Connors laments state of U.S. tennis

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

MONTREAL - Jimmy Connors was never known for backing down from a challenge, or an argument, on or off the court, and Monday was no exception.

On the eve of his induction into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame, the fiery tennis legend sounded off on the state of the American game, his issues with the U.S. tennis establishment and the camaraderie among today's players.

"It would have always been hard for me to (accept), after McEnroe beat me in a final, that he would come over and put his arm around me and console me," Connors told a news conference at Uniprix Stadium. "That would have never happened, never happened, or vice versa. I wouldn't have ever expected that."

The 58-year-old eight-time Grand Slam winner said he needed to keep his distance from opponents in order to maintain a competitive edge.

"That's what helped me reach my true potential every time I walked out there," said Connors, who has 109 ATP titles to his name.

Canada was one of the few places where victory eluded him during his storied career. Connors made the semifinals six times in eight appearances but never reached a final.

"It wasn't through lack of effort," he said.

Connors has resumed competitive tennis after an absence of more than a decade. He also takes part in youth tennis camps, although he noted they're all located outside North America.

He lamented the fact no Americans are currently ranked in the top 10 on the men's or women's side after decades of dominance.

"It's kind of a little distressing," said Connors, who was ranked No. 1 in the world for seven years.

"Back in my era ... eight of the top 10 players were Americans ... obviously we're starving for players, but where do you find the players?

"A lot of kids come to tennis after football, baseball, basketball, soccer. They find out, 'hey, I'd like to try tennis, be a part of tennis.' But if you come at 16 or 17, it's too late."

Connors raised a few eyebrows Monday when he said the USTA has "made it clear they don't need me or want me involved" in renewing the American game.

He says a famous former player such as himself could help lure youths from other sports.

"I've offered to be a part of it, to do things," he said. "Never worked out. If it didn't work out, that's fine. I mean, I've got other things to do."


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