Classic Rivalries – Connors vs. Nastase

AP/David Smitth, file

Classic Rivalries – Connors vs. Nastase

Most people remember Jimmy Connors playing Borg, McEnroe, or Lendl. What most people forget is that he had a healthy rivalry with Romanian great Ilie Nastase.

Although six years Connors’ senior, they would play a total of 27 times during their career. Given the age difference, this rivalry plays out like many others that have an age difference. Nastase would clean up in the beginning of the rivalry while Connors cleaned up at the tail end. The meat of this rivalry is in the middle.

While Connors finished his career with eight Grand Slams, Nastase only managed to win two Grand Slams. Nastase finished 1973 as the number one player in the world behind his French Open and Masters titles. Connors would finish the year number one in the world from 1974-1978.

Although both players were at the top of the world rankings throughout the 70s, they would only meet twice at any of the Grand Slams. Their first meeting at a Grand Slam was at the 1972 Wimbledon Championships, where Ilie Nastase would beat Connors in the quarters in straight sets. Nastase would make it all the way to the final, only to lose to Stan Smith in five hard-fought and contested sets.

Their second and last meeting would take place in the round of 16 at the 1982 US Open, where Connors would have a career resurgence after taking the 1982 Wimbledon title. Nastase would be no match for Connors and would lose in straight sets. Connors would go on to win the US Open title in 1982 and in 1983.

As much as these two were rivals on the court, they were also highly successful doubles partners. Together they would capture two Grand Slam titles at the 1973 Wimbledon Championships and the 1975 US Open. In all Nastase and Connors would capture eight titles together. How’s that for a rivalry that was also a partnership!

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