Tennis' Old Guard
A New Senior Tour is restaging Some of the Great Court Rivalries of the Past 20 Years
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96
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"Jimmy, loved your match with Krickstein at the Open. I was there."
"Wasn't that something?"
"Jimmy, how's your mom?"
"She's fine. Now how's every little thing with you?"
He's milling, he's gripping, he's grinning. Pose for a photo? No problem. Autograph the racket cover of a Wilson T-2000 (the menacing steel racket that only Connors could wield successfully)? You got it, pal. Greetings from a mutual friend? How the heck is Robert? Give him my best, would you please?
In 1977, Connors stormed out of Forest Hills after losing a U.S. Open final. Today, he has become a committed entertainer, a guy who gets a thrill out of making somebody's day. Walking two steps behind Connors is his husky manager, Billy Lelly, carrying the racket bag, making sure no one crowds Jimbo. Cameras click. More autograph seekers. "So nice to see you ladies," says Connors.
No one in tennis history has so evoked Ali, Elvis, the entourage, the limo, the helicopter, the private jet, the quick getaway. In this corner, the once and future heavyweight champion of tennis. We're out of here. Jimbo has left the building.
Well, not yet. Walking on the court, Connors strolls onto the bench towards an unassuming blond man who looks faintly familiar. While Connors joyfully schmoozes his way through the thread of fans, the blond sits unbothered, fiddling with his racket strings, making small talk with a ball boy, just staring that famous 100-mile-long gaze.
"Hey, look," says a pointing fan, "that's Borg."
"No, you're kidding."
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