There was a time early in his career when he was considered by sports writers to be a maverick and a bad boy on the tennis court. He was given the moniker "The Brash Basher of Belleville." But he mellowed over time and for the last two decades has become highly regarded as a gentleman and an icon of the game as well as one of its leading advocates.
Former American tennis champion Jimmy Connors was born in East St. Louis, Illinois on Sept. 2, 1952 and was raised in Belleville. His grandfather on his father's side had served as the mayor of Belleville and Jimmy's mother Gloria was his primary tennis coach. She did a great job because Jimmy became one of the best tennis players of all time. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998.
For a little more than three consecutive years from July 1974 to August 1977, Jimmy was continuously the Number 1 tennis player in the world. He was also Number 1 at eight other times in his career. Jimmy won eight Grand Slam singles titles and two Grand Slam doubles titles. During his 20 years of active playing, Jimmy won 140 singles titles and five U.S. Open titles. He was also the founder of the men's senior tour in he 1990s for players over the age of 35. Connors created a record that may never be broken by winning three U.S. Open titles on three different surfaces including grass, hard court, and har-tru.
When Jimmy was just five years old, his other grandfather on Gloria's side of the family, Al Thompson, cut six inches off the handle of a tennis racket so that Jimmy could hold it. He then got early lessons from his grandmother "Bertie" Thompson who was also a tennis instructor. Jimmy's father Jim Connors had played on the tennis team at Central Catholic High School in East St. Louis. Jimmy and his brother John Connors both attended Belleville Township High School. John was also a tennis club pro in the St. Louis area and John owned a Mississippi River boat called the Alton Belle. Carli Connors, John's daugher and Jimmy's neice, is currently playing tennis for Belleville West Township High School--The Maroons.
Jimmy Connors was engaged to tennis star Chris Everet in 1974 bit they were not married. In 1980 he married Patti McGuire and the couple has two children and now live in Santa Barbara, California. In 2006, at the age of 54, Jimmy had successful surgery for a hip replacement at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.