legend who was loved by many fans, and hated by many fans, en route to winning 8 Grand Slam
tournaments in his career.
Connors (DOB: September 2, 1952; Belleville, Illinois) turned pro in 1972. Two years later, he blossomed, winning 3 of the 4 legs of the Grand Slam (winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open). However, because he was also playing in the upstart World Team Tennis league, the ATP banned him from competing in the French Open that year.
Also in 1974, Connors became the #1 men's tennis player in the world, a spot he'd hold for 244 of 245 weeks (Bjorn Borg was #1 for a week in August 1977, which broke Connors' record streak of 160 straight weeks at the top).
After 1978, for the next several years, Borg and John McEnroe supplanted Connors as the top men's player. Connors regained his #1 ranking on several occasions, the latest coming in June-July 1983.
The 1974 French Open problems were par for the course for Connors, who was often controversial. For much of his career, he was disliked at Wimbledon for snubbing the Parade of Champions in 1977, and his occasionally vulgar and arrogant "ugly American" behavior. He also generally didn't play in the Davis Cup, which made him the "bad guy" to American tennis fans, especially compared to the more patriotic McEnroe. Still, he matured slightly in the '80s and his aggressive, emotional style of play turned him into a fan favorite, especially in the U.S.
Connors won his second Wimbledon championship in 1982. However, it was usually in front of the American crowd at the U.S Open that Connors was at his best. He won 5 U.S. Open titles (1976, 1978, 1982, and 1983, in addition to the 1974 win). Perhaps even more memorably, Connors had several runs deep into the U.S. Open towards the end of his career, including reaching the semifinals in 1991 (at the age of 39; he lost to Jim Courier). In all, Connors reached at least the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 16 of 19 years.
As a further sign of his longevity, Connors was ranked in the world's top ten for 16 straight years (1973-1988).
In his career, Connors won 109 singles tournaments (which remains a record).
Since 1992, Connors has mostly played on the seniors tour, but never officially retired. He even played in an ATP tournament in Atlanta in 1996 (losing in the first round).
In 1998, Connors was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
A year later, ESPN's SportsCentury series named Connors #81 on their list of the top 100 North American athletes of the 20th century.