1991, during its coverage of the French Open and Wimbledon tournaments. During the Wimbledon tournaments of 2005, 2006, and 2007, Connors commentated for the BBC alongside John McEnroe (among others), providing moments of heated discussion between two former archrivals. Connors has also served as a commentator and analyst for the Tennis Channel since the U.S. Open tournament of 2009.

On July 24, 2006, at the start of the Countrywide Classic tournament in Los Angeles, American tennis player Andy Roddick formally announced his partnership with Connors as his coach. On March 6, 2008, Roddick announced the end of that 19-month relationship.