Sorry, if this has already been posted elsewhere:
Connors back with Roddick
By Paul Malone
January 09, 2007
AT least 20 years later than many Australian tennis fans would have liked, Jimmy Connors will finally return to Melbourne this week.
Connors, the ferocious competitor who played the last of his two Australian Opens 32 years ago, is due to arrive in Melbourne on Thursday to coach Andy Roddick at Kooyong's AAMI Classic and the Melbourne Park fortnight.
The six-time US Open champion has guided Roddick back into the top 10 and to a Grand Slam final in his six months in charge.
Connors won the 1974 Australian Open but skipped it every year after his well-remembered 1975 final loss to John Newcombe until he retired from the ATP Tour in 1992.
But when I ran the idea of an Australian Open visit with Roddick past Connors in New York last September, the enthusiasm of America's favourite tennis warhorse was obvious.
"That would be fun. I haven't been there for a long time," Connors said.
"You're nice even to remember. But I'm done and it's Andy's time."
Colin Stubs, who runs the AAMI Classic headlined by Roger Federer and Roddick, remembered he tried to convince Connors to play at the Australian Open most years while he was tournament director of the national championships.
Connors's trademark flamboyance and tenacious play did feature in some of the most successful of the Sydney indoor tournaments run in the late 1970s and 1980s by the late promoter Graham Lovett.
"Particularly the first year at Melbourne Park (1988)," Stubs said. "I tried hard, but I think he just didn't like to start the season so early at that stage of his career.
"It will be good to have him arrive here on Thursday. It appears to be a very good marriage between him and Andy, judging by how Andy appeared to be struggling in the middle of last year and how well he played when Jimmy came into the picture."
Connors, 54, is almost as ambitious for Roddick, who lost his 11th match in his past 12 against Federer in the US Open final, as he was when he jousted memorably with generations of players ranging from Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall to Andre Agassi and Boris Becker.
Poignantly, Federer will next month break Connors's ATP record of 160 consecutive weeks ranked at No.1.
Roddick, who practised with Federer yesterday at Melbourne Park, credits Connors with providing him with more competitive focus and the passion that is still apparent in Connors's emotions as he watches matches.
"I'm happy he's down there doing it the right way," Connors said. "Before we started working together, I asked him what he was looking forward to and he said: 'I want to win'.
"Roddick should be the best player in the world and winning grand slam titles. He is the quickest learner I have ever been around.
"How good is Federer? I'll sugar coat it for you.
"He's got an incredible record, but careers are about 21 years, like Andre Agassi's. Make no mistake, there are three men in the mix now (Federer, Roddick and Rafael Nadal)."
Connors is not even comfortable with the term coach, saying at the US Open that he was "a friend who happens to know a little".
He had no interest in coaching until an intermediary arranged for Roddick to go to the former champion's home and test their suitability in tennis and in their personalities when the world No.1 of 2003 dropped to a ranking of No.12 last July.
"I was away from tennis for 15 years," said Connors, who had a hip replacement in 2005.
Connors, watching a television feed of Roddick's post-final press interview in New York, erupted with a familiar blaze of anger when he heard his charge say that if he lost to Federer in "eight Grand Slam finals, that's fine - something will stick eventually".
"When Andy said that about the eight finals, he's being a gentleman. For the first three sets, he had the upper hand," Connors said.
"The good thing about Andy is he's not afraid to fight back. You can't get him to act the way I did; it wouldn't be natural.
"The way the kids play today, I can give Andy what I know, what made me what I was. He has what makes him great - a 240km/h serve and a great forehand."