By: Jimmy Connors
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“My timing could not have been better,” Jimmy Connors declares in “The Outsider,” referring to his becoming the world’s top-ranked tennis player in the mid-1970s, just as the sport entered a golden age and was transformed into a big business. Connors could also have been describing his game, which deployed a wacky steel-frame racket and a relentless “take the ball on the rise” style to win a record 109 singles titles, including eight Grand Slam championships, five of them at the United States Open.
But all those victories are not what made Connors perhaps the most important tennis player of the second half of the 20th century. A brash, hyperintense kid from the blue-collar East St. Louis, Ill., area, Connors led the charge in wresting the sport from its genteel, country club past.