Simon Reed

Who’s the GOAT? 4-Connors v 13-Newcombe

Simon Reed

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Our latest Greatest of All Time match-up sees legends from either end of the seventies come up against each other in Aussie grass-court genius John Newcombe and the wild child of American tennis, Jimmy Connors.

John Newcombe

Nationality: Australian

Seeded: 13

Grand Slam record:

Australian Open - Winner (1973, 1975)

French Open - Quarter-finalist (1969)

Wimbledon - Winner (1967, 1970, 1971)

US Open - Winner (1967, 1973)

Jimmy Connors

Nationality: American

Seeded: 4

Grand Slam record:

Australian Open - Winner (1974)

French Open - Semi-finalist (1979, 1980, 1984, 1985)

Wimbledon - Winner (1974, 1982)

US Open - Winner (1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1983)

REAL LIFE HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD

Tied at 2-2. Newcombe won both their Grand Slam encounters (1973 US Open quarter-final, 1975 Australian Open final) - both of which were on grass - while Connors won their other two matches in later years (1978 Sydney Indoor, 1979 Hong Kong hard court)

Simon Reed's verdict:

Even though the careers of Newcombe and Connors overlapped, they're still very much of different eras. This is a tough one to call.

Newcombe was really an old school player: a serve and volleyer from an era when winning wasn't quite the be-all-and-all it became not long after, he enjoyed himself off the court just as much as he did on. Let's just say he had a very active social life, and leave it at that!

On the court he was a classic net player, always looking to come in and speed up the points.

He had a great serve as well, and as a man who won all seven of his Grand Slams on grass I think he would win the grass court set comfortably.

That's not to say Connors wasn't a good grass court player, though - he won two Wimbledons and both an Australian Open and a US Open on the game's quickest surface - but I'd still give Newcombe the edge.

On every other score, though, Connors would wipe the floor with him.

Jimmy was an absolutely ferocious competitor, a man who would stop at nothing to win and used every trick in the book to do so - and quite a few that weren't in the book as well!

The way he used to get the crowds going - particularly at the US Open - was breathtaking, and relied as much on his enormous charisma as his playing ability. He must have been a nightmare to play against, whether he was gesturing to the crowd when his opponent's back was turned or hammering an unstoppable forehand down the line.

His raw gamesmanship made me quite ambivalent about him when he was playing, but I got to know Jimmy quite well in later years and he has mellowed enormously - though he doesn't regret a thing about his behaviour.

And in truth it was good for the game: tennis was on fire back then in a way it has never quite been since.

There's no doubting his tennis skill, either: he mixed a ferocious forehand, decent serve and solid backhand with outstanding fitness. Connors was a player who worked like a packhorse off the court and fought like a warrior on it.

Newcombe was never comfortable on clay; and though Connors never won the French Open he did make four semi-finals at Roland Garros, and picked up one of his US Open titles during the brief mid-70s period when it took place on American green clay.

On the hard courts Connors always shone, however. After losing the grass set 4-6, he'd win the clay and hard sets 6-3 6-3 to battle on - as always - in to the next round.

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