On September 2nd of 1991, Jimmy Connors won the U.S. Open. Even more surprising is that he won it on his birthday. Still more surprising is that he won it on his 39th birthday.
Jimmy Connors was born in Illinois in 1952. He played in his first U.S. Championship, the U.S. Boys 11 and under, in 1961, when he was nine years old. In 1968, when Jimmy was 16, his mother took him to Southern California to be coached by Pancho Segura, a former world tennis champion from Ecuador. Jimmy Connors scored his first victory in 1970, in the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, where he defeated Roy Emerson. He turned pro in 1972, at the age of 19, while he was studying at UCLA. His first victory as a professional was the Jacksonville Open. In the 1973 U.S. Pro singles, he soundly defeated Arthur Ashe in a five set final.
Connors was a left handed player with a two handed backhand, who was once ranked number one in the world. He held the world's top ranking for more than three consecutive years, starting in July of 1974. He has won more than 8.6 million dollars in prize money alone. This is not to mention whatever endorsements he had back then. His total career match rate is more than 81 percent, which places him in the top four of the era.
Jimmy Connors was a sentimental favorite, but at the ripe old age of 39, his skills as a competitor came into question. Connors had no questions. He handily beat John McEnroe in the first round of the 1991 U.S. Open. Then he knocked out his next two opponents in quick succession. Then he celebrated his 39th birthday with a fourth round win over 24-year-old Aaron Kricksten in a match that lasted four hours and 49 minutes, despite that Jimmy was playing with a surgically rebuilt left wrist. The wrist injury had ended Jimmy's 1990 season.
The crowd roared at the return of their long loved favorite player, known for a uniquely high energy that sometimes produced great tennis, and sometimes melted down into shouting matches with umpires. His heyday had been back in the 1970s. His contemporaries were Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, Ilie Nastase, Phil Dent, Brian Gottfried, and other great stars now replaced by the new young talent.
When the match was over, Connors sent a message to his fans in the stands. “This was another Connors miracle. It was a war, and the crowd absolutely helped me with it. This was 20,000 making the noise of 60,000.”
Connors officially retired from the game in 1996, after winning eight major championships in singles tennis. These included five U.S. Open titles (on three different surfaces – clay, grass, and concrete), as well as two Wimbledons and one Australian Open. He had also won three year end championships and 17 Grand Prix Super Series. Jimmy Connors was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998.
As a coach, Connors has mentored Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, and Eugenie Bouchard.