How Jimmy Connors got solved

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
Fascinating! Hit to Connors' forehand: low and with no speed, or as Wilander states "dead balls to his forehand."

Make Connors hit up and generate his own pace. Bring him in toward the net, and force him to hit up and flat (Connors had no topspin).

It negates Connors' (flat) power game.
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
It was easier said than done when Connors was younger but it was a weakness. I believe in 1984 that Connors wasn't quite as good but nevertheless it was a weakness previous to that.

Connors didn't have a real strong topspin forehand and he tended to flatten it out a lot.
 

justRick

Rookie
Arthur= really smart pusher!

(Frustrate your opponent; never hit him a shot he likes.)
I agree and most pushers are smart. A easy spinning high ball to my backhand frustrates me to no end. I practice them with the ball machine often...same goes for the side-spin slice to my backhand, unfortunately ball machines don't impart side-spin.
 
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justRick

Rookie
I agree and most pushers are smart. A easy spinning high ball to my backhand frustrates me to know end. I practice them with the ball machine often...same goes for the side-spin slice to my backhand, unfortunately ball machines don't impart side-spin.
no end, not know
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
I haven't watched this match till now, but I'll take the word of krosero over these guys here :

Ashe d. Connors 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4

Ashe actually has a higher rate of winners here than in the '69 match where he and Laver were ripping the ball. Of course, power is not the only way to produce winners, but I was still surprised at how much power Ashe produced in this match.

I'm just seeing the match for the first time, partly because from everything I've read about it, I had the impression that it was mainly about junkballing from Ashe and errors from Connors. The match was actually more complex than that.

Steve Flink included it as one of the 20 greatest matches of the century. He said that previously Ashe had been a low-percentage player, going for big shots at ill-advised moments. Against Connors, I thought he was still often going for the big winner, but he never seemed to do it when he was out of position or the opening wasn't there. He was playing the percentages, in other words. Sometimes to create an opening he would need some touch and finesse, and then he would go for the big shot; sometimes he didn't need it and would just do classical Big Game serve-and-volley.

He just always seemed to know when he could go for it. When he did, I sometimes expected Connors to react well, since Jimmy liked pace; but then he'd be already out of position, or off balance, or just didn't have his strokes in groove. Ashe wasn't letting him get in a groove. He wasn't moonballing Jimmy or junkballing his way through the match; he was mixing it up.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
Jekyll and Hyde performance from Ashe, it would appear. This is exactly what I assumed anyway.. that it was a careful balance of aggression and taunting/goading play, leaving Connors consistently dishevelled. You don't just chronically junkball your way to a Wimbledon title.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Jekyll and Hyde performance from Ashe, it would appear. This is exactly what I assumed anyway.. that it was a careful balance of aggression and taunting/goading play, leaving Connors consistently dishevelled. You don't just chronically junkball your way to a Wimbledon title.
An important point here shouldn't be forgotten. Jimmy Connors had a bad injury that may have had more to do with his defeat than Ashe's vaunted game plan.

http://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/connors-ending-his-silence/article4892266.ece

https://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/memories-of-a-wimbledon-upset/?_r=0

Despite this I believe this points out what a versatile player Ashe could be if he wanted to be. He had all the shots.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
An important point here shouldn't be forgotten. Jimmy Connors had a bad injury that may have had more to do with his defeat than Ashe's vaunted game plan.

http://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/connors-ending-his-silence/article4892266.ece

https://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/memories-of-a-wimbledon-upset/?_r=0

Despite this I believe this points out what a versatile player Ashe could be if he wanted to be. He had all the shots.
don't trust this account after so many years --- seems just like a made-up excuse - especially from someone like Connors
did he take any time-out during the match ?
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
don't trust this account after so many years --- seems just like a made-up excuse - especially from someone like Connors
did he take any time-out during the match ?
Don't remember if he took a time out. I don't remember if they even allowed time outs then.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
An important point here shouldn't be forgotten. Jimmy Connors had a bad injury that may have had more to do with his defeat than Ashe's vaunted game plan.

http://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/connors-ending-his-silence/article4892266.ece

https://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/memories-of-a-wimbledon-upset/?_r=0

Despite this I believe this points out what a versatile player Ashe could be if he wanted to be. He had all the shots.
I tend to believe this. Connors was not one to make excuses after a loss...if he got to the court, he played and that was that. Borg too...injured thumb, pulled stomach muscle, etc. Still, Arthur played some clever tennis that day. No one expected it. Having said that, this "strategy" was easier said than done....Connors in his prime could generate pace....and, too many short balls would allow him to attack again and again. You kind of had to hit the shot "just right'.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
Fascinating! Hit to Connors' forehand: low and with no speed, or as Wilander states "dead balls to his forehand."

Make Connors hit up and generate his own pace. Bring him in toward the net, and force him to hit up and flat (Connors had no topspin).

It completely negates Connors' (flat) power game.
Completely might be a stretch. Wilander and Connors had some interesting matches...Jimmy was past 30yrs when they finally met. They played some neat exo matches too. Faster surfaces tended to favor Connors game. Having said that, when Wilander came out of retirement to play the seniors tour, in one of his first matches he played Connors on green clay and got creamed. It was rather shocking....Connors stayed pretty sharp even past 40yrs and Mats was terribly rusty.
 
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dgold44

G.O.A.T.
Connors just lost to krickstein 5-8 a few yrs ago

Aaron found that Connors weakness is age !!!

I bet jimmy is pretty good at golf
 
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PDJ

G.O.A.T.
Absolutely fascinating. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for posting.
Ashe's lob was magnificent. Only seen Evert and Hewitt hit it better.
As an aside, Annabel Croft has the most beautiful English accent. She could recite the alphabet and sound intelligent.

PS - I'm going to Google Bernie Mitten!
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
Absolutely fascinating. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for posting.
Ashe's lob was magnificent. Only seen Evert and Hewitt hit it better.
As an aside, Annabel Croft has the most beautiful English accent. She could recite the alphabet and sound intelligent.

PS - I'm going to Google Bernie Mitten!
She most certainly does. And she's delightful.

For those who might fancy a reminder or to watch the match for the first time during a free hour or two..

For a more convenient but extended highlights of the match..
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
It's easier said than done of course. Even in his forties Rosewall had excellent control and of course he did know this strategy yet he couldn't win a set.

One of the players best equipped to play this type of game against Connors was Orantes who played that style as a matter of course. Yet Orantes was only 3-12 against Connors. I will say in Orantes' favor was that Orantes had a lot of injuries that hampered him. Orantes' match at the 1977 US Claycourts in which he crushed Connors 6-1 6-3 was just a work of art. Orantes was brilliant that match.
 
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An important point here shouldn't be forgotten. Jimmy Connors had a bad injury that may have had more to do with his defeat than Ashe's vaunted game plan.

http://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/connors-ending-his-silence/article4892266.ece

https://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/memories-of-a-wimbledon-upset/?_r=0

Despite this I believe this points out what a versatile player Ashe could be if he wanted to be. He had all the shots.
That Connors lost to Ashe due to injury or some other reason other than strategy and tactics makes sense because Connors has an overall 5-1 head-to-head winning record against Ashe. Two of those wins came after his loss to Ashe at Wimbledon. Given these facts, I don't believe that it would be accurate to claim that Connors was "solved." Ashe clearly couldn't beat him again after that match. I don't understand why the Wimbledon commentators on the video posted by OP left these facts out of their analysis.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
That Connors lost to Ashe due to injury or some other reason other than strategy and tactics makes sense because Connors has an overall 5-1 head-to-head winning record against Ashe. Two of those wins came after his loss to Ashe at Wimbledon. Given these facts, I don't believe that it would be accurate to claim that Connors was "solved." Ashe clearly couldn't beat him again after that match. I don't understand why the Wimbledon commentators on the video posted by OP left these facts out of their analysis.
I have thought that also. How was Connors solved when you examine his record in the years afterwards? I think age solved the Connors mystery more than the strategy.
 

Frankc

Professional
One of my favorite matched to revisit - big screen & beverage of choice. The control, dynamics, and strategy are too much fun - a time when the ball could still be carved with control, and the design and building points was a joy to behold. Btw, from all my viewings, I do not remember any evidence of a knee injury with Connors...
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
I have thought that also. How was Connors solved when you examine his record in the years afterwards? I think age solved the Connors mystery more than the strategy.
Naturally. I think every dumb and deaf owl knows that Connors won an awful lot of tennis matches and tournaments after the 1975 Wimbledon final.
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
Naturally. I think every dumb and deaf owl knows that Connors won an awful lot of tennis matches and tournaments after the 1975 Wimbledon final.
One of the things Lendl mentioned after Connors reached a certain age was that Connors now couldn't attack on shots he could attack on in the past. He had to play it defensively. He indicated that was perhaps the primary reason he could now beat Connors regularly.
 
7

70sHollywood

Guest
Wasn't Pancho Gonzalez the first player to exploit this "weakness"?
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Wasn't Pancho Gonzalez the first player to exploit this "weakness"?
I think it was around 1971 and 1972 I believe. The ATP has Gonzalez with one win but I know he had two. Connors wasn't Connors I believe until 1973 and wasn't imo the prime Connors until late 1973.
 
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70sHollywood

Guest

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
Great video.

Would like to hear Jimmy's take on it, which reminds me, I have to get his book.

Wilander and Jimmy were really different gens, obviously, 12 years apart by age.
Amazing that Jimmy played both Laver and Agassi.
 
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Indio

Semi-Pro
How did Borg dominate Connors so completely after 1978? I would have thought that hard flat drives would trump heavily topspun balls, if everything else is equal, but clearly there were some inequalities. In what ways was Borg better than Connors?
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
How did Borg dominate Connors so completely after 1978? I would have thought that hard flat drives would trump heavily topspun balls, if everything else is equal, but clearly there were some inequalities. In what ways was Borg better than Connors?
clearly better serve and insane defense.
 

KG1965

Legend
It's easier said than done of course. Even in his forties Rosewall had excellent control and of course he did know this strategy yet he couldn't win a set.

One of the players best equipped to play this type of game against Connors was Orantes who played that style as a matter of course. Yet Orantes was only 3-12 against Connors. I will say in Orantes' favor was that Orantes had a lot of injuries that hampered him. Orantes' match at the 1977 US Claycourts in which he crushed Connors 6-1 6-3 was just a work of art. Orantes was brilliant that match.
I agree, pc1.
Manolo the great, well-equipped v Jimbo, ... but only on clay courts.

On hc, carpet or grass Connors chewed the iberian.
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
I agree.
I add more physical power & more power on their shots.

Connors dropped a 10% in 1979 (in 1978 he played excellently).
Borg increased a 30-40% to beginning of 1978.
I think Borg got even better in1979!!
 

KG1965

Legend
I think that the unfortunate Ashe merited the triumph.
I am sure that Ashe was the number one in 1975 (The true number 2 was Orantes).
I still have doubts about the state of health of Connors. Or on other issues.
He missed all the returns, all the approach, all the net-game. All.
 

KG1965

Legend
I think Borg got even better in1979!!
pc1, I think that Connors had slipped a rung but I think that Bjorn Borg 79 is the best player I've seen play tennis in the Wood Era. Best player.

Without going into details of the surfaces ... I think that, starting from 1976 ... and trying to give the votes from 1 to 10 ...
1976 Connors was worth 9, Borg 8
1977 a series of injuries of both, Connors & Borg were worth 8
1978 Borg and Connors could not be beaten by others,
Connors was worth 9, Borg 9+
1979 Borg is worth 10, 8 Connors (no injury).
1980 Borg worth 9.5, Connors goes back to 8.5

What do you think about it ?
 
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KG1965

Legend
In other words Connors played a tennis "9" in some years (1974, 1976, 1978) but could not exceed 9.

So he could not beat Borg when the Swede played a tennis "9.5 or 10".
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
Great video.

Would like to hear Jimmy's take on it, which reminds me, I have to get his book.

Wilander and Jimmy were really different gens, obviously, 12 years apart by age.
Amazing that Jimmy played both Laver and Agassi.
And he played Pancho Gonzalez. Gonzalez played Tilden so only a bit of separation there. LOL.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
pc1, I think that Connors had slipped a rung but I think that Bjorn Borg 79 is the best player I've seen play tennis in the Wood Era. Best player.

Without going into details of the surfaces ... I think that, starting from 1976 ... and trying to give the votes from 1 to 10 ...
1976 Connors was worth 9, Borg 8
1977 on a series of injuries of both Connors & Borg were worth 8
1978 Borg and Connors could not be beaten by others,
Connors was worth 9, Borg 9+
1979 Borg is worth 10, 8 Connors (no injury).
1980 Borg worth 9.5, Connors goes back to 8.5

What do you think about it ?
Borg in 1979 was unbelievable. He declined a bit because of some injuries in 1980 and 1981. Yes Borg in 1979 was fantastic. He was one of the finest ever and he could be argued the finest of the wood era.
 

-NN-

G.O.A.T.
pc1, I think that Connors had slipped a rung but I think that Bjorn Borg 79 is the best player I've seen play tennis in the Wood Era. Best player.

Without going into details of the surfaces ... I think that, starting from 1976 ... and trying to give the votes from 1 to 10 ...
1976 Connors was worth 9, Borg 8
1977 on a series of injuries of both Connors & Borg were worth 8
1978 Borg and Connors could not be beaten by others,
Connors was worth 9, Borg 9+
1979 Borg is worth 10, 8 Connors (no injury).
1980 Borg worth 9.5, Connors goes back to 8.5

What do you think about it ?
I didn't live the era KG, but your breakdowns are always highly interesting to me. Good stuff.

How would you break down the Fedalovic era by year? Now there's a task for you. ;)
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
Borg in 1979 was unbelievable. He declined a bit because of some injuries in 1980 and 1981. Yes Borg in 1979 was fantastic. He was one of the finest ever and he could be argued the finest of the wood era.
KG, did you know I started a conversation with you but you never answered!
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
I agree.
I add more physical power & more power on their shots.

Connors dropped a 10% in 1979 (in 1978 he played excellently).
Borg increased a 30-40% to beginning of 1978.
Most would say it was Borg's improved serve....but he just seems like a stronger, better player from '79 on....Connors dropped a bit, not a lot, but enough.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Late to this discussion...

The idea seems to be that Connors got solved. ;)

But isn't it true that all great players get solved, to some extent? Everyone know their games, and everyone is gunning for them.

Ashe's tactics have been famous ever since the match, and I remember reading a huge amount of comnentary at the time. The flip side is that if low junk was the answer, that would have been it for Connors. Everyone would have exploited that weakness and he ranking would have plummeted.

In Wilander's place wouldn't you mention that age difference? Wilander didn't meet Connors until Connors was over 30, I think, unless I'm missing matches...
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
Connors absolutely had an injury before the start of the tournament. Advised not to play and did anyway. It was in his book, but I'd read it before. IIRC, as far back as Frank Deford's profile of him, for SI, in 1978. He swore Bill Riordan to secrecy.

That said, the guy had blown through the entire tournament. His semi win over Tanner made him seem unbeatable. Look at the British bookmaker odds that day. So, NOW the injury is hampering him badly and is the main reason he lost? Connors fan I was, never bought that and still don't.

Another that said. As others pointed out Ashe only beat him that one time. Same with Orantes. If hhe was really on, and connors was off, you might have 75 US Open and 77 Indy. If not you've got a whole lot of matches the other way. IIRC, Orantes was playing great at the 77 US Open and Connors straight setted him in the quarters. And it was just clay with him. He's not beating Connors on other surfaces. Connors absolutely destroyed him in their challenge match. Bottom line, it was far more complicated than give Connors no pace and you stand a good chance of winning.

Borg vs Connors was, IMO, Borg was still getting better when the rivalry started while Connors had pretty much peaked. I do think that 79 Connors level is definitely down some, but he was getting killed by him. 80 and 81 I think is more representative. Mostly close matches. Borg is just a little bit better.

He certainly wasn't beating him with soft stuff, though. On the contrary. Rather than slice his backhand as he often had earlier, everything was topspin. Unless he was really stretched out. And the backhand approach shot he sliced.
But rallying he hit with Connors.

Much bigger serve, clearly more consistent from the baseline and I think a slighty better mover. Very, very useful when Connors is running you corner to corner.

About connors forehand. He often imparted some topspin on his crosscourt forehand. Not a lot, mind you. His down the line was another story. Overall i think the flatter of his two sides was his backhand. That was pretty much always flat.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Connors absolutely had an injury before the start of the tournament. Advised not to play and did anyway. It was in his book, but I'd read it before. IIRC, as far back as Frank Deford's profile of him, for SI, in 1978. He swore Bill Riordan to secrecy.

That said, the guy had blown through the entire tournament. His semi win over Tanner made him seem unbeatable. Look at the British bookmaker odds that day. So, NOW the injury is hampering him badly and is the main reason he lost? Connors fan I was, never bought that and still don't.

Another that said. As others pointed out Ashe only beat him that one time. Same with Orantes. If hhe was really on, and connors was off, you might have 75 US Open and 77 Indy. If not you've got a whole lot of matches the other way. IIRC, Orantes was playing great at the 77 US Open and Connors straight setted him in the quarters. And it was just clay with him. He's not beating Connors on other surfaces. Connors absolutely destroyed him in their challenge match. Bottom line, it was far more complicated than give Connors no pace and you stand a good chance of winning.

Borg vs Connors was, IMO, Borg was still getting better when the rivalry started while Connors had pretty much peaked. I do think that 79 Connors level is definitely down some, but he was getting killed by him. 80 and 81 I think is more representative. Mostly close matches. Borg is just a little bit better.

He certainly wasn't beating him with soft stuff, though. On the contrary. Rather than slice his backhand as he often had earlier, everything was topspin. Unless he was really stretched out. And the backhand approach shot he sliced.
But rallying he hit with Connors.

Much bigger serve, clearly more consistent from the baseline and I think a slighty better mover. Very, very useful when Connors is running you corner to corner.

About connors forehand. He often imparted some topspin on his crosscourt forehand. Not a lot, mind you. His down the line was another story. Overall i think the flatter of his two sides was his backhand. That was pretty much always flat.
Super post!
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
Thank you, but I have to correct myself. I went to look at the Deford article to see if I was remembering it correctly. It does mention the injury and how he asked Riordan not to say anything. But according to Deford's story, he injured his leg in the first match. It was after the Tanner semi, though, that the conversation took place. The injury had gotten so bad that the doctor told him that playing in the final might endanger his career. So, perhaps it did bother him more in the final. Sure didn't look like he was bothered. Not to me, anyway. Still, he was playing with a bad injury.

I haven't read that story in so many years. Since I first read it off the stands in 78, but a long, long time. I'm almost positive it was in Connors book which I also read when it came back. I'm going to recheck that as well. I thought he had a different timeline for when the doctor warned him. I don't recall him saying it was after the Tanner match. I thought he said it was earlier. Obviously, could just be me misremembering. I suppose it's semantics to some degree. The main issue was did he really have an injury. By several accounts, yes.

BTW, that Deford profile got a lot of raves for it's psychological insight into Connors. Sports Illustrated has a section called the vault. A full archive of their stuff. I didn't have to go there for this. A couple years back, to celebrate their 60th anniversary, they published 60 of their best pieces. Deford's story was in there. Raised by woman to defeat men? THe title is something like that.

It infuriated Connors. It came out right around when the US Open started. IIRC,Connors didn't talk to the press after the finals. Can you imagine a top player doing that now?

Speaking of Connors Wimbledon injuries, let's not forget 1977 Wimbledon. Didn't he have a broken finger, or at least badly injured, on his right hand? I believe he had a splint on it the entire tournament.
 
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