Today is Labor Day in the United States, and I'll present another off-topic post devoted to another sport.
Today, I watched a bit of the US Open, catching the instant classic match between James Blake of the United States and Tommy Haas of Germany. Blake won the first and third sets, then got smoked 6-0 in the fourth. I thought he was out of steam, but he was just pulling a Jimmy Connors trick out of his bag. After getting behind two breaks, he simply laid down, conceding the set and conserving his energy for the decisive set. It turned out to be a phenomenal final set in which Blake had three match points in hand. However, he couldn't convert them, then he let the tiebreaker game slip away, finally losing. In the very brief post-match interview, Blake looked almost as dejected as the University of Michigan fans in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
This was an epic match, but it doesn't hold a candle to another epic match on Labor Day in the US Open.
On Jimmy Connors' 39th birthday (September 2, 1991), he defeated 24-year old fellow American Aaron Krickstein 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). In that match, Connors essentially conceded the third set. The match wasn't as grand-scheme fantastic as the 1980 Wimbledon Final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg (which featured the famous "battle of 18-16" in the fourth set), but it was huge enough.
Check out this clip of the highlights from that match. Man, I can't believe Jimbo was 39 and had that much energy. I love the way the crowd was totally on his side.
Then, just a couple of days later in the quarterfinal, Connors met Dutchman Paul Haarhuis, and defeated him 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-2, earning a berth in the US Open semifinal. He lost in straight sets to fellow American Jim Courier, who in turn lost in straight sets to the "evil" Swede Stefan Edberg.
In the Haauhuis match, Connors won what many people consider to be "the best point in tennis history". Take a look.
I remember watching that one on teevee in the college dorm and thinking that it was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
Jimmy Connors was way too old to be keeping up with those young guys, but he did it anyway. He entered the tournament with a wildcard berth, but ended up advancing to the semifinal. This is one of the things that makes Connors one of my favorite athletes of all time. I always put Johnny Mac In front of him simply because McEnroe was so damned good and such an entertaining character. After being reminded of the 1991 US Open, I might change my tune and put Connors above Mac in that list.
3 years ago