Like your reasoning here
I see what your saying about the rivalry in general, but if we focus only on '81, Connors beat Lendl, but only in two relatively minor matches: at LaQuinta and in a dead Davis Cup rubber.
That's a very thin edge for Connors, compared to the large leads that Lendl has over Connors in number and quality of tournament victories: 10-4 in total titles, with one of Lendl's victories being the Masters.
Not every one considers Dallas and the Masters to be majors equal with the Slams, but I know you do. So going with that, this is what we have for '81:
McEnroe - 3 majors, no runner-up finishes, 10 titles overall.
Borg - 1 major, 2 runner-up finishes, 3 titles overall.
Lendl - 1 major, 1 runner-up finish, 10 titles overall.
Connors - no majors, no runner-up finishes, 4 titles overall.
I can't see Connors even being close to Lendl this year. I even have to admit that Lendl has an argument to leapfrog over Borg. I do think that Borg's argument is stronger, but it's closer than I had ever assumed -- partly because I, like most people, always regarded Lendl as the outsider in the Borg-Connors-McEnroe triangle. Those 3 players, to me, were self-evidently the three best players for years on end, right up until Lendl took the #1 spot in '85.
But you look at Lendl's achievements and he actually broke into that triangle fairly early.
Strongly agree, particularly with your point about Lendl's level of play in the RG semis.
Yes I think Lendl's bunting the ball would have been a huge problem for Connors on red clay.
A USO meeting would have to be close, though I don't think there was much chance of Connors playing in the final as well as he did in the night-time semi against McEnroe. I just think that in general, the quality of play in USO finals has suffered from the fact that the players get no day of rest after their semis. I think a third-straight Connors-Lendl USO final may have been the least well played of all, considering what they both went through on Saturday.
And in a match full of errors, with both players hurting, and Lendl slicing the ball as much as he can, playing cautiously -- I think Lendl has a good chance of getting a lead, in that kind of match. Connors got on top of him when the slugging began and he could get his blood up. In a slow, tired match, Connors can get into a lot of trouble against Lendl, regardless of venue.
If the match turns "hot," then of course you have to like Jimmy's chances. But I think all that can be exaggerated too. We know that Jimmy was tough as nails. But his 5-set record is not as good as Lendl's, and he was vulnerable in tight matches. On the one hand, when it got close he'd be fighting like a bull. On the other hand, at Wimbledon in '77 when he robbed Borg of a 4-love lead in the fifth set and took the momentum, smelling blood and vulnerability (we know how worried Borg was at that moment), he didn't capitalize. He double-faulted at 4-all and, in his own words, "played like a dummy."
Then in the fifth-set tiebreak against McEnroe at the 1980 USO, despite the fact that the match was on fire and Jimmy was rocking the stadium, he played a poor tiebreak. I like Lendl's chances against Connors in any tiebreak they play at Flushing, at any point in the match -- largely because of Lendl's superior serve.
Lendl and Connors played only two tiebreaks in their Slam meetings (at '83 USO and '84W), but Lendl took them both.
I still think it's a toss-up, a Lendl-Connors meeting at Flushing in '84. Good arguments either way.