Now that the French Open is behind us, it is time to give you my long overdue review of Jimmy Connors’ book, The Outsider, which I read from cover to cover with an absolute delight, without having checked anything about it beforehand in mass media, which is something I strongly recommend you do.
Why? Because the book is nothing like the headlines were depicting before it came out.
For instance, within the first pages of the book, one of the things you learn is that Jimmy Connors suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and the way with which he brings it up can induce a few giggles.
Giggles I did have throughout the pages, reading the anecdotes of his tennis career. There is one in particular, about a couple of exhibitions he played with Guillermo Vilas in Argentina, which is quite amusing.
However, the lasting impression I have after reading Connors’ memoir is that no matter how much of a bad boy he was on court (and he states many times that a lot of it was just for show), Jimmy Connors is first and foremost a family man, someone with a very tender heart when it comes to the ones he loves.
From his relationship with his parents, particularly with his mother, Bertha, and with his grandparents, Al Lynch and Bertha Thompson (Pop and Two-Mom), to his wife, Patti, and children, Brett and Aubree, as well as the family dogs, you see “Jimbo” as you’ve never seen him.
For someone, like me, who hasn’t known Connors in his prime, and has learnt more about him from watching videos, this came as a great discovery, seeing the man behind the player, and one that makes the reading very worth the money spent.
Throughout the book, Connors writes about his beginnings, his career, his life. Unfiltered. And what makes the book even more enjoyable is that he wrote it himself rather than dictating it to a tennis writer, who would then become his pen.
Tennis in the 1970’s and 1980’s
Reading this memoir was also a great source of information for the tennis fan and writer that I am, seeing why, for instance, the players of the time were taking part in so many exhibition events (that was how they made their money), the beginnings of the ATP World Tour (which he did not, at first, join), the conflicts he’s had with the Grand Slams, and so on.
Of course, Connors talks about his rivals, from Borg to McEnroe to Lendl, etc., and, afterwards, the younger generation, Davis Cup, World Team Tennis, and how the Champions Tour started.
In other words, the foundations of current tennis.
An absolute must-read
I do not wish to write too much about the contents of the book, as it is one that I really could, should, and do call a “must-read”, an expression I try not tu use, but which completely applies to The Outsider.
As I previously wrote, the charm of it really comes from the fact that Jimmy Connors chose to write it himself rather than dictating it to a journalist (as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, for instance, did), which makes it come out as though listening to him telling us the story of his life, and of his career.
Furthermore, it goes way beyond what the headlines were saying prior to its hitting the markets.
Need there be any more incentives to buy it?
Jimmy Connors, The Outsider, New York, 2013, Harper Collins, 401 pages