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."

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence