Tennis: Connors still stirred by rivalry with McEnroe

THE TIME will come when Bjorn Borg creaks wearily into his top- spin backhand and John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors are past their yell-by date.

"It's very close," the 47-year-old Connors admits, having agreed to compete against his two great rivals of yesteryear in the Honda Challenge at the Royal Albert Hall from 1-5 December. "I wake up some days and wonder why I even think about doing this, but once I get out I have a different feeling," Connors says as he considers the prospect of meeting again with Borg, 43, and McEnroe, 40.

"Jimbo" once vowed to trail Borg across the world to avenge a defeat, and McEnroe's name stirs bitter-sweet memories. "Something like that never goes away, especially between Mac and myself," Connors said. "To have carried on this rivalry for so many years, and for you still to be talking about it, must mean that we made our mark somewhere."

McEnroe continues to make his mark, as a television commentator and as the United States Davis Cup captain-elect. "He lobbied for it for a long time," Connors said, "and I guess if you stay in there, you want something bad enough, and you're willing to pay the price, and you finally get it, then it's all worthwhile. There's going to be some interesting times with Mac and the Davis Cup coming about, with the matches, and how he deals with that, with how he deals with the USTA. It's going to be interesting to watch."

To say Connors and McEnroe made an impact on the Davis Cup as competitors would be to understate their fine play and appalling behaviour. "I never had any aspirations or hopes to be the Davis Cup captain," Connors said. "My intentions with tennis are to keep playing, and that's why I started with the Senior Tour. McEnroe was more into playing Davis Cup and representing his country, and for me to go and do that now would be just trying to fool myself. So it's better that I stay away from that. My kids are almost grown now, and my wife has started her own business. I'm working for some other companies, plus I'm hoping to get my golf handicap down well into single digits."

Which three players would he want to see if he were a paying customer? "Borg, McEnroe and Connors, remembering the buzz that we created. Sampras has been a great champion, willing to put his reputation on the line week after week and come out on top. I would like to put him into the Borg, McEnroe category. It's the guys that go out there and half ass it that I have a problem with."