As a teenager in the 1980s I liked Jimmy Connors. This meant parking my not inconsiderable jealousy that he’d once had Chris Evert as his girlfriend. Magnanimously, I agreed to do so. Not only did the star respond to a shout of ‘come on Connors’ with ‘I’m trying for Chrissakes!’, he was also, you sensed, the real thing: a genuine rebel. John McEnroe played at it, but — like Ian Botham in cricket — always had a faint air of the knob about him.
Connors’s anger, he reveals in his autobiography The Outsider (Transworld, £18.99), stems from the day he was eight and saw his mother beaten up on a tennis court by two yobs who wouldn’t turn their radio down. She lost her teeth, needing hundreds of stitches in her mouth. Jimmy reached for that memory whenever he needed motivating; he was very good at tennis because he was very good at getting angry.
Now he’s angry about people not understanding his anger. This doesn’t make for an easy read, but it does make for a good one. Connors signs a $60,000 winner’s cheque straight over to a Vegas casino, gets fan mail from Marlene Dietrich, marries a Playboy centrefold, asks of the modern game ‘where is the show?’ and develops OCD so badly that his three hip replacements bother him mainly because three is an odd number.
How very unlike the home life of our own dear Tim Henman.