- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Excuse me? Are you the guy who decides on fines?" said Mewshaw.
"I'm the guy," said Barnes. "Now get out of my office, or I'll call security."
Later Barnes said, "It is our policy that the officials have to report any code violation after the match. They did not, so it is a nonissue."
Well, O.K. If you're a music store manager, do you send back the offensive CDs and tapes by the rap group N.W.A., or do you invite the louts to make a personal appearance so you can draw a panting mob?
In his quarterfinal match on Thursday night, Connors entertained the usual 20,000 enthralled customers, who included the Duchess of York, by strangling a Dutchman in a yoke. At least, that's what Paul Haarhuis, from Eindhoven, the Netherlands, must have felt like when he was serving for the second set at 5-4 after having won the first set.
Haarhuis had upset an injured or burnt-out or mixed-up Boris Becker—who told The New York Times that he likes to read the biographies "of people who've been in my shoes.... Marlon Brando's life is interesting to me"—in the third round. But Connors broke Haarhuis in that 10th game by returning not one but four consecutive overhead smashes and then drilling a seeing-eye backhand passing shot down the line to win a remarkable point that turned the match. Connors went on to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.
John McEnroe, who was moonlighting in the USA booth, was amazed by his old enemy-friend. "I can't imagine what my brother's thinking now [about Connors]," said Mac. "He created a monster."
In the semifinals on Saturday, however, Connors never snarled enough, never lit a fuse, never got to that bewitching hour of 6 p.m., when he previously had turned into a vampire and devoured anyone in his patch. The muscular, impassive Courier patiently cut Connors apart 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, keeping the crowd out of the match as much with his steel resolve as with his rapier forehand. "Nobody's leaving, Jimbo!" bellowed a voice from the upper deck late in the third set. But a few minutes earlier, Connors, while toweling off yet again in a corner of the court, had smiled and said to some friends in the crowd, "I guess this is the final frontier."
Along the way Connors made this U.S. Open as memorable as any there has been, because his essence, what he means to tennis, what the game means to him, was manifest at every turn. That was never clearer than when he was told that Sampras, after failing to successfully defend his title, expressed relief that the "bag of bricks" had just been lifted from his shoulders. "What? Don't tell me that!" said Connors in a rage. "That's the biggest crock of dump! Being the U.S. Open champion is what I've lived for. If these guys are relieved at losing, something is wrong with the game—and wrong with them."
Well, then, Jimbo, what about Courier? At the end of your match, he had grasped your withered hand, called you "unbelievable" and later said, "I don't know if we will ever see anybody like [you] again." Courier fights. He hustles. He works hard. He wants it. Could he be the next great American champion? Does he remind you of anybody? Say, of Jimmy Connors?