Originally Posted by Mustard
Connors was starting to get old then and it showed in some matches in 1984, although Connors still had Lendl's number when it mattered most (at Wimbledon). McEnroe was at his absolute peak. I also believe the 1984 North American hardcourt summer is when Connors ditched his T2000 racquet for the first time.
Originally Posted by Mustard
Connors' decline, i.e. the "old theory", didn't just happen all at once. There were early signs in 1984, where in some smaller matches, he would play poorly and barely win games, but he was still there when it mattered in the big matches against Lendl, but a peak McEnroe was usually too much. Of course, at the US Open, it was different, but that's Connors' best and favourite tournament. There's also the racquet factor that I mentioned.
1985 saw Connors be good and consistent, but his days of reaching major finals were over, and he couldn't win a tournament. 1986 was much the same, except with the 10 week suspension controversy added in, which probably had a factor in his poor showing in the majors that year. 1987 was an excellent year for an older Connors of reaching major quarter and semi finals, but still no tournament. 1988 saw some tournament wins, but his form in the majors was now declining, and it got worse in 1989.
1984 was the early signs of decline, but I still think that Connors was the second best player of that year. He would still beat Lendl in the biggest matches in 1984, whereas after the 1984 Tokyo Indoor final, Connors never beat Lendl again despite the odd close match.
I think Connors had Lendl's number in the big matches through 1983, and it's fairly easy to see why. Lendl would slaughter Connors in USO tuneups, then lose to him at Flushing.
But in '84 the patterns in their rivalry had changed, and I don't think Connors having Lendl's number when it mattered is an accurate description anymore of their matches. In what you could call small matches, it was basically a wash, in '84: Lendl won at Forest Hills and Wembley, while Connors won in Tokyo. Connors took their Wimbledon semi, Lendl their Masters semi.
That is basically a split. You could argue that Connors' wins were bigger, but there's no longer a contrast like in '82 and '83 where Lendl would take the warmup matches and Connors would reverse the result only a couple of weeks later on the same surface.
Those reversals were largely due to Connors having a mental edge. But in '84 that edge never appeared -- except maybe in one of the "small" matches (maybe in Tokyo, I haven't seen that one). Jimmy's one big victory over Lendl was at Wimbledon, but even he, who was no fan of Lendl, made a point to say that Lendl's collapse was not mental but rather physical.
Lendl was completely depleted by his RG victory, for a while. So imo if Connors took their single biggest match in '84 (at Wimbledon), it was due to physical reasons: exhaustion on Lendl's part, and greater grasscourt skill on Connors' part.
In other words Connors was expected to take that match, and if they had met in a grasscourt tuneup I don't think Lendl would have taken it; in '83 Connors wiped him out at Queens. On grass, Connors would have been expected to take both the "small" and "big" matches against Lendl.
As for ranking them, I can't see Connors above Lendl for '84. Connors won no Slams, and reached only 1 final. Lendl reached two, and won at RG.
Lendl also beat McEnroe that year, while Connors could not. To me it seems a good argument to be right behind the #1 guy, if you're the only guy who can beat him.
Same with Wilander (the AO champ): Lendl beat him in '84 (big victory at RG), while Connors went 0-3 against Mats (0-2 on hardcourt).