Classic Rivalries: McEnroe vs. Connors
One of my favorite rivalries of all time pitted two Hall of Fame American tennis players with a temper and a dislike for one another. When you have that kind of animosity and talent on the court, you can always expect fireworks. And fireworks we saw for as long as this rivalry went on.
Overall these two greats met a total of 34 times, with McEnroe beating Connors 20 of the 14. In Grand Slams they met nine times, with McEnroe holding a 6-3 edge. ‘
It is important to note that Jimmy was six years older than Johnny Mac. However, given the longevity of Jimmy’s career, I don’t think this has any impact on this rivalry. Jimmy played at a top level well into the 90s culminating in his unforgettable 1992 US Open semifinal run at the age of 39.
As in most rivalries with an age difference, Connors got the best of McEnroe early on, while McEnroe dominated later in their careers. All that being said, the most important finals they ever contested were the 1982 Wimbledon Final and the 1984 Wimbledon Final.
In 1982, McEnroe and Connors came in as the number one and number two seed respectively, with both men playing at the very top of their game to reach the final. McEnroe would drop only one set on his way to the final, while Connors dropped two. The final would become an epic battle with Connors edging McEnroe in five hard fought sets, which included two tiebreakers.
1984 was a completely different story, as McEnroe would have the best year in his whole career, and many argue that the year McEnroe had in 1984 has not been equaled, not by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. Again, McEnroe would go in as the number one seed as Connors would enter as the number three seed.
Again, McEnroe would only drop one set on his way to the final, where he would meet Connors and completely demolish him with the score of 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. McEnroe would go on to win the US Open after that the year-end championships, finishing the year number one for the fourth year in a row.
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