Connors — ending his silence

In the rash of upsets leading to Sunday’s men’s final at Wimbledon, most of the defeated accepted the blame or praised the victors for their skill and determination.

Two months ago, Jimmy Connors published an account of his loss to Arthur Ashe in their epic 1975 Wimbledon men’s final in his autobiography, The Outsider.

Thirty-eight years ago, Connors offered no excuses for his loss in the 1975 Wimbledon final to Arthur Ashe, a stunning upset that Ashe called ‘my greatest triumph in tennis’ in his autobiography, Days of Grace, published in 1993 after his death.

But in his book, Connors explained his defeat as largely the result of injuries, a description at odds with virtually all published accounts of what happened that Sunday at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Connors, then 22, was the defending Wimbledon champion, yet Ashe, nearly 32, prevailed in four sets, gaining wide acclaim for his brilliant shotmaking.

“This was more than just a tennis match; it was one of the finest exhibitions of tactical awareness I have ever seen,” said John Barrett, a former player and tennis historian.

By keeping the ball short and low to the vulnerable Connors forehand, Ashe broke down that shot completely on his approaches to the net, Barrett wrote in Wimbledon: The Official History, published in May. It had been a tennis master class.

But Connors, ending a long silence, identified an injured knee and hairline shin fractures as key components of his defeat.

In his first-round match on Centre Court, Connors wrote, “I slipped and hyperextended my knee.”

Nursing an injury

Nursing his injury with painkillers and making secret daily visits to a physiotherapist at the Chelsea Football Club, Connors said, he made his way to the final without losing a set.

“But 24 hours before my showdown with Ashe,” Connors wrote, “the physio warned me once again to take it easy; he was afraid the fractures were getting worse.”

Connors credited Ashe with a masterly performance in the final, saying, “Arthur’s game was flawless that day; he had figured out the way to play me.”

Donald Dell, Ashe’s friend and coach, professed surprise at Connors depiction of himself as injured.

“I never heard that,” said Dell, who later worked as Connors manager for eight years.

Rob Castorri, a teaching professional who witnessed the match as a college student, said he had been mildly surprised that Connors was unable to retrieve some shots.

“I think it’s quite possible he was hampered,” said Castorri, the executive director of the Ivan Lendl Junior Tennis Academy.

Over the years, Connors declined to discuss the match. In 2010, on the third day of the U.S. Open, a reporter approached Connors as he walked down a corridor at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Jimmy,” the reporter said, “can I ask you a few questions about your famous match against Arthur Ashe in the 1975 Wimbledon final?”

“Famous for who?” Connors said. “Not famous for me.”

As he walked away toward elevators leading to the broadcast booth, Connors turned his head to be heard over his shoulder.

“That was so long ago,” he said, “I can’t remember it.” — New York Times News Service

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 11:18:12 AM |

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