Last Updated on August 26, 2023
Jimmy Connors, often called “Jimbo,” was a tennis legend known for his unique style and charisma. Born on September 2, 1952, in East St. Louis, Illinois, he learned tennis from his mom and grandma. His mother, Gloria Connors, was a competitive player herself, playing in the U.S. Championships during the early 1940s.
Jimmy turned pro in 1972 and quickly gained fame. Unlike most players, he chose not to join the ATP, the main organization for male tennis pros. This decision led him to miss some big tournaments but didn’t stop him from winning others. 1974 was a highlight year for him; he won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. He was banned from the French Open, though, starting a complex relationship with that particular event.
Between 1974 and 1978, Connors dominated the sport, winning five Grand Slam titles. He had strong rivalries with other tennis stars like Arthur Ashe and Bjorn Borg. Even though he missed some tournaments, either by choice or because he was banned, his performance was extraordinary.
In the early 1980s, Connors experienced a brief dip in form but came back strong, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1982. He also claimed the U.S. Open title in 1983. After that, his career started to slow down. Injuries and the rise of new, younger players affected his ranking and performance.
One of his most memorable moments came in 1991 at the U.S. Open. Even at 39 and after struggling with injuries, he reached the semi-finals, surprising everyone. This moment was especially noteworthy because he was ranked below 900 the previous year and was recovering from wrist surgery.
Connors retired with some incredible records under his belt. He was ranked the world’s number one player for a total of 238 weeks. Over his career, he won 109 singles titles, including eight Grand Slams. Despite the ups and downs, Jimmy Connors remains an unforgettable figure in tennis history.
Jimmy Connors and The 1991 US Open Fairytale
In 1990, Jim Connors struggled with a wrist injury, only playing three tournaments. After surgery, he came back in 1991.
At the 1991 French Open, Connors, 38, faced 19-year-old Michael Chang, the 1989 French Open winner. Unusually for Connors, he wasn’t the shorter player. There was also a 19-year age gap.
During the match, Connors’s back started hurting. After a tough point that tied the match, he told the umpire he couldn’t continue. He packed his stuff, shook hands with Chang, and left. The Paris audience cheered for him, forgetting past disagreements.
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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)