Jimmy Connors still smashing tennis gentility (look out, Charlotte)

Breaking racquets and records alike, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe electrified tennis during the 1970s and 1980s. Next week, they’re headed to Charlotte as part of a four-player night of nostalgia at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Connors, 61, and McEnroe, 55, won a combined 15 Grand Slam singles titles in their lengthy careers. Connors  finished with eight Slam tournament championships, including five U.S. Opens. Overall, he won a record 109 tour events and ranked as the No. 1 player for five years.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, 48, and 54-year-old Ivan Lendl, who also won eight Grand Slam singles championships, are also on the bill.

During a conference call with reporters to promote the one-night tournament stopping in Nashville and Charlotte next week, Connors displayed flashes of his old bravado while also chuckling and wincing over how far he is from the glory days. Remember, more than two decades have passed since Connors made his signature run to the U.S. Open semis at age 39, ancient by tennis standards.

Asked to assess his mobility and health, Connors said, “I’ve had three hip replacements. But I’m still standing.”

Later, he added, “Tennis should come with a label: Caution, may be hazardous to your health. What a tennis athlete does is really go out on a daily basis and tear his body apart.”

Connors set the record straight on a few topics, from a still-simmering rivalry with McEnroe to frustration over the power-serve style favored by the best players today.

“I think that a lot of fans in tennis, even though they love the tennis today, they can identify a little bit more with the tennis of maybe yesteryear,” he said. “I say that because they feel that they can go out and be a part of that and play that kind of tennis also. I’ve always said that.”

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