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Joe Jares
May 05, 1975
The noisome ballyhoo behind them, Jimmy Connors and John Newcombe got down to trading whacks at Las Vegas. Three hours later Connors strode off the court still No. 1 and $500,000 richer
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May 05, 1975

Jackpot For Jimbo

The noisome ballyhoo behind them, Jimmy Connors and John Newcombe got down to trading whacks at Las Vegas. Three hours later Connors strode off the court still No. 1 and $500,000 richer

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Then Connors wanted the surface changed. The match was to be played on an old version of Supreme Court, a fairly fast carpet on which Connors beat Laver. Against Newcombe, who has a much harder serve than Laver, Connors wanted a newer version of Supreme Court with a rougher surface that might slow down Newk's cannonballs.

"This is the same court that was used for the Laver match," said Newcombe. "This is the court I was told I would practice on this weekend. I will make no more concessions for Jimmy Connors. As far as I am concerned this is my Alamo."

A few press conferences, more than a few press releases, meetings and a coin flip, which Newcombe's side won—and the surface remained unchanged. Riordan had only the New York Supreme Court to worry about.

The only genuine controversy arising from either Connors-Laver or Connors-Newcombe is over the danger, real or imagined, resulting from challenge matches. Tennis has three viable tournament circuits: Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis, the Commercial Union Grand Prix and the Women's Tennis Association (an important chunk of which is underwritten by Virginia Slims cigarettes). These, plus Riordan's men's circuit and the struggling World Team Tennis league, have been handsomely supporting a lot of players. Many people in the sport fear that ratings-hungry TV networks and greedy promoters and players will stage more and more challenge matches and eventually kill interest in tournaments, much the same way televised boxing helped kill local fight clubs.

Connors, for instance, could play Bjorn Borg in Sweden, Guillermo Vilas in Argentina, Raul Ramirez in Mexico, or five guys one right after the other in Za�re, with Riordan selling the TV or closed-circuit rights for enough money to make a sheik sell his oil wells and take up tennis. Indeed, offers and challenges have been piling up in Riordan's Salisbury, Md. office.

Right now it appears that Riordan, Connors and CBS are going to sit back and let a new contender emerge from this summer's big tournaments and then maybe stage the next "title defense" in December or early next year. At this rate there will be two or three "heavyweight championship" matches a year intruding into the already crowded calendar.

In the weeks preceding their match Connors and Newcombe were continually defending themselves on this score, especially after Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller turned down a head-to-head match for a bundle of bucks. "It's bad for the game," Nicklaus said, "and I will not be a party to it."

"Challenge matches are a thing of the future," said Connors. "They give an extra kick to the tennis world."

"We didn't go begging for the money," said Newcombe. "It was offered to us. The advertisers are willing to pay to get their messages across—and since the money has to go somewhere, it might as well go to Connors and myself. Some people walk away with $10 million after a world championship fight, so what we're getting doesn't seem out of line."

"I consider the money a reward for all the years I've put into the game," said Connors. "I've worked hard for 19 years, and people like Newcombe and Laver have worked hard for years, too. Now we're being rewarded for it."

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