Arguably the most dynamic shotmaker in tennis, James Scott Connors (1952-) was born on this day in Belleville, Illinois. His mother, a strict teaching pro, began teaching Connors the sport at age two.
"My mother rolled balls to me," he explained. "I swung at them. I held the racket with both hands because that was the only way I could lift it."
"Jimbo" was nationally ranked at age nine. By 12, he said his goals were "to play in England and on the Davis Cup team." Turning pro in 1971, the brash and arrogant star was on top of the tennis world by 1974.
"I like my image," the outspoken Connors once said. "It's me. I'm a louse, but if you're gonna be a louse, I say be a good one. I play to win and I play to entertain."
In his 1993 book Days of Grace, the legendary Arthur Ashe called Connors "the greatest male tennis player, bar none, in the two and a half decades since the Open Era begain in 1968."
"He doesn't hit a tennis ball," explained writer Rich Koster in The Right Set, "He explodes it."
Connors won a record 109 professional singles titles, including eight Grand Slams, compiling a 99-4 record. He ranked No. 1 in the world for five consecutive years on three different surfaces - hardcourt, grass, and clay.
"Use it or lose it," said Connors, a lefty and double-fisted wonder who played the game with passion. Upon his retirement from tennis, he said: "It's time for me to get back to living life. So I'm doing a lot of the things I couldn't do when I was playing all the time."