SI Vault
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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Newcombe, in fact, is being rewarded so nicely that he hardly needed the money he earned in Las Vegas. He endorses two different rackets, one in the U.S. and one in the rest of the world. He is paid for lending his name to luggage, sunglasses, socks, wristwatches and shoes. He is a part owner of various T-Bar-M tennis ranches and clubs in Texas and represents a plush resort in Hawaii. He has different lines of tennis togs in Australia, Japan and the U.S. The symbol for the latter is a round cartoon face that consists of Newk's bandido mustache and, for some reason, one eye.

It was a coup, and no doubt an annoyance to Riordan, when Newcombe and his agents, the McCormack people, arranged to have the ball-boys and linesmen for the match dressed in pink Newcombe shirts. At the entrance to the pavilion his supporters were passing out buttons with his one-eyed symbol on them. At ringside his coach, Clarence Mabry, was wearing a set of Newk's duds.

Match day dawned cool and windy, and it was a little difficult to pin down the odds. Riordan said it was even money in Australia and 9-5 Connors in Las Vegas, but a reporter who tried to place a bet in Vegas was turned away because the bookie had "taken a bath" on the Connors-Laver match. There was a rumor buzzing around the press section that Segura had $11,000 riding on his "Jeemy." Segura would not confirm it.

There were plenty of celebrities in the courtside boxes, but no Totie Fields. In Newcombe's box was ex-tennis star Jack Kramer, now head of the Players Association that Connors refuses to join and the man who is entangled in two lawsuits with Riordan.

Finally it came time for the arguments, legal actions and ballyhoo to be forgotten. Saturday at 12:30 it was time for tennis, as performed by the two best in the world.

In the first set Connors broke Newk's vaunted serve to go ahead 3-1, and it was really no surprise because Jimmy has the finest service return in the game. He held on to win the set 6-3.

The second set stayed on serve until the 10th game, Connors serving. Newcombe got two break points but failed to capitalize on them, then finally broke and won the set 6-4 with a sharply angled backhand service return that Connors could not hope to even touch. Perhaps it was because Newcombe was playing better, but in the second set Connors seemed to lack his customary aggressiveness, his habit of swinging at every ball as if he despised it. Then in the third set Connors regained his form and won fairly easily, 6-2, in one stretch taking 10 straight points. Newcombe admitted later that he felt a bit tired in that set even though he had started in what he felt was excellent condition.

"Clarence and I were just laughing about it," said Newk afterward in his room. "In the first two sets we reckoned I served four sets.... I was having to come up with big second serves and it was too much. Suddenly I took the vise off and gave him a breath of fresh air."

More fresh air could have been used in the pavilion, even though air conditioning had been installed since the Laver match. It was hot and stuffy, and several spectators had to be helped from their seats and taken outside.

Connors won the match in the seventh game of the fourth set with Newcombe serving. Jimmy chased a shot far to the right and lobbed deep. Newcombe watched it, confident it would go out, watched in amazement as it landed in, lunged after it and put a forehand into the net. Instead of 30-15 it was 15-30, and on the next point Newk hit an overhead that went long—a close call that upset him. Connors broke and went on to win.

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