The modern era of tennis is drastically different from the eras gone by. Right now, the majority of tennis players, be it men or women, tend to predominantly focus on tennis. Sure, there are some controversial figures. There are also former players such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams who were not just players, but celebrities as well. However, during the era of greats, such as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors, tennis players were nothing less than celebrities. Tracy Austin, a 2-time women’s singles Grand Slam title winner, was a part of the same generation of tennis players. She is someone who got to witness the frivolous behavior of these tennis icons away from the court firsthand.
In a recent interview, Austin shared her fascinating insights into her talented yet controversial tennis contemporaries. Austin also brought Connors’ and McEnroe’s rivalry to the fore. According to the former American women’s tennis sensation, it was a rivalry that went far beyond the tennis court.
John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors had a very apparent dislike for one another, claims Tracy Austin
During the 70s and 80s, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors established themselves among the most dominant forces in men’s tennis. They also faced each other on 34 occasions. It was McEnroe who managed to get the better of Connors on 20 of them. For Connors, the rise of McEnroe was a difficult pill to swallow, and for McEnroe, overtaking Connors to become the best tennis player of that era was his sole motivation.
Unsurprisingly, the relationship between the two didn’t take a long time to sour. In Austin’s interview, she reflected on McEnroe’s bratty personality. She remarked how it was a stark contrast to the gentlemanly vibe of tennis, especially at Wimbledon. “It’s quiet and gracious and gentlemanly and he’s McEnroe throwing his racket and screaming at the umpire,” Austin said during an interview with Express Sport.
Austin went on to highlight the difference between McEnroe’s penchant for controversy and Borg’s smooth and suave style. As a result, Borg naturally attracted all the ladies towards him. The former women’s tennis icon also brought in Jimmy Connors into the mix. “You throw in Jimmy Connors in there, who it was very apparent there was a disliking between John and Jimmy Connors so that makes people more intrigued”. She concluded by saying, “There’s no love affair there, they’re not crazy about each other.”
McEnroe and Connors’ rivalry will go down as one of the most bitter in tennis history
In recent tennis history, the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is arguably the greatest. However, away from the court, Nadal and Federer are best friends. They also possess a great deal of admiration and respect for each other. This wasn’t the case back in the day when McEnroe and Connors were fighting it out to be the world’s best.
When the duo began stoking the fires of their rivalry, it used to be Connors who mostly came out on top. However, gradually, as McEnroe improved, he started to assert his dominance over Connors. In fact, McEnroe became so problematic for Connors that the latter once remarked, “Mac is the one player I can watch limping around the court and feel good about saying ‘F**k that guy’.” This ill feeling between the two continued for as long as they shared the stage at the top of men’s tennis. However, now that they’ve left their tennis careers long behind them, they have grown to respect each other a bit more.