SI Vault
He's not a man to take it lying down
Curry Kirkpatrick
May 12, 1980
Reversing his decline, Jimmy Connors sailed through the WCT championship, punishing John McEnroe in the finale
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 12, 1980

He's Not A Man To Take It Lying Down

Reversing his decline, Jimmy Connors sailed through the WCT championship, punishing John McEnroe in the finale

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

? Johan Kriek . Prince Valiant with sneer. Barrel-chested, 22-year-old South African left the Transvaal, followed coach to Austria as teen. Big first serve for short guy, bigger first volley. In 100-yard dash for tennis players, pick him. Never out of a point. Astounding quickness displayed at U.S. Open, in which he lost to Gerulaitis in quarters both of last two years. Arrogant, petulant, bad temper on court. At Open yelled to umpire Jason Smith, "Come down from that chair and I'll punch your face." Attitude apart, one of neatest players in game to watch.

Last week after Kriek dismantled Sadri's serve in straight sets and after Lendl positively enthralled Amritraj in straights—"I've never been passed like that in my life," said the Indian—the two youngsters came head-on into semifinal battles with McEnroe and Connors.

Alas, on Friday afternoon Lendl never changed pace against Connors, electing to slug it out from the backcourt. He also kept attempting to hit winners from the worst possible places, and he was beaten 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Kriek, having split sets with McEnroe despite 10 double faults, got on top of his seemingly disinterested opponent 5-1, 30-0 in the third set before everything came unglued. McEnroe began nailing winning returns. Kriek got too anxious and began popping up volleys. Junior broke from deuce. He broke again at 15. Soon they were in a tie-breaker and, after a disputed point was awarded to McEnroe, he went on to win the extra session 7-3, and the match 6-4, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.

McEnroe has been struggling in recent weeks, fostering the impression that he may have played too much tennis in the first four months of the year. "I have a hard time getting up for my matches," he admitted. "I've played so many tournaments, they all seem the same now."

Connors, however, realized that Dallas was Dallas. Last year Jimbo didn't get past the semifinals of any major tournament, and McEnroe routed and embarrassed him here. Now Connors was lean and hard. He was practicing more diligently than ever. With wife Patti and baby Brett (a 9-month-old boy) cheering him on, his mind was clearer. "I've got my game just about where I'm satisfied," Connors said. "Of course I'm not satisfied with anything short of perfect."

That being so, his performance on Sunday was just about satisfactory.

1 2 3