Why Connors had a weak serve.

#1
Connors was taught tennis by his Mom and Grandmom, Mom 1 and Mom 2. In that time men played serve and volley, and baselining was 'ladies tennis'.

Being taught by women meant that Connors played ladies tennis. If he'd have been taught by a man, they would have recognized that his serve wasn't up to the rest of his game. But the ladies saw a 70 mph serve, and said, "That's plenty fast!"

Connors was self-conscious about having been taught by women, and it left and imprint on his game.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
#2
Connors was taught tennis by his Mom and Grandmom, Mom 1 and Mom 2. In that time men played serve and volley, and baselining was 'ladies tennis'.

Being taught by women meant that Connors played ladies tennis. If he'd have been taught by a man, they would have recognized that his serve wasn't up to the rest of his game. But the ladies saw a 70 mph serve, and said, "That's plenty fast!"

Connors was self-conscious about having been taught by women, and it left and imprint on his game.
I would tend to agree with your logic about how he was taught. However he also was taught by Pancho Gonzalez, possibly the best server of all time when Connors was a teen.

Check out the service stats from 1982 below. Connors served at a very high percentage, got some aces and rarely double faulted. Connors, with his great groundstroke game could hold serve a very good percentage of the time because he used the serve to set up his groundies instead of going for aces like a Tanner or Denton might. Denton, surprisingly had the most aces per 100 but he also double faulted a lot.

I seem to recall Connors, in one of the US Open finals hit a serve around 105 mph which was pretty good in those days.

Connors didn't have a great serve but I think being a lefty helped him a lot. He had the natural slice to the righty backhand in the ad court if he wanted. His second serve generally wasn't much different from his first meaning imo it was a very good second serve.

Not that this is important for the discussion but judging by the stats there alone it seems to me that Yannick Noah could have the best serving stats in 1982. He served at 65.1%, hit a lot of aces at 7.73 and double faulted rarely.

Now of course we can't see how good or bad his second serve was. It could have been awful but I saw Noah at the time and he imo had a good second serve.


I just realized my 1983 Volvo Grand Prix Yearbook contains 1982 service stats. Here are some of the best-known players' results. I'm surprised Tanner's ace% is lower than McEnroe's. If anyone has other editions, please post the service stats.

Name First Serve%/Aces per 100 service points/DF per 100 service points
Connors 71.9/1.60/1.58
Fibak 70.0/1.21/1.21
Dibbs 69.1/1.05/2.28
Stockton 68.8/3.68/2.25
Teacher 68.7/2.25/3.89
Wilander 68.0/2.09/1.28
Solomon 67.8/0.61/2.22
Vilas 66.5/2.70/3.06
Tom Gullickson 65.7/2.91/2.11
Noah 65.1/7.73/1.99
Alexander 63.9/3.54/3.47
Denton 57.9/11.07/5.56
McEnroe 57.1/9.37/4.02
Lendl 54.7/6.94/2.20
Gerulaitis 61.4/6.29/4.69
Tanner 55.2/8.81/4.28
Kriek 53.8/5.63/6.39
Gomez 63.6/4.86/2.57
Mayotte 61.9/5.34/4.04
Clerc 57.3/4.56/2.68
Nastase 57.8/5.19/3.81
Curren 56.6/7.31/2.67
Gottfried 63.0/3.77/2.52
 
#3
I would tend to agree with your logic about how he was taught. However he also was taught by Pancho Gonzalez, possibly the best server of all time when Connors was a teen.

Check out the service stats from 1982 below. Connors served at a very high percentage, got some aces and rarely double faulted. Connors, with his great groundstroke game could hold serve a very good percentage of the time because he used the serve to set up his groundies instead of going for aces like a Tanner or Denton might. Denton, surprisingly had the most aces per 100 but he also double faulted a lot.

I seem to recall Connors, in one of the US Open finals hit a serve around 105 mph which was pretty good in those days.

Connors didn't have a great serve but I think being a lefty helped him a lot. He had the natural slice to the righty backhand in the ad court if he wanted. His second serve generally wasn't much different from his first meaning imo it was a very good second serve.

Not that this is important for the discussion but judging by the stats there alone it seems to me that Yannick Noah could have the best serving stats in 1982. He served at 65.1%, hit a lot of aces at 7.73 and double faulted rarely.

Now of course we can't see how good or bad his second serve was. It could have been awful but I saw Noah at the time and he imo had a good second serve.
Glad you remember Denton. I saw him as one of the warm ups acts for an exhibition back in the 80s. He was unknown, but everyone remembered him when he unveiled that devastating serve of his.

I know that Pancho Segura was his coach. One of the best tennis tacticians of all time. I don't know about Gonzales. Gonzales was 6'3", while Segura was only 5'6", so the former had a big serve, and the latter did not.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#4
Connors was taught tennis by his Mom and Grandmom, Mom 1 and Mom 2. In that time men played serve and volley, and baselining was 'ladies tennis'.

Being taught by women meant that Connors played ladies tennis. If he'd have been taught by a man, they would have recognized that his serve wasn't up to the rest of his game. But the ladies saw a 70 mph serve, and said, "That's plenty fast!"

Connors was self-conscious about having been taught by women, and it left and imprint on his game.
This sounds totally made up....and when was JC ever self-conscious about being trained by women? Both of whom played professionally, if I am not mistaken....He was proud of it.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#5
I would tend to agree with your logic about how he was taught. However he also was taught by Pancho Gonzalez, possibly the best server of all time when Connors was a teen.

Check out the service stats from 1982 below. Connors served at a very high percentage, got some aces and rarely double faulted. Connors, with his great groundstroke game could hold serve a very good percentage of the time because he used the serve to set up his groundies instead of going for aces like a Tanner or Denton might. Denton, surprisingly had the most aces per 100 but he also double faulted a lot.

I seem to recall Connors, in one of the US Open finals hit a serve around 105 mph which was pretty good in those days.

Connors didn't have a great serve but I think being a lefty helped him a lot. He had the natural slice to the righty backhand in the ad court if he wanted. His second serve generally wasn't much different from his first meaning imo it was a very good second serve.

.
The above is all true...guys like Denton and Tanner could hit a lot of aces...but missed a lot too. JC had a high 1st serve percentage...with an ace here or there. He could hook it out wide, which was fairly effective. I recall him hitting 108mph in a USO match in the late 80's. It wasn't a killer serve, but not quite a cream puff either. Middling, I suppose. Not much worse/better than Agassi, IMHO. At least JC was better at getting to net...
 
#7
This sounds totally made up....and when was JC ever self-conscious about being trained by women? Both of whom played professionally, if I am not mistaken....He was proud of it.
I read that recently. Can't remember where.

There was a pro circuit for women when his mom was in here prime? There was also one for when his Grandmom was in here prime? I read Connors autobiography. He says that his mom gave lesson at a public park in East St. Louis. She got mugged there once. Then she built a court in her backyard, and gave lessons there. Never mentioned her being a touring pro.

The above is all true...guys like Denton and Tanner could hit a lot of aces...but missed a lot too. JC had a high 1st serve percentage...with an ace here or there. He could hook it out wide, which was fairly effective. I recall him hitting 108mph in a USO match in the late 80's. It wasn't a killer serve, but not quite a cream puff either. Middling, I suppose. Not much worse/better than Agassi, IMHO. At least JC was better at getting to net...
His serve got better later in his career. The late 80s Connors with that big, banana colored racquet had a better serve than 70s T2000 Connors. Show's that you're never too old to improve some aspect of your game.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#8
I read that recently. Can't remember where.

There was a pro circuit for women when his mom was in here prime? There was also one for when his Grandmom was in here prime? I read Connors autobiography. He says that his mom gave lesson at a public park in East St. Louis. She got mugged there once. Then she built a court in her backyard, and gave lessons there. Never mentioned her being a touring pro.


His serve got better later in his career. The late 80s Connors with that big, banana colored racquet had a better serve than 70s T2000 Connors. Show's that you're never too old to improve some aspect of your game.[/QUOTE}

I think I'm in error when I said "professionally"....not the way it's thought of today. They may have played as amateurs. Or, I'm hallucinating a factoid. Graphite rackets helped his game, and his serve, quite a bit. Still, he got some pop out of that T2000...
 

Mainad

Bionic Poster
#9
I would tend to agree with your logic about how he was taught. However he also was taught by Pancho Gonzalez, possibly the best server of all time when Connors was a teen.
I know that Pancho Segura was his coach. One of the best tennis tacticians of all time. I don't know about Gonzales. Gonzales was 6'3", while Segura was only 5'6", so the former had a big serve, and the latter did not.
Connors was interviewed today by the UK Amazon commentators and he mentioned Pancho Segura as one of his early mentors, not Gonzales.
 
#10
Glad you remember Denton. I saw him as one of the warm ups acts for an exhibition back in the 80s. He was unknown, but everyone remembered him when he unveiled that devastating serve of his.

I know that Pancho Segura was his coach. One of the best tennis tacticians of all time. I don't know about Gonzales. Gonzales was 6'3", while Segura was only 5'6", so the former had a big serve, and the latter did not.
I also think his coach was Segura not Gonzales.
 
#11
I read that recently. Can't remember where.

There was a pro circuit for women when his mom was in here prime? There was also one for when his Grandmom was in here prime? I read Connors autobiography. He says that his mom gave lesson at a public park in East St. Louis. She got mugged there once. Then she built a court in her backyard, and gave lessons there. Never mentioned her being a touring pro.


His serve got better later in his career. The late 80s Connors with that big, banana colored racquet had a better serve than 70s T2000 Connors. Show's that you're never too old to improve some aspect of your game.
Estusa racquet.
 
#13
I take those 1982 service stats with a grain of salt. They basically tell you %, aces and double faults. What is the quality of the serves that aren't aces? A high % can mean you are just spinning them in. Connors pretty much always had a higher % than McEnroe and less doubles, but I think you'd have to be crazy to think his serves was on par.

In my mind, you look at % of service games won. Of course, nothing is in a vacuum. Connors might hold a higher % of the time than someone with a better serve because of his superiority in strokes besides the serve. What I'd like to see is his % of games won when returning.

It certainly wasn't a bad serve, but I think it's shortcomings really showed up in some of his Borg and McEnroe matches. The disparity is unreturned serves is jarring in some of those matches. As for his psyches, there was discussion of that when he played. Once more, I refer to Frank Deford's 1978 SI profile on him. I believe the title was RAISED BY WOMAN TO DEFEAT MEN. Something like that.
 
#15
This sounds totally made up....and when was JC ever self-conscious about being trained by women? Both of whom played professionally, if I am not mistaken....He was proud of it.
Here's what I read. "Sometimes I think it bothers people that there has never been another world champion who was groomed by a woman."

So it bothers other people, not himself. I didn't remember it right.

And his mom and mom too were both nationally ranked players.
 
#16
Connors was taught tennis by his Mom and Grandmom, Mom 1 and Mom 2. In that time men played serve and volley, and baselining was 'ladies tennis'.

Being taught by women meant that Connors played ladies tennis. If he'd have been taught by a man, they would have recognized that his serve wasn't up to the rest of his game. But the ladies saw a 70 mph serve, and said, "That's plenty fast!"

Connors was self-conscious about having been taught by women, and it left and imprint on his game.
Did Murray’s serve get slower when he was coached by Mauresmo?

Just a question.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
#18
I take those 1982 service stats with a grain of salt. They basically tell you %, aces and double faults. What is the quality of the serves that aren't aces? A high % can mean you are just spinning them in. Connors pretty much always had a higher % than McEnroe and less doubles, but I think you'd have to be crazy to think his serves was on par.

In my mind, you look at % of service games won. Of course, nothing is in a vacuum. Connors might hold a higher % of the time than someone with a better serve because of his superiority in strokes besides the serve. What I'd like to see is his % of games won when returning.

It certainly wasn't a bad serve, but I think it's shortcomings really showed up in some of his Borg and McEnroe matches. The disparity is unreturned serves is jarring in some of those matches. As for his psyches, there was discussion of that when he played. Once more, I refer to Frank Deford's 1978 SI profile on him. I believe the title was RAISED BY WOMAN TO DEFEAT MEN. Something like that.
Totally agree. However I thought putting the stats up for 1982 was interesting. I think in a way, relatively speaking it's comparable to Nadal's serve now. Nadal doesn't get too many aces but he holds serve most of the time due to his great groundies. I think with either Connors or Nadal's serve the point is to get the returner a bit off balance so they can control the rally with their great strokes. The fact they are both lefties helps tremendously especially since they can serve wide in the ad court to the righty backhand.
 
#19
His serve got better later in his career. The late 80s Connors with that big, banana colored racquet had a better serve than 70s T2000 Connors. Show's that you're never too old to improve some aspect of your game.[/QUOTE]

Did he really improve his serve? Or was it more a function of his serve getting better because of racquet technology and using better strings?
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#21
Here's what I read. "Sometimes I think it bothers people that there has never been another world champion who was groomed by a woman."

So it bothers other people, not himself. I didn't remember it right.

And his mom and mom too were both nationally ranked players.
OK...that makes a lot more sense and aligns with what I understood. Thanks for confirming that Mom and 2 Mom were ranked as well....I thought that to be the case. He had some good instruction there, even it was not confirming w/gender expectations. The ladies did OK.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#22
His serve got better later in his career. The late 80s Connors with that big, banana colored racquet had a better serve than 70s T2000 Connors. Show's that you're never too old to improve some aspect of your game.
Did he really improve his serve? Or was it more a function of his serve getting better because of racquet technology and using better strings?[/QUOTE]

This is/was very much debated. In '82, his 2nd coming, so to speak, there was a lot of talk about how he changed his serve. Which amounted to him tossing the ball more in front of him. It seemed a bit more effective, but not radically different, IMHO. I think he got more aggressive on the serve and in his game overall in the '80's, however, some folks have presented stats from the early/mid-70's that suggest he was just as aggressive then. Perhaps 79-81 was the period when he was fallow and not pressing as much against guys like Mac and Bjorn? And, I was watching his USO match against Rosewall from '74 and he was serving like a tiger in that one. So, there's a fair amount of subjectivity all around on the point.
 
#23
Totally agree. However I thought putting the stats up for 1982 was interesting. I think in a way, relatively speaking it's comparable to Nadal's serve now. Nadal doesn't get too many aces but he holds serve most of the time due to his great groundies. I think with either Connors or Nadal's serve the point is to get the returner a bit off balance so they can control the rally with their great strokes. The fact they are both lefties helps tremendously especially since they can serve wide in the ad court to the righty backhand.
I recall watching him around 1984, I think, and saying that he has really improved that wide serve that McEnroe used so well. Certainly not to that degree, but to me noticeably improved. There was definitely a lot of talk about an improved serve during 1982 and Connors did talk about changing his toss. He sure seems to be serving bigger in some of those 1974 and 75 matches. In 75 ,I''m thinking of the parts of the challenge matches that exist. In the 74 US Open, some of those serves seemed pretty fast.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
#24
I recall watching him around 1984, I think, and saying that he has really improved that wide serve that McEnroe used so well. Certainly not to that degree, but to me noticeably improved. There was definitely a lot of talk about an improved serve during 1982 and Connors did talk about changing his toss. He sure seems to be serving bigger in some of those 1974 and 75 matches. In 75 ,I''m thinking of the parts of the challenge matches that exist. In the 74 US Open, some of those serves seemed pretty fast.
I think at any point in his career it was never a great serve but it was good for his type of game. Being a lefty helped in the ad court imo.

And yes those serves against Rosewall seemed very fast in the 1974 US Open.
 
#26
I read that his toss wasn't ideal, too far to the right, so that the ball was straight above his head, and a bit too low at impact. In pictures, one can see that in the moment of impact, his body position wasn't ideal, his left leg twisted away from the body like at 40 minutes on the clock. In 1982, just before Wimbledon, he made an effort to improve it. he served very well at Wimbledon 1982.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
#27
Did he really improve his serve? Or was it more a function of his serve getting better because of racquet technology and using better strings?

I think Connors mentioned how he put more weight into his serve in the 1982 Wimbledon final. He thought it helped him defeat McEnroe.

Have to admit when you saw Connors in those 1974 Wimbledon and US Open finals he did look excellent in all areas even serve.
 
#34
I think that all the points of the posters are interesting and don't exclude the other posts.

IMHO in 1974 the Jimmy's serve was visibly more insidious on both sides (as claimed by pc1) and honestly I do not know why he no longer beat this way .

I always thought that in the years 1976 and 1978 he played > 1974 but the serve of 1974 seem to me much stronger compared 1976 and 78.

From a technical point of view I think the problems are these:
- Jimbo was not very tall
- Jimbo played deep and powerful from the baseline, but only because he was technically monstrous (eye-shots-legs)
- the movement of the serve was very similar to mine:(, that is not much use the shoulder speed, that is a movement more similar to smash (I used this movement because I suffered from a dislocated shoulder), it is a movement that does not allow big speed ... in fact, the problem in my opinion is the speed of execution.
 
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#35
If i have it correct, then Connors lost 2 of the 6 games to Rosewall in the Wim final 1974 on his own serve. And was broken once in Forest Hills final, when he lost only 2 games. Even then his break against rate wasn't too impressive, although Rosewall was a great returner himself.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
#36
If i have it correct, then Connors lost 2 of the 6 games to Rosewall in the Wim final 1974 on his own serve. And was broken once in Forest Hills final, when he lost only 2 games. Even then his break against rate wasn't too impressive, although Rosewall was a great returner himself.
Even now it’s shocking to believe Rosewall only held serve once on bad grass at Forest Hills against Connors in 1974.
 
#38
The thing about JC is that his serve was not meant to get free points but just a point starter. He excelled in his groundstrokes/return and that is where he best performed. Look at Nadal, serve is not the best but his groundstrokes are formidable.

What may look like a liability, other strengths in a person's game can overcome the weakness as long as it isn't too weak where it is a point loser, in JC case, it didn't win him a lot of points but didn't lose points for him either. Solid consistent serve plus killer groundstrokes can still be a winning formula.
 
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#40
Yes, something along the lines of "a lot of noise and out pops a mouse"
Irony is his grunting came later He's not grunting in the mid 70s. That Rosewall match where we all see to think he's serving harder. He's not making any extra noise when he serves or hits his groundstrokes.

IMO, there is no doubt that his comparative serving hurt him in numerous Borg Mcenroe matches. Just spotting them too big a lead in unreturned serves.

BTW, I think Nadal has a bigger serve than Connors had. Not as big as some of his rivals, but bigger than Connors. At his peak, I mean. To me, seems to have diminished back down a bit from where he had built it up. Years back, I can remember thinking how much bigger it had become from when I first saw him.
 
#42
I think that all the points of the posters are interesting and don't exclude the other posts.

IMHO in 1974 the Jimmy's serve was visibly more insidious on both sides (as claimed by pc1) and honestly I do not know why he no longer beat this way .

I always thought that in the years 1976 and 1978 he played > 1974 but the serve of 1974 seem to me much stronger compared 1976 and 78.

From a technical point of view I think the problems are these:
- Jimbo was not very tall
- Jimbo played deep and powerful from the baseline, but only because he was technically monstrous (eye-shots-legs)
- the movement of the serve was very similar to mine:(, that is not much use the shoulder speed, that is a movement more similar to smash (I used this movement because I suffered from a dislocated shoulder), it is a movement that does not allow big speed ... in fact, the problem in my opinion is the speed of execution.
I meant just from the finals videos that he seemed to have great speed. I did observe him at that time and his serve was never any powerful packed blockbuster. Maybe it was just the adrenaline of his first finals? Maybe it was the way the ball skidded off the fast grass that made it seem faster.

Connors' groundstrokes and the power he put into every shot was the best in tennis at the time.
 

Ronaldo

Talk Tennis Guru
#43
Seems Connors serve improved with newer racquets. Actually owned the Estusa yellow racquet he used but came across an ad for the Slazenger Phantom. Anyone recall that racquet from 89-90?
 
#46
Here's what I read. "Sometimes I think it bothers people that there has never been another world champion who was groomed by a woman."

So it bothers other people, not himself. I didn't remember it right.

And his mom and mom too were both nationally ranked players.
Bobby Riggs was mentored by Esther Bartosh.
 

Ronaldo

Talk Tennis Guru
#47
Bobby Riggs was mentored by Esther Bartosh.
An anatomy teacher at University of California Los Angeles, she was usually listed as Dr Esther Bartosh. Best known as a coach, she was instrumental shaping Bobby Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon champion. Mrs. Bartosh didn't treat tennis seriously until she became a practicing M.D. - working for the city health department forced her to be on call or within easy reach of a phone for the bulk of her time. She explained: "Because of that I wasn't able to play golf as much as I had been and in looking about for some sort of recreation which would leave me constantly near a telephone - that situation led me to a tennis court."

Sources:
Court Hustler, by Bobby Riggs with George McGann. 1973
 
#48
Coached by a woman? Bobby, the Male Chauvinist P., as called by Womens Lib? If this is correct, then its hard to understand the Mother's Day Massacre. Or maybe not.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#49
Seems Connors serve improved with newer racquets. Actually owned the Estusa yellow racquet he used but came across an ad for the Slazenger Phantom. Anyone recall that racquet from 89-90?
In this photo, he is holding the Slazenger Panther Pro Ceramic. He played well with that for a few years, I felt. that was one HEAVY racket...and he weighted it further w/lead tape. He started using the Phantom in '89, I think. That's the frame he used in the USO QF against Agassi...seemed to suit him well, based on what went down there. Wasn't quite sure why he left that frame behind for Estusa in '91.
 
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