The confession of Jimmy Connors,
This review is from: The Outsider: My Autobiography (Hardcover)
I've been a bit of a Jimmy Connors fan for years after watching re-runs of his matches on Wimbledon and seeing him interviewed a couple of times at Wimbledon, most notably the time before last I saw him at The Championships ('08 or '09) before making a surprise appearance this year and doing some commentary for BBC. When I found out he had released an autobiography last summer I knew that I had to get it. I have previously read John McEnroe's autobiography, which I really enjoyed and found insightful so I was hoping for the same from Jimmy.
I wasn't around when Jimmy was playing professionally and I got into tennis in '06 so my interest in McEnroe and Connors comes from footage of how they played and who they are now. I'm a big fan of current tennis but I think I find something exciting about the way it was back then and the personalities which is quite different from nowadays.
The book starts in an interesting time in his career in 1981 where he tells us people have been saying he's 'finished, washed up, done' and how he was determined to work his way back to the top and be better than anyone believed he could be. The story takes us through Jimmy's upbringing in East St Louis, Illinois and how his mum taught him to play alongside his grandmother nicknamed 'Two-mum', due to her being like a second mother to him. The struggles are discussed including a savage attack on public courts where his mother, gran and grandfather were brutally assaulted by two youths. His mother went on to be his manager through his professional career alongside coach Pancho Segura. Alongside word-class tennis was life off the court - partying with Ilie Nastasie (but always in moderation) - his close friend, an on-off relationship with Chris Evert, former Miss world Marjorie Wallace and his Wife - Playboy model Patti McGuire. Jimmy had problems with tennis federations and promoters, with lawsuits and with other players. Jimmy reflects on those issues with good humour as he did back then. Jimmy came to the fore when tennis was becoming popular with your average Joe and not just the Country club upper crust. It was a golden age for tennis and alongside McEnroe, Borg, Nastase Gerulaitis and Lendl; made the sport appealing for everyone. Jimmy pioneered the aluminium racket when the sport was transitioning from wooden racquets. He was the outsider and never really fit in with the clan of players that coalesced at the time.
Connors gives some interesting views throughout the book including his thoughts on today's tennis. Jimmy was a founder of the seniors tour and he tells us how he just didn't want to stop and had to keep going. He tells us he stills plays tennis every day even after 3 hip operations (he doesn't like the uneven number due to his OCD!). He discusses family life and even though there's been struggles how he's been married to the same woman for 35 years. Even in his later years Jimmy wasn't living it down quietly getting intro trouble with the Santa Barbara police department at a college football game with his son, for which he got arrested! The book ends with heartfelt acknowledgements to those who helped him through his life and tennis career.
I really enjoyed reading this book and in many parts it was more blunt and revealing than Johnny Mac's autobiography. Jimmy puts it all out there including an abortion that Chris Evert had against his wishes which the press had a field day with when the book was released and Evert didn't know he had included it. Jimmy approaches life with humour and honesty and that's what helps make this book so enjoyable that he tells it like it is and doesn't hold back. I would definitely recommend this for any tennis fan.