"...it's a damn war out there." (Article)


Hall of Fame
This from the Times of London:

Connors' rallying cry for British tennis
By Piers Newbery

Connors to help British tennis
"Do you have it in your heart? How much guts do you have? How much do you hate to lose?"

These are the questions Jimmy Connors will be asking of Britain's brightest tennis hopes in the months, and possibly years, to come.

The American legend swept into London on Thursday to announce a "long-term" relationship with the Lawn Tennis Association after spending three days at the Elite Performance winter camp in La Manga.

And the man who epitomised the phrase 'will to win' before Lleyton Hewitt was even born is clear about the qualities he hopes to convey.

"You know, everybody hits the ball well and there's a very fine line between number one and number 100," said Connors.

"I was that fine line for a long time. But if I can help, I want to be part of teaching kids how to win."

Britain has a different attitude, the right attitude, in taking the game forward and finding the next Wimbledon champion

Jimmy Connors
Connors is not the first great name to offer his services to the LTA - his long-time rival John McEnroe has repeatedly done the same.

But Connors is at pains to point out that his interest goes well beyond any publicity stunt, and he gave a glowing recommendation to the work of LTA performance director David Felgate and his team.

"Britain has a different attitude, the right attitude, in taking the game forward and finding the next Wimbledon champion," said Connors.

"That's something you don't find every day. Everybody talks a good game but not everybody puts that into effect.

"The impression I came away with after just seeing David and the other coaches for three days was one like I've never seen before, especially over here.

"This is not going to happen overnight, there are no miracle workers, but you're going in the right direction."

The 52-year-old's enthusiasm for the work going on in this country is in marked contrast to his relationship with tennis officials back in America.

"I've had discussions with the USTA (United States Tennis Association) over a number of years," he said. "That's where it (my input) ended."

Connors is a straight-talker and will be equally blunt and honest in his dealings with the LTA and the cream of Britain's young players.

"If they're chosen, they've got to produce," he said.

I was nuts - there was nothing better for me than to compete on the tennis court

Jimmy Connors
"If not, someone will come and take their place. There's only one number one spot and it's lonely up there, but it's got the best view."

In the year that has seen Andrew Murray emerge as Britain's great new hope, Connors rejected suggestions that the Scot might be put under too much pressure too soon.

"Tim Henman has a whole country on his shoulder," said Connors.

"I don't know that pressure, but if you like that it can be a certain push to get on to the next level.

"Someone's going to have to come and take over from him (Henman). If I was Andrew Murray, I'd embrace that. That's what we play for."

Despite the emphasis on hard work, training and preparation, Connors does admit that the desire required of a champion has to come from within.

"The passion I had, I don't know if you can find that," he admitted.

"I was also nuts. I say that because there was nothing better for me than to compete on the tennis court.

"It was the most important thing in the world for me, and to do that something's got to be not right with you. There was nothing better for me ever than to play tennis in front of 25,000 people.

"What I had when I played tennis is what I am. You have to have that, you can't be moulded."


LTA hands elite role to charismatic Connors
By Neil Harman
It is unclear what long-term impact the former champion will have on British tennis

JIMMY CONNORS looked terrifically lean and spoke from the heart as he always has — words of conviction made all the more hypnotic because his eyes never strayed once the question was asked until he had completed his answer.
Yet there were a couple of posers left hanging over the LTA yesterday, of which no one could get to the bottom. As in what for and how much? Other than a week’s trial commentating for the BBC during the second week of Wimbledon next summer, what has the former world No 1 and eight-time grand-slam champion committed to in an “ongoing relationship” with Britain’s “elite” players and coaches (that description does not include Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski)?

The prospect of ten weeks’ employment has been mooted. When his obligations in the United States permit, John McEnroe has a similar arrangement with the BBC and LTA, a bit of commentary here, a sweat-stained hitting session there — he managed two with British juniors last year — although neither man has coached professionally on a one-to-one basis.

Meanwhile, British commentators are banished to the outside courts, British players will probably take in what the old champions say for a while, then get back to their lives in the satellites and challengers, and the BBC and LTA pick up the tab. This is not to diminish the quality of the people that the two organisations have enticed to work for them, only to wonder what long-term impact they will have here.

McEnroe worked briefly for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) as Davis Cup captain and his dream of an academy at Flushing Meadows has never got off the ground. Connors said that one meeting with the USTA about getting more involved in American tennis came to nothing. British tennis, desperate to furnish the sport with a player of Henman’s quality before his time is up, bites off their hands — or is that the other way around?

Connors says it was during an interview with Sue Barker for the BBC during Wimbledon this year that his appetite for the sport was whetted again, although he also said that he wasn’t that interested in tennis any more. “I never lost my love for the game,” he insisted yesterday. “I needed to walk away from tennis when I did, but that was for personal reasons. My love and my desire for it never waned. I closed the door but never locked it.

“The more involved I can be now the better. I don’t want to be an invader because the kids will only be confused as to why I’m there. What can I give them to make a difference over a short period of time? The more involvement the better. It is the right time for me.”

Connors turned up at the training camp in La Manga, Spain, this week on the invitation of David Felgate, the LTA’s director of performance. He said that he assumed only a watching brief, studying the players, their techniques and attitudes. “Would it do them good to watch tapes of the way I played? No, because the game is totally different now,” Connors said. “Could they learn from my attitude and the pride I put into each and every performance? I think so. For those three or four hours on court, I didn’t have anything else to do, so I dedicated myself and some people questioned those levels of dedication.

“But what it did for me to know I could be playing at 75 per cent and still have enough to beat someone I knew was playing at 100 per cent was incredible. Everybody has a good game today, it is about knowing what you are, how good you are and dealing with that to the best of your ability. It is about thinking No 1. There is only one seat. It’s a lonely spot but it has the best view.”

Connors said that Andy Murray should be nurtured as the next best thing — although he has never seen the young Scot play, nor has he seen a great deal of anyone anywhere in the past few years. He will go on a crash course in early 2005 to learn who is who, although he has no plans for commentary before Wimbledon.


“Isn’t it ironic that what people say they want — the glamour and the excitement — is what they had 30 years ago and they beat us over the head for supplying”

“I hate to lose more than I love to win”

“People don’t seem to understand it’s a damn war out there”


"It was the most important thing in the world for me, and to do that something's got to be not right with you. There was nothing better for me ever than to play tennis in front of 25,000 people."

Amen to that. You begin to understand why he just walked away ... too absorbed with it and once he couldn't be part of it any more he wanted nothing to do with it. The "force is strong with this one" though and I applaud his approach to the LTA - can't think of a better guy to kick British tennis into the modern era.


Hall of Fame
Thanks for the post Phil. Yes, I think Jings is right in saying that British tennis needs a good kick in the behind and it's really about time that they got someone like Connors to help their youngsters. The tennis environment is all really a bit too 'upper class' and 'elitist' at the moment, so hopefully with Jimmy's help, we might yet see the next Fred Perry blossoming within the next few years.