Connors to team up with McEnroe at BBC and LTA

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The notion of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe working together conjures an image of a pantomime horse with the front end trying to shake off the rear. It will be interesting to see how the erstwhile terrible two get on as co-commentators for BBC television at Wimbledon and as coaching consultants with the Lawn Tennis Association.

The notion of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe working together conjures an image of a pantomime horse with the front end trying to shake off the rear. It will be interesting to see how the erstwhile terrible two get on as co-commentators for BBC television at Wimbledon and as coaching consultants with the Lawn Tennis Association.

Connors, a sleek 52, arrived in London yesterday after visiting the LTA's training camp at La Manga, Spain, and confirmed that he would be spouting wisdom with McEnroe, his 45-year-old American compatriot, in SW19 next year, having agreed to cover the second week of the championships.

"Jimbo" suggested that any complaints about the arrangement be addressed to the BBC presenter Sue Barker, whose fascinating interview with him at Wimbledon last summer triggered the whole thing.

Although two Wimbledon triumphs number among his eight Grand Slam singles titles, Connors is also remembered for snubbing parades marking the All England Club's anniversaries.

"I came back to Wimbledon this year with my missus and really enjoyed myself," he said. "I'm thrilled to be working with the BBC. I first came over here when I was a kid at 19 and heard Dan Maskell doing his colourful commentaries, which, as a young American, I wasn't used to, and to be able to follow through with that along with all the great commentators that have been in there with the BBC is so exciting for me.

"It's no secret I haven't been around tennis for quite some time. It was 12 years in between my visits to Wimbledon. I did not ever lose my love for the game. A lot of people think that I walked away from tennis. I never walked away from tennis. I closed the door but I never locked it. I left the game for seven years because of personal issues that needed to be attended to. My love and my desire and my passion for the game never waned. It's been my whole life since I can remember and it will continue to be.

"Everybody was an expert on Jimmy Connors and my reasons for leaving. I never lost any feelings towards the game. That's not to say I didn't lose a lot of feelings towards a lot of people in the game. But that's another story."

Looking forward to competing with McEnroe for the microphone, he said: "We're going to have some fun. I'm a straight-forward, straight-shooting guy, and I tell it like it is. I commentate like I played tennis, and I hope it's acceptable to all of you."

Coaching is also a new venture for Connors, an irrepressible baseliner renowned for punitive returns of serve and a pulverising backhand. "I've never been a coach, just with my kids. And look what happened - neither of them play."

He has been asked down the years why Britain have unable to produce a stream of top players. "Tennis over here has always been important, because of Wimbledon," he said. "Obviously you have other sports that are as important, sometimes more important, but the opportunity for the kids to have the coaching and to have the places to play and the ability to further their game sometimes was not available for them. That was always a big question.

"You have Wimbledon, so it's almost like you're expected to have great players come out of here. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Hopefully, that's going to change, with David Felgate [the LTA's director of performance], Jeremy Bates [Britain's Davis Cup captain] and everybody that you have now behind the tennis, and what they're doing to go about making it successful.

"You need that little extra push. Cracking the whip on these kids is never a bad thing. They know now from my visit to Spain what's expected of them. What they get is one thing. All they have to do in return is to go out and work hard and train and give back the best efforts that they can. Now it's just a matter of numbers. What are the odds of getting the best out of 500 kids as opposed to 5,000? All the kids hit the ball well. They all play good tennis. They all have great strokes.

"There's a very fine line between No 1 and No 100. I was that fine line for a long time, and hopefully I can give that to some of these kids, which would take them over the top, which would be great.

"Where does that extra come from? The extra is the mental part of it: how much you have in your heart and how much guts you have and how much you hate to lose. I was also nuts. I say that respectfully to my tennis. There was nothing else I wanted to do but play tennis and be the best I could be. To do that, there has to be something wrong with you."

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