As Connors waited to accept the winner's trophy, the spectators gave him a slow hand clap, the European equivalent of a Bronx cheer. Yet the brashness of the new champion seemed momentarily to give way to humility, or at least recognition of what he had just accomplished. "When I was six years old I dreamed of this happening," he said. "Unless you're a Rod Laver or a John Newcombe, it only happens once in a lifetime." Of Rosewall he added, "I knew he was the sentimental favorite. Maybe someday I'll be a sentimental favorite."
"I should live so long"-- Bud Collins's comment in The Boston Globe--captured what everyone was thinking.
That night at the champions' dinner Connors and Evert passed notes to each other behind the back of the chairman of the All-England Club, who sat between them. Asked to select the song for the traditional first dance between the men's and ladies' champions, they demurred. The bandleader, as every newspaper in the modern world soon reported, chose The Girl That I Marry.
The London betting shops had featured a Connors-Evert parlay called the Lovebird Double at 33 to 1. Riordan and Segura hadn't been shrewd enough to take it, but they had wagered a pile on Jimbo alone to win Wimbledon at 13 to 1. Columnist Mike Lupica recalls the scene the next morning in Riordan's hotel suite. "All the London papers were spread out on the floor, like someone had laid a new carpet. For two weeks Riordan had been going around the grounds selling pieces of the action, like a carnival barker pulling people into the tent. Now they were filing back into the tent to get paid."
The next month, at the final of the U.S. Clay Courts in Indianapolis, Connors would win his ersatz French Open, beating Borg, the champion in Paris, on the closest thing Stateside to French clay. Given that Borg failed to beat Connors regularly until 1977, it's not unreasonable to grant Connors's request that an asterisk be added to 1974--not, as is usually the case in sports, to diminish an achievement but to enhance it, to acknowledge that had he been allowed to compete at Roland Garros, he might well have joined Laver and Don Budge as the only men ever to have completed a Grand Slam.
The final in Indy produced a vignette that emblemized the sport in all its dysfunction. Dell and Kramer, who were broadcasting the tournament for PBS (lending credence to Riordan's charge that they had spun a web of conflicting interests), buttonholed Connors for a postmatch word. Their interview went off as if it were perfectly normal to chitchat with someone who's suing you for $10 million.
Doug henderson's recollection of that opening day at Forest Hills differs from Connors's. According to Henderson, he and Harper had penetrated the upstairs lounge of the West Side Tennis Club all on their own. From a row of windows they watched Evert as she warmed up on a practice court--"mostly," Henderson remembers, "out of prurient interest." Suddenly they heard a voice behind them.
"Mind if I squeeze in?"
It was Connors. They chatted. Pancho Segura joined in the conversation and, as Connors got up to change, said, "Jimbo, buddy, you get these guys and nobody fs with you. They walk you to your matches, and you have no problem with the crowd." Soon Henderson had slung Connors's leather racket bag over his shoulder, and he and Harper were escorting him to the Stadium Court.
Connors seemed to be even less popular in Queens than he had been in London. Watching him over those two weeks, Richard Schickel, a cultural critic with Time, drew the most unflattering comparison possible in August 1974, equating him with a certain U.S. president who had been forced to resign only a few weeks before: "[Connors] is a narrowly ambitious man, concentrating a furious energy on a narrowly defined goal--being a winner in his chosen field. To this end, he will sacrifice anything--the graceful presentation of self, the pursuit of pleasure whether it be cultural or merely idle, warming human relations. It accounts for that air of dark suspicion that hangs about him, his powerful feeling that everyone is out to make a fool of him."