During his twenty year career as a professional tennis player, Jimmy Connors was someone fans either loved or hated. The Outsider, Connors’ story of his life on and off the court, is unlikely to change the minds of those who found him hard to root for. However, The Outsider is an entertaining memoir that captures Connors’ personality.
Jimmy Connors grew up in East Saint Louis and learned tennis from his mother, who had played professionally, and his grandmother. Later on he was sent to California to train with Pancho Segura, another former professional player. Connors’ stories about Segura, who was ranked number one in 1952, and other players from earlier eras make The Outsidersomething of a tennis history lesson (and not a dry one). Connors gives an entertaining account of his exhibition match in the seventies with Rod Laver, one of the all-time greats. Laver was not a fan of some of Connors’ on court antics and came out of retirement to play the exhibition. Connors later crosses paths with other greats like John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. He believes the Connors-Borg-McEnroe era was one of the greatest in tennis not just because of the quality of the players but because players like McEnroe and himself were entertaining and got rid of the country club stuffiness tennis had been associated with in earlier decades.
Connors’ career went all the way into the nineties when players like Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were staring to establish themselves as the next greats in men’s tennis. Connors has little to say about them besides spending some time trashing Agassi. It would have been nice to hear Connors’ take on Sampras or a current player like Rafael Nadal, but Connors is mostly interested in telling his story and does this very well.