Inside Jimmy Connors’ ‘chaotic’ lifestyle including gambling addiction
Jimmy Connors is a retired American tennis player who was a dominant force in the game during the 70s and 80s, and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest ever to play the sport. From his signature backhand to his on-court tirades, the Illinois native was a name to be feared.
Universally regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Connors won as many as eight Grand Slam titles and was a long-time world No 1. He is also credited with revolutionising the sport, helping to pave the way for the modern baseline-oriented style of play and the popularity of the two-handed backhand.
Still to this day, Connors – once ranked No 1 in the world for 160 consecutive weeks – has won more matches (1,274) than any other male professional tennis player in the open area. He also holds the record for the most amount of singles titles (109) ever won.
In 1974, he won three of the Grand Slam tournaments – the US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon – but was barred from the French Open.
He sued the Association of Tennis Professionals, alleging that they illegally excluded him from the French event, but he dropped his lawsuit after his loss to Arthur Ashe for the 1975 Wimbledon championship.
Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe were considered Connors’ fiercest rivals and matches against McEnroe were talked about long after both players retired. The tennis greats didn’t like each other but respected each other’s play.
With Connors always quick to make snide remarks, it was McEnroe’s comment, liking Connors’ looks and attitude to baseball bad-boy Pete Rose that turned heads. Connors’ relationship with tennis sweetheart Chris Evert also made a splash. The pair were engaged and supposed to marry in 1974, but the wedding was called off abruptly.
Connors, now 70, wrote in his 2013 autobiography The Outsider that he broke up with Evert after she had an abortion without any discussion with him.
Even though the legend played great tennis into his 40s, the time came for him to retire in 1996.
Since then, he’s worked as a tennis commentator and analyst and tried his hand at coaching Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova, but each venture didn’t last long.
One of his biggest failures came when he and his brother John invested money into a riverboat casino. The two brothers put their money into a gaming company owning the first casinos in Missouri and Illinois.
At the height of success, the brothers’ shares were worth over £58.3m ($70m), but that success didn’t last long. The share price plummeted, leaving John Connors filing for bankruptcy and souring the relationship between the siblings.
That wasn’t Connors’ only problem with casinos either. He detailed his struggles in his autobiography, claiming he got a gambler’s high betting on himself and, according to The Daily Beast, he lost £58,000 ($70,000) on a single hand of blackjack.
With all of Connors’ tennis success, his net worth may come as a surprise. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Connors is estimated to be worth £10m ($12m).
Considering he’s one of the top tennis players ever, it might seem a bit low. Factored into that number are his gambling issues, although he doesn’t know the exact number. However, he does claim that he lost millions during his days in the casino.
His wife Patti McGuire is credited with helping him through the addiction and quitting his gambling ways. Patti was a household name in the entertainment industry and had several magazine debuts.
For the November 1976 of Playboy Magazine edition, she was chosen Playmate of the Month and in 1977, she was crowned Playmate of the Year. The pair have had some tough times, most notably Connors’ extramarital affairs, but seem to have built a strong bond as the years have gone by.
When confronted with the prospect of divorce, Connors asked her for forgiveness. Jimmy, however, claims he has never stayed away after Patti gave him a second opportunity to rebuild their marriage. While his crass attitude and bad behaviour weren’t always the most appealing, there’s no denying that Connors is a tennis great and one of the legends of the game.
His playing style and techniques ushered a new era onto the tennis court and his rivalries are still talked about. With that said, there’s no doubt that his play will forever be etched into the memory of the sport.