The Outsider: A Memoir

The Outsider: A Memoir - Jimmy Connors As a fairly regular viewer of tennis in the 70s and 80s I remember wondering whether all of the on-court Connors belligerence was real. From this account, I get a curiously mixed answer. It was, apparently, real enough in the moment, and the hostility towards many of his opponents - on and off the court - was also apparently quite real. On the other hand, Connors and his best mate Nastase were also perfectly capable of playing the whole thing up for yuks. Obsessed as he was with that marker of professionalism, money - not an unnatural obsession, by the way, in an age when the sport was in structural flux - Connors by his own account was bizarrely unprofessional in other ways. It's little wonder that the tone of this autobiography is frequently highly defensive. He concedes with generous frankness his double failings of alcohol abuse and an addiction to gambling which, at time of writing, doesn't sound fully under control. It argues a measure of self-awareness that's to his credit.

That said, you have to concede that the man's tennis was marvellous, and that he appealed (by the very fact that he was mired in macho culture and not the more refined set of manners expected of tennis) to a different audience, and he and MacEnroe between them are probably responsible, still, for the enormous and very enthusiastic audiences at the U.S. Open.

There are some good stories in here, and Connors addresses most of the famous (and infamous) scenes we associate with him through video flashbacks. It's worth the read, even if you are like me, merely a fan of the game and not of Connors in particular. If you are like me, however, it will probably not persuade you that you would be likely to invite him to dinner!