Jimmy Connors came along in tennis when fist pumping and talking to the officials were considered a major no-no. Jimmy Connors was a player that we loved to hate. He was an in your face kind of guy. But in the 1991 U.S. Open, towards the end of his great tennis career, we loved him and we openly rooted for him.
Coming off an injury riddled season Jimbo felt he had one more go at it in the tank. He came into the Open as a wild-card entrant ranked 174, something unheard of for Jimmy Connors. He outlasted Pat McEnroe in the first round in what would be the first marathon match of the tournament. Jimbo came back from a 2 set deficit in a match that lasted 4 and a half hours and ended at 1:30 in the morning.
Connors marched on to the semi-finals where he met Aaron Krickstein. With the crowd overwhelmingly on Connors side the younger Krickstein would have to maintain composure and use his youth to his advantage. This match turned out to be another marathon match for Connors on Labor Day and his 39th birthday.
The 39 year-old Connors did not disappoint. We pumped our fists with him on every winning shot. Connors fell behind in the final set 2-5 and would rally back with the crowd as his fuel to defeat Krickstein in a tie-breaker. We all wanted to see Connors in the finals but his miraculous run would come to an end at the hands of Jim Courier.
Whatever you thought of Connors before the 1991 US Open you loved and respected his effort and passion for the game of tennis after this great run at the finals. We all know of John McEnroe's brash and sometimes rude displays but Jimmy Connors was the first. Before Tiger's fist pump there was Jimmy Connors celebrating winning points when no one else in the proper game of tennis would dare show up an opponent.
So when you see him in the stands trying to pass his fire onto younger tennis players we can't help but remember the great run to the finals that made us all love Jimmy Connors.