Thursday, October 28, 2021

Today’s Paige: Jimmy Connors On and Off the Court

A look back on life, career, parenting and coaching… and a look ahead to Fantasy Camp at The Boca Raton with Jimmy Connors, only on Today’s Paige

Tennis legends. 

We watch them. We cheer for them. We remember their highs and lows, their antics and celebrations from stadiums to the small screen.

But most of us never get a chance to truly get to know them. 

Until now. 

Jimmy Connors is changing the name of that game and he is doing so at one of his old stomping grounds, South Florida’s iconic The Boca Raton (formerly known as the Boca Raton Resort & Club).

“Back in my day, growing up, there was a tournament there,” Connors says. “We had a senior tournament there, which was part of my tour and then to come and to be able to spend time at The Boca Raton… they are doing so much work there and so many upgrades, and the place is going to be amazing.”

Connors is hosting a Tennis Fantasy Camp at The Boca Raton November 12 – 14 offering tennis fans and players an opportunity to get to know the former world #1 tennis champion on and off the court. 

“I’m not looking for a hundred people. I’m looking for 20 or 21 people, because they come and they want to play tennis with me and I want to play tennis with them. You know, it’s not five or six or seven people on the court, it’s three people on the court so that when you’re out there playing, you’re getting your tennis in,” says Connors.

The event weekend consists of three days and two nights of tennis, social soirees and meals alongside the tennis great. Connors says what makes this event stand out from all the others is the combination of tennis and the highlight of “the hang.” 

“Sitting around and having a drink and hearing their thoughts and what they went through on the day and what they expect and what they’re looking forward to and how they feel after playing that much tennis,” Connors says of what attendees can expect. “And I’ve got a few stories to tell, so it’s fun. It’s such a great time”

Stories of his tennis career are something Connors is used to sharing. He tells them now with a smile and an appreciation for all of the ups and downs that came with countless matches and moments on the worldwide tennis stage. 

“I didn’t let one thing pass me by, and I loved the travel,” Connors says. “I loved the different cultures. I loved working at my tennis. I loved performing on the major stages around the world. And that’s why, when I say I don’t have any ‘what ifs’… you know, I got older. We all do. And I couldn’t compete with the young guys when I left. The main tour, I was good, I was satisfied with that. And to look back on that, you know… I don’t have to go back because I know I did it all when I had the opportunity to do it at that level, at that time.”

Photo courtesy of The Boca Raton

Connors holds a record 109 men’s singles titles, 16 doubles titles and played more matches than any other male professional tennis player in the Open era. The eight-time Grand Slam winner played over 1200 matches and over 400 tournaments. Needless to say, the Jimmy Connors stat list goes on and on.

But how about the stories behind the stats? The ones we look back on after a career. The ones that mean the most, even to a feisty fighter like Jimmy Connors. He shared some of those personal stories exclusively with Today’s Paige.

“This is a fun life. My grandmother always said ‘You can work the first half of your life and enjoy the second half or work the second half and play the first half.’ I like working, and to me, it’s not work. It’s fun. I never worked a day in my life with the tennis. I mean, I couldn’t wait to get to the courts. But now it’s fun to be into other things, involved in other things and trying to be successful at that also,” Connors shares. 

Sit down with Jimmy Connors today and you will find a father, husband, friend and mentor who doesn’t shy away from conversations about the decline of American tennis, great rivalries, marriage, parenthood and the challenges that come with decades of work on the road. 

jimmy connors
Jimmy Connors in action in 1978, photo by Koen Suyk Anefo, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Back when Patti and I got married, Brett came along quickly and so I was on the road playing full-time. And so for the first five or six years I was traveling with Patti and a baby and 14 suitcases and going and trying to figure out a way to keep them happy and still try to win tennis tournaments. But my family is the one that sacrificed for me.

“Even when Aubree came along, Patti had to stay home… a new baby and a six year old going to school and to find a way to fit in and to make that work where I was out on the road three, four or five months, sometimes on my own without them and worrying about how things are going at home with the family and then trying to win matches too. I mean that was a very difficult balance for the first couple of years for me. When I was playing tennis, I wished I was with my family. When I was with my family, I should have been playing tennis,” says Connors. 

Discipline, Connors says, is what got him through his storied tennis career and what serves him well to this day.

“I was given that from a very young age,” he says of his strong work ethic. “My grandfather was a boxer, and that’s how he trained me… And certainly the discipline came from my upbringing, from the way I trained and the way I worked at my tennis. I was never one to hang around tennis for four or five hours. Every day I would go. I would work hard and do the right thing for me for 45 minutes or an hour. I got more out of that 45 minutes or an hour than a lot of guys got out of four or five hours. And that’s nothing against anybody. That’s just the way I went about it. And I think that’s why I was able to last so long–because I never really burnt myself out.

“Every time I went to the courts, I was excited. I was thrilled. I wanted to get to it and try to get better and to learn more. Being brought up in a tennis family and then turning pro… I didn’t want to disappoint anybody. Pancho Segura gave me more than just tennis. My mother and grandmother gave me more than just tennis. They invested their time in me and that. It was more heartfelt. What they gave me wasn’t about money and it wasn’t about anything else except trying to make me what I could become and be the best I could be.” 

Connors credits his life coaches, role models and mentors–his mother, grandmother, tennis greats Pancho Segura and Pancho Gonzales, even former manager Bill Riordan, all of whom have passed–for building his base and teaching him the skills he would need on and off the court. 

“I look back on my influences and what they were able to instill in me… and it was all by accident,” he says. “You know, nobody–my mom, my grandmother, Pancho–never sat down and said, ‘You’ve got to do this. This is the way it’s got to be done.’ It was never like that. It was always in a float. You know that if you trust us, that we’re never going to say one thing that’s going to be bad for you. It’s all going to be good for you, whether it’s on the court or off the court and it’s up to you to pick and choose and do what you think is right in the long run for your own life. They taught me way more than just tennis. They taught me life.”


For more on Jimmy Connors’ legendary career, his message to parents with children in youth sports and how he says we can all stay fit after 40, watch Paige Kornblue’s full interview by heading to the Today’s Paige section of www.PaigeKornblue.com or listen on-the-go wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Just look for Today’s Paige, The Podcast!

Learn more about the Tennis Fantasy Camp with Jimmy Connors at The Boca Raton by clicking here or calling 855/874-6551. Weekend Fantasy Camp packages start at $5000 for club members, $6000 for non-members and $7500 for guests who would like to stay at The Beach Club.

Paige Kornbluehttp://www.PaigeKornblue.com
Paige Kornblue is an award-winning journalist who founded Paige Kornblue Media and Today’s Paige – the blog and podcast highlighting everything from interesting people, fascinating places and the gems making our communities special. In addition to Boca Magazine, Paige is a TODAY Show Parenting Team Contributor. She has anchored and reported for top-rated television stations across the country including WPTV NBC NewsChannel 5 and WMUR ABC News 9. Paige has also worked at NBC Sports and Dateline NBC and provided live reports for CNN and The Weather Channel. PK is a proud Boca Raton native who grew up loving Boca Magazine and all that comes with the fabulous city of Boca Raton! You can often find her on stage assisting charities as event emcee, on the courts working to improve her tennis game and on momma time enjoying each moment with her three young kiddos!

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