Jimmy Connors wins his 109th and final professional singles title, defeating n°181-ranked Gilad Bloom 2-6 6-2 6-1 in the final of the ATP Tour event in Tel Aviv.
The 109 professional singles titles for Connors is the most of any male player in tennis history and dates back to 1972 when he wins his first title at London’s Queen’s Club tournament.
Ivan Lendl eventually wins 94 pro singles titles in his career that ends in 1994 for second place on the all-time list, followed by John McEnroe with 77 singles titles.

The only players to win more titles than Connors are Martina Navratilova with 167 singles titles and Chris Evert with 154.

Jimmy Connors, US Open 1991

Excerpt of Top 100 greatest days in New York City sports by Stuart Miller:

Jimmy Connors won five U.S. Opens on three different surfaces at two different places, yet he’s best remembered for a tournament in which he didn’t even reach the finals. That 1991 performance was the third and final act for Connors, who had won as the brash bully of the 1970s and as the curmudgeonly craftsman of the 1980s. This time Connors, seemingly washed up, transformed himself into a feel-good story for a society built on both a Peter Pan complex and the worship of true grit. This aging inspiration captivated even the most casual sports fans, attaining a new level of celebrity and forging an unforgettable legacy with his classic American blend of tenacity and showmanship.

That tournament, Connors said later, was “the most memorable 11 days of my career. Better than the titles.”

And he gave his growing legion of fans not one but three classic matches.

So which is your favorite? Bet you can’t choose just one.

You could select the first-round comeback against Patrick McEnroe on August 27.

Because it seemed incredible that Connors was even there. His iron man records—109 pro titles, 159 straight weeks at number one, 12 straight Open semifinals, and 16 straight years in the top 10—were in the past. Connors had played and lost three matches in 1990 before submitting to wrist surgery. He’d plummeted to 936th in the world, defaulted at the French Open in 1991 owing to a cranky back—the defining symbol of old age—and lost in the third round of Wimbledon; he was ranked just 174th by Open time and needed a wild-card berth just to gain entrance to his “home court.”

Jimmy-Connors 1991 US Open Tennis

Because he beat a McEnroe. Sure, Patrick, ranked just 35th, lacked the skill and artistic temperament of his famous older brother, but he was an Australian Open semifinalist and had beaten Boris Becker that summer.

Because this was the first time we saw Connors’s vibrant Estusa racket flashing through the night, proclaiming the return of the king.

Because he overcame the greatest deficit of all, dropping the first two sets to the steady McEnroe 6–4, 7–6, then falling behind 0–3 in the third. Connors was limping (an act, perhaps, lulling his prey or laying groundwork for an alibi), and the stadium was emptying, everyone writing Connors off. By the next game there’d be perhaps 6,000 loyalists from the original sellout crowd. According to Joel Drucker’s biography-memoir Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, even Connors’s staunchest supporter, his mother and first teacher Gloria, turned away from the television.

Then, at 0–40, one mistake from oblivion, Connors finally turned it on. And once he did, McEnroe could not finish off tennis’s Rasputin, who drew his lifeblood from the screaming, stomping, bowing fans that remained. Connors held, saved two more break points at 2–3, won five of six games for the third set, then snared the fourth set 6–2 and finished McEnroe off 6–4 in the fifth. The 4-hour-18-minute epic ended at 1:35 a.m. “The crowd won it for me,” Connors said. “The crowd was an awful heavy burden for Patrick.”
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John McEnroe, 1981 US Open champion

From John McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

Borg and I split the first two sets, and he was ahead 4-2 in the third. He had broken me twice, and was serving to go up 5-2, but I hit two great topspin-lob winners over his head in that game, and after the second one I could have sworn I saw the air go out of him.

From there on in, it looked as if Bjorn was doing something I had never seen from him before: throwing in the towel. After having been down 2-4 in the third, I wound up winning that set 6-4 and cruising through the fourth, 6-2. In the last set, it looked to me as though he was barely trying.

“There are times – usually in exhibitions, but sometimes even in big tournaments – when you feel so bad physically or mentally that you’re simply not able to go all-out. It’s a tricky situation. You don’t want to lose by just missing every ball, so you hit a shot and leave a part of the court open.
At that point, your body language clearly says “I’m not going to cover that – just hit it there, it’ll be a winner, and the people will think, “Look, he was too good”. That’s what happened with Sampras when he played Lleyton Hewitt in the final of the 2001 Open: Pete had just run out of gas – he looked as if he had glue on his feet.
And that’s what happened with Borg in 81 – except that it did’t look physical to me.”
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Borg, McEnroe Wimbledon 1981

I had been famous for a few years now, but Wimbledon in ’81 is where I became infamous.

John McEnroe

Excerpts from McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

“I was unbelievably tense at Wimbledon in 1981 because I knew, after beating Borg at the Open, that I could win it, should win it, would win it – unless disaster struck.
Well, disaster did strike, and kept striking, round after round, and somehow I kept getting through – endearing myself to nobody in the process.

It began at the beginning.

Although this was to become one of my famous matches, I’m positive almost nobody remembers who I played, and when I played it: Tom Gullikson, first round, Wimbledon 1981. Court One.

I had behaved badly at Wimbledon before. I was already Super Brat. Now I upped the ante. Tom could be a pretty tough opponent on grass, but i had a much tougher adversary out there that day. Even though I would eventually win in straight sets 7-6 7-5 6-3, I just couldn’t rest easy when I got ahead: the devils were crawling all over my brain that afternoon. When Gullikson went ahead 4-3 in the second set on a miserable line call, I smashed my Wilson Pro Staff racket, and James issued me a warning. And later, when a linesman called a serve deep that I had clearly seen throw up a spray of chalk, I threw my new racket and gave a scream that came straight from Queens – but that has traveled very far in the years since.”

Man, you cannot be serious!

[youtube width=”480″ height=”385″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY[/youtube]

You guys are the absolute pits of the world.

The umpire understood “You guys are the piss of the world” and gave Mac a point penalty. McEnroe demanded to see the referee, and yelled:

We’re not going to have a point taken away because this guy is an incompetent fool!

After the match, McEnroe was fined $750 for the obscenity, $750 for an unsportsmanlike comment about the umpire, and threatened with an additional 10000 fine and suspension from the tournament.

And I want you to understand: I felt terrible. I’ve felt awful virtually every time I’ve had one of my on-court meldowns.

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Wimbledon Centre Court

1991 is the year Agassi made his comeback at Wimbledon after a 3 year boycott, the year another German (Michael Stich) won the Championships, but it’s also the year of the first Middle Sunday in Wimbledon history.
In his book Holding Court, Chris Gorringe then All England Club chief executive tells the story behind the first Middle Sunday, “the best and worst day of his life.”

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Rudyard Kipling‘s words are boldly displayed in the All England Clubhouse, there to inspire players as they wend their way from the dressing rooms down to Centre Court. As I stood staring up at them in 1991, during the wettest Wimbledon in history, they has a striking resonance. The weather conditions had just forced us into scheduling an extra day’s play for the Middle Sunday of The Championships – but right now we had no tickets, no security, no catering, no umpires, no groundstaff, and no precedent to follow. Whether triumph of disaster lay ahead – who knew?

The worst start to The Championships

“It had been an absolutely dreadful start to the tournament. We had no play on the first Monday, and intermittent rain throughout Tuesday. Wednesday was even worse with just 18 matches played, and by the end of Thursday, things were dire. For the players, it was a terrible ordeal. It took Stefan Edberg, the defending champion, 73 hours to finish the first round match:

Thank God it’s over. I haven’t even been able to eat a decent lunch for four days

And he was on of the lucky ones – at least he had made it onto court. We were almost a third of the way through the tournament and yet had completed only 52 out of 240 scheduled matches. It was no surprise then, to find myself, chairman John Curry, Michael Hann, chairman of the order of play sub-committee, referee Alan Mills and Richard Grier, Championships director, gathered together during yet another rain delay, looking at the feasibility of play on Sunday – something that had never been done before.”

On Friday evening the decision was made to play on Middle Sunday for first time in Wimbledon history.

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