Wimbledon Memories: 1982 John McEnroe vs. Jimmy Connors

Travel, TV and Breakfast at Wimbledon

As a child, my family typically traveled on or around the July 4th holiday.  Like most vacations, outings and visiting family members factored into our schedule.  However, few outings other than going to church with relatives occur on Sunday mornings.  I was 6 years old at the time and recorded my first specific tennis memory.  My father did (and still does) play tennis. I knew that he liked tennis at age 6.  He and my mother also followed tennis tournaments at this time.  I certainly watched tennis prior to this, but the 1982 Wimbledon final is the first match that I remember to this day.  It was a good match to get me started as a tennis fan.

Jimmy Connors trailed 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-6 at this point

My Memories

The first thing I remember about this match is that my parents were rooting for different players.  My father was pulling for McEnroe, and my mother was pulling for Connors.  It was rare for me to see them divided on anything including sports (both love the University of Kentucky’s basketball team).  In my mind, I had to choose who I would favor and chose Connors largely due to my tendency at that time to disagree with my father.  I became a Lakers fan in the 1980s in large part due to his love of the Boston Celtics.

The second thing I remember is how intense both players were.  I did not know or understand what was at stake, but it did strike me that these two players did not want to lose.  There were also some cool exchanges at the net in terms of one player hitting a volley and the other guy reacting by volleying off a winner (see the above video).  I don’t remember much else about this match other than liking tennis a lot after seeing it.


What I did not know at that time was that John McEnroe had taken over the number one ranking in 1981.  Bjorn Borg retired and had Connors not had his 1982 resurgence prior to Ivan Lendl coming into his own, McEnroe might have owned tennis for 4 years.  I did not know that Connors had not won a Grand Slam title since 1978 and had not won Wimbledon since 1974.  I did not know that Connors had defeated McEnroe in the Queen’s Club championship a few weeks earlier giving him confidence prior to this match.  None of that registered for me as a 6 year old viewer.  Looking back, this win helped redefine Jimmy Connors’ career, and it prevented McEnroe from fully dominating the tour until 1984.  Jimmy Connors defeating John McEnroe 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-4 and winning his second Wimbledon title had historical significance.  

1974 to 1982: Worth the Wait & Classic Fist Pump at 3:32


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan Martin says:

    Reblogged this on Tennis Abides and commented:

    Worth another look

  2. Matt says:

    Its a really unusual final this one….full of intensity and passion and a fair bit of great tennis especially in the latter stages. But the match is also bogged down by poor play and numerous errors on both sides. Breaks of serves are routine and not normally through wonderful returns but through double faults and unforced errors.

    The third set typifies the match. There are some wonderful shots played but in one game Connors serves three double faults and yet still manages to win out after several deuces. Later in the third and serving for the set he double faults in succession to hand McEnroe the break back game, Both players seem overwhelmed by the occasion and very nervous. The overcast conditions for much of the match only seem to reinforce the claustrophobic atmosphere. Only during and beyond the 4th set tie break does the tennis really lift itself. Connors play improves just at the right time and he takes the title because of this.

    it is a great final to watch but not because of the amazing tennis but rather two amazing players struggling to find their best form on the day and one man just discovering it at the right time.

    1. Dan Martin says:

      I like your take. I was 6 when I watched this match so I did not pick up on a lot of the tennis of it. How much did Connors winning Queen’s Club contribute to Mac being nervous as defending champion?

  3. Matt says:

    Hi Dan

    He certainly had the edge over Mac in the build up to the final because of McEnroes somewhat inconsistent first serve and weaker second. Queens was another tournament where Connors had the edge over him in 82 and was without question significant in both players mindset. In McEnroes autobiography he explains that he had hurt his ankle in March of that year and had not fully recovered his first serve by the time of the championships. His serve not at full tilt was more than enough to account for most players but not Connors.

    I think the occasion affected both men. Two American players on a British court during Independence Day. No Borg in the final for the first time since 75. A lot of symbolism on show but really the crux of the matter was the match itself. Had McEnroes first serve been at his best then he would have comfortable beaten Connors. But in fact, he serves first in the opening three sets and loses all three games. Connors himself throws away many promising positions with unforced errors and double faults. By set three under dark skies play veers from the sublime to the ridiculous. This is why I find this final so fascinating.

    It is not a final filled with great tennis in the manner of a Nadal/Federer classic. But it is filled with tension and the desire of both men to play through the poor play and find some kind of form. They inspire each other to greater efforts towards the end and this to me is why it is a classic match. The very imperfections of the final are the reasons I love it, even if on the day I was an 11 year old rooting for a McEnroe win!

    1. Dan Martin says:

      Nice synopsis. I was quite young so I did not pick up on all of these things.

  4. Matt says:

    Thanks….it is just personal observation and others may feel differently. I certainly enjoyed reading your own take on the final. Best wishes. Matt

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