Last Updated on September 1, 2022
James Scott Connors, tennis prodigy extraordinaire, was famous for being a Maverick. He was nicknamed “Jimbo” and is fondly, admiringly, and respectfully remembered for having reached the 1991 US Open Semi-final.
Jimmy Connors 1991 US Open run gained him so much acclaim because he was 39 years old at this point, had dropped below 900 in the world rankings in 1990, and was just returning from surgery for an injury to his left wrist( his dominant playing hand).
Jimmy Connors was born on September 2nd, 1952 in East St. Louis in the great state of Illinois, USA. Connors first learned how to play tennis from his mother and grandmother. Jimmy’s mother Gloria Connors had competed in the 1942 and 1943 US Championships.
It is the year 1972, Connors has turned professional and immediately began to earn himself a reputation. Connors famously refused to join the ATP, the union that catered to most male tennis professionals.
Connors’s decision not to join the ATP meant he didn’t participate in several tournaments primarily due to scheduling conflicts. Connors instead opted to play in other smaller tournaments.
Now 1974 was quite literarily the year of Jimmy Connors. The controversial American won three of the four Grand Slams. The only reason it wasn’t four of four was that Connors had been banned from playing in the French Open.
Connors’s 1974 French Open ban was the beginning of a rocky relationship with Roland Garros. Connors didn’t participate in the French Open for five years- this was mostly from being banned but some years, Connors simply chose not to participate.
In addition to his success in the majors, Connors won 12 other titles in 1974. The following year, Connors reached the final of all three Grand Slams he was allowed to participate in but didn’t win any of them. He however was able to win nine titles.
From 1974 – 1978, Connors won five Grand Slam titles. As earlier stated He didn’t participate in the French Open during this period and he only played in the Australian Open twice throughout his career.
Connors’ chief rivals during this period were Arthur Ashe and Bjorn Borg. Connors missed several tournaments during his dominance either because he was ineligible to play or he simply opted not to attend.
Connors suffered a slight dip in form by his standards between 1979 and 1981 but in 1982, claimed both Wimbledon and the US Open titles. Connors also won the 1983 US Open title.
Following his 1983 US Open triumph, Connors’s career plateaued, he won a couple of titles here and there, ended the year 1984 ranked second, and made the Semifinals of all four Grand Slams in 1985.
But as with all good things, Connors’s proficiency came to an end. He was hampered by some injuries and the rise of younger players eventually saw him start to slip in form and the rankings.
By the end of his career, Jim Connors held the ATP number one ranking for a career total of 238 weeks and won 109 men’s singles titles which include eight Grand slams
Jimmy Connors and The 1991 US Open Fairytale
In 1990, due to a persistent injury in his left wrist, Connors was able to only successfully play three tournament matches. He sought surgery for his wrist injury and returned in the year 1991.
The year is 1991, the event is a third-round French Open match between 38-Year-old Jim Connors and 19 year Old Micheal Chang. Chang is no novice though, he had won the 1989 French Open championship.
This match is something of a rarity for Connors. He and his opponent are about the same height, Connors is probably slightly taller. Most of Connors’s opponents are taller than Connors.
Chang is also 19 years younger than Connors. The match is progressing nicely and then Connors’s back starts to trouble him. After winning a grueling point against Chang to tie the match, Connors goes over to the umpire and quits the match.
Connors packs up his gear, exchanges a courtesy handshake with Chang, and is escorted off the Court. The Paris crowd cheers in support of Connors while he waves at them, his early career feud with Paris a distant memory.
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Connors 1991 US Open Round 1
Jimmy Connors recovered in time to be granted a wild card entry into the US Open. In the first round of the Tournament. He was matched against Patrick McEnroe. Connors said when he saw the name McEnroe, he thought he was going up against John McEnroe.
John McEnroe had been a rival of Connors. Connors and John McEnroe had split the year-end 1984 World No.2 Ranking. Patrick McEnroe was the younger brother of John McEnroe.
Connors and Patrick McEnroe faced off in a night match. Connors started the match shakingly but seemed to get better the longer the match lasted. McEnroe took the first two sets 6-4, 7-6. All McEnroe needed to do was win the third set and it was game over.
Connors would later describe his motivation for the events that followed as – Not wanting to go out in straight sets in the first round of what could be his last US Open. So Connors fought aggressively for single every point in the third set and would win the set 6-4.
In the fourth set against McEnroe, Connors celebrated wildly for every game he won, while the crowd cheered and clapped loudly as he celebrated. He won five straight games to win the second set 6-2.
Now the game was there for the taking. Connors and McEnroe battled it out in the fifth set. The set seemed to balance on the whole but at 5 – 4, Connors was serving for the set.
Now while a strong serve had never been Connors’s forte, he was an impressive enough server. He served out the set to win the match 4-6,6-7,6-4,6-2,6-4. the crowd roared in approval as Connors pointed wildly at them. The match lasted four hours, twenty minutes.
Connors 1991 US Open Round 2
After his first-round victory over McEnroe where things seemed to have fallen into place for Connors, he squared up against Dutch qualifier Michiel Schapers.
Schapers had a height advantage over Connors, he was about six feet, seven inches tall but this wasn’t Connors’s first Rodeo and Connors had always been famous for his great service return
Connors was his usual aggressive fighting self as he took on Schapers under the floodlights in the Stadium Court. Connors won the first two games, and Schapers broke back to win the next two games. With the set tied at two all, Connors runs roughshod, breaks Schapers twice to win the next four games, and takes the first set 6 – 4.
Connors’s game against Schapers was marked by Connors trying to get a lot of big serves in, he made frequent trips to the nets, and constantly attempted to lob the ball over Schapers – an impressive feat considering Schapers’ height.
Connors would again break Schapers multiple times and at 5 – 3 would get the chance to serve for the second set. A chance he took with both hands winning the second set 6 – 3 as the stadium court stood to applaud him.
The third set went the way of the first two. Although Micheil Schapers did win the first game of the set, Connors ran out a 6 – 2 winner. While Connors was about to serve the match point to win the set, a huge sustained roar went up in the crowd.
After he won the match point, another sustained roar went up from the crowd and once more Connors pointed approvingly at the crowd
Connors 1991 US Open Round 3
Connors faced off against 10th seed Czech Karel Novacek in the third round. By this time Connors had gotten into his groove and the American crowd was largely behind him. To the spectators, it felt like the homecoming of a long-lost son.
Connors breezed through the first set 6 -1. Kovacek put up more of a fight in the following sets but lost the match 6-1, 6-4,6-3 to Connors.
Connors 1991 US Open Round 4
In the fourth round, Connors faced off with Compatriot Aaron Krickstein – a player who was fifteen years younger than Connors.
The match was played on Connors’s thirty-ninth birthday. The crowd burst into a rendition of “Happy Birthday to you” as Jimmy came on court and cheered very loudly for him, Connors seemed slightly overwhelmed and must have felt very loved.
For the first time since the opening round, Connors lost the first set of the match 3 – 6. At a point in the second set, the umpire calls a ball out that Connors thought was in and Connors launched an angry tirade at him.
Consequently, every point and game jimmy won, he gestured towards the umpire, and the crowd massively cheered him on. Connors poured all his energy into winning the second set 7-6 but got railroaded 6-1 in the third set.
Connors was able to fight back to win the fourth set 6-3, leveling the match at 2-2 and setting up a thrilling fifth set. Krickstein had the chance to serve out the match at 5 – 3, but he let the opportunity slip, and eventually, the game went to a tie-breaker.
Krickstein later said that at the end of the match he felt he was being hunted and Connors was the hunter. Krickstein said at that stage everyone he knew, wanted Connors to win.
Connors did win the tiebreak 7-4 and the crowd rejoiced with him. Anyone listening to the Support of the crowd that day would not have imagined that Krickstein was also American.
Connors 1991 US Open Quarter Final
In the Quarter Finals, Connors faced off with Dutchman Paul Haarhuis. Haarhuis had knocked out the top seed Boris Becker in the third round in straight sets. Connors lost the first set to Haarhuis 4 – 6. This seemed to subdue the crowd.
In the second set, Haarhius got a chance to serve out the set at 5-4, but Connors dug his heels in and got a breakpoint. At this point Haarhuis hits a serve, Connors returns it, Haarhuis hits a backhand and Connors lobs it high into the air.
Three times Haarhius sped the ball towards Connors, three times Connors lobbed the ball in the air and the crowd roars got louder with each successive lob. Connors eventually plays a level ball, Haarhius returns it, and Connor hits a two-handed backhand down the line to break Haarhius’ serve and the spectators exploded with cheers.
Now the crowd was back, they propel Connors to take that set 7 -6. Connors wins the next two sets 6-4,6-2 to advance to the semifinals.
Connors 1991 US Open Semifinal
Connors faced Compatriot Jim Courier. Courier was 21 years old, was the fourth seed at the tournament, and hadn’t lost a set all tournament. Courier came at Connors right out the bat. Connors lost the first set 3 – 6. In typical Connors fashion, he attempted a comeback in the second set but also lost that set 3 – 6. Connors was unable to pull from any of the fire that had gotten through the tournament and lost the final set 2 – 6.
The Spectators clapped and cheered for the winner when the match was over but their cheers were subdued. You could see it on their faces, they were sad and disappointed that Connors had lost.
Concerning the loss, Connors later said he wasn’t satisfied that he went out in the semifinals but he had done his thing, loved every minute of it, and was pleased. He described the experience as “The best eleven days of my career”.
Video: Jimmy Connors 1991 US Open Magic Run
Who did Jimmy Connors lose to in the 1991 US Open?
Jimmy Connors’s fairytale run at the 1991 US Open was brought to an end when he lost his semifinal match to 21-year-old fourth seed compatriot JIM COURIER. Courier would lose the final of the 1991 US Open to Stefan Edberg. Courier would go on throughout his career to win four Grand Slams.
How many times did Jimmy Connors win the US Open?
Jimmy Connors won the US Open men’s singles title on five different occasions. Between the years 1984 – 1988, Connors made it to five consecutive US Open finals winning three titles in this period. These three titles were all won on different surfaces(Grass, Clay, Hardcourt)