Connors set to return for doubles date with Mac

Jimmy Connors yesterday marked his first visit to Wimbledon for 12 years in the most spectacular fashion, when he announced he was planning a mouth- watering doubles match between himself and John McEnroe on one side, and Pete Sampras and another great champion of more recent times on the other.

It was a typical Connors moment, as the former Wimbledon champion chose a wet and miserable day in SW19 to sweep back on to the tennis radar. "To get me back in the sport was always going to take something very special," said Connors, who walked away from the game following his second-round exit at the 1992 US Open and has not looked back since. "That's why I've been looking into a special, one-off doubles match that will capture the world's imagination.

"The idea is for John Mac and myself to be on one side of the court against Pete Sampras and another player from his generation, say someone like Andre Agassi. The match would be played over three sets and would be a one million dollar challenge. Winner takes all, of course. It could be just the boost tennis needs to reclaim some of the limelight that other sports have taken from the game over the years."

Nice idea, but when and where would it take place? "I'm looking to do it in the first quarter of 2005," Connors said. "There's a hotel that's very interested, in Las Vegas, and we have a sponsor who's talking seriously with us."

The match would unquestionably capture the imagination of tennis fans, young and old, not least because Connors and McEnroe were never on the same side during their playing days. "We were tough at 90 feet apart," Connors smiled, "so how are we going to cope at five feet is anybody's guess. I hope we're not going to be butting heads."

Responding to Connors' big announc-ement, McEnroe said he was equally excited about the prospect of the doubles showdown. "Jimmy's the ultimate hustler," he said, "and this is a mad idea. But it would be fun, especially as neither of us would have to run around too much. Put it this way, at least there's less court to cover when there are two of you on one side."

Did McEnroe believe that a handicap system would also be required, particularly if Sampras was paired with someone like Agassi? "If it was Pete and Andre, for example," the three-times former Wimbledon singles champion said, "I think it would be interesting if they played with one serve. We want to make a match of this."

Perhaps suffering from cabin fever, having been cooped up in the BBC studios all day while waiting in vain for a tennis ball to be hit, McEnroe even went as far as to say that he was warming to his one-time nemesis. "I'm starting to like Jimmy more now," McEnroe joked, no doubt contemplating the impressive prize fund on offer. "Our rivalry brought out the best in us on the court, but we just didn't see eye to eye off the court. But we're older now and I have the utmost respect for the guy."

Seeing Connors again on court would be a thrilling prospect for those tennis fans who have missed his competitive, never-say-die attitude. "People ask me why I kept going for so long," said Connors, who did not retire until he was 41, "and the answer is that I loved putting my game on the line.

"It was particularly exciting when I wasn't at my best, because winning when you're at 60 or 70 per cent of your capacities is the real challenge. That's what keeps you going."

That, and the intense rivalry he enjoyed with the likes of Ilie Nastase, Bjorn Borg and McEnroe. "If Ilie had been a bit more focused," Connors said, "he might have become the greatest of all time." So who does win the accolade? "Well, there are two. One is [Pancho] Gonzales, because of his size and the way he moved. The second is a tie between Borg and McEnroe. To have a rivalry with one player is something special, but to have two at the same time is incredible. We brought the best out of each other. They helped me push myself to the limit and I would hope they would say the same thing about me."

Connors still talks so passionately about the game that one cannot help feel that, despite his protestations, he must be missing the game. "No, no," he insisted. "That's my past. I put everything into tennis at the time, but that was it.

"That's why when I walked away I never came back. I had no regrets, so wanted to move forward. To sit and dwell on the past is not in my nature. Nor is sitting in the stands and having a camera point at me with people saying: 'Hey, he used to be a good player'. I don't want to live in the past."

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory