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Memory Lane: Jimmy Connors defaults match after tirade over line call

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Jimmy Connors threw a fit at the 1986 Lipton tournament.

Jimmy Connors threw a fit at the 1986 Lipton tournament. (Robert Riger/Getty Images)

In this modern age of collegiality and sportsmanship — call it the Roger Federer effect — it’s insane to even consider a top-ranked player defaulting a match just because he felt like it. Yet that’s precisely what happened 28 years ago today when the one and only Jimmy Connors stormed off the court late in the fifth set of a semifinal against Ivan Lendl at the 1986 Lipton International Players Championships in Boca Raton, Fla. The source of Connors’ ire? The umpiring, of course.

In a testy match that included code violations for both players, the fourth-ranked Connors lashed out at chair umpire Jeremy Shales during a dispute over a line call with No. 1 Lendl leading 3-2, 30-love in the fifth set.

Here’s what went down, according to The New York Times:

Connors charged the umpire’s chair and demanded that the supervisor of officials, Ken Farrar, and the tournament referee, Alan Mills, be summoned immediately. But because the dispute involved a judgment call, there was no reason for Shales to summon them. Instead, he advised Connors to resume play or face the consequences.

After Connors was penalized a point and then a game to fall behind, 5-2, Mills and Farrar walked onto the court and told Connors he had no recourse in this instance. Farrar told him it was in his best interests to play. But Connors refused, sitting down and letting time expire. He then packed his racquets and marched off the court to cheers and applause from the crowd.

The Times noted that Shales “gave [Connors] a point penalty for a time violation, then three code violations for a continued delay. Finally, after Connors had exhausted all the time he was allotted by the rules to resume play, Shales defaulted him.”

Lendl’s winning score reads 1-6, 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 5-2 DEF.

You can watch Connors’ tantrum below (it’s the first four minutes) — a meltdown that led to $25,000 in fines and a 10-week suspension.

“You can only take so much,” Connors said after the match. “I’m out there giving my blood. I felt I was sticking up for my rights. All I want [Shales] to do is pay attention. If he’s paying attention on only one side of the court, that’s not good enough. If there’s incompetence out there, you get somebody competent to do the job.”

Connors recalled the match in his book, The Outsider, and let’s just say he didn’t exactly sweat the punishment.

“The things you have to do to get some time off, right?” he writes. “Anyway, the suspension I received was an opportunity for me to play a couple of special events and a half a dozen exhibitions. I made a hell of a lot more money than I would have playing the tournaments.”

Lendl went on to beat No. 3 Mats Wilander in the final.

Video via YouTube user royaldoyal

(H/T: Randy Walker)

  • Published On Feb 21, 2014
  • 4 comments
    Tom14
    Tom14

    What was Arthur Ashe's great quote about Jimmy Connors? Actually I was a big Connors fan and really appreciate how much he throw every into his game. Sure he had a temper but you have to appreciate a player who always thought he would win. He thought the fans should be part of the game, McEnroe you always felt would rather have everyone watch on TV so not to disturb him during a match.

    Peterdetruse
    Peterdetruse

    I love Jimmy Conners' game so much I learned to serve like him.  JC is a consummate professional who helped build the house of tennis that we all live in today.  He always gave his all and he was and is the epitome of professionalism.  




    bcrd500
    bcrd500

    It is easy to blame Connor's for arguing with the umpire but in those days, line calls were terrible and there was not a Hawkeye system that allow Federer and Nadal to play without worrying about bad calls. A player's protection was outrageous behavior to keep the umpire alert to over-rule bad calls by week-end line judges.


    In this match, it is obvious that the ball was long and the umpire decided to take no action to correct it. This match occurred, in 1986, after years of bad behavior by Connors and MacEnroe public opinion had turned against them allowing the ATP to enforce point violations and default higher ranked players. 

    The article mentioned that both players had been handed point penalties earlier in the match so it was just Connor's arguing calls, he just got the last bad call, when one point could determine the outcome of the match.

    TFields
    TFields

    Connors has no class.