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Connors’ Late-Night Show Gets Rave Reviews : U.S. Open: His 4-hour 20-minute victory over one McEnroe draws praise from another.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

By the time Jimmy Connors got to bed, it was nearly 4 a.m., EDT, Wednesday.

And although it was just about sunrise, he managed to prove that, at 38, the dawning of tennis in the P.J. (Post-Jimmy) Era is still some time off.

Connors, five days short of his 39th birthday, put the finishing touches on his record 93rd U.S. Open victory at 1:35 a.m., EDT, concluding a 4-hour 20-minute first-round marathon match against 25-year-old Patrick McEnroe, 4-6, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

About 4,000 fans remained from the sellout crowd of 19,000 who had filled Stadium Court for the beginning of the match, and they ended up rising out of their seats and bowing to the five-time U.S. Open champion, who came back from two sets down and 0-3, 15-40 in the third set.

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Said Connors: “I’m not 22 or 24 years old anymore, there’s no denying that, but . . . you’re going to have to kill me to beat me.”

McEnroe masked his disappointment, but barely.

“I thought I had the match won, and you know, if you think you got Jimmy Connors beat, that is the most dangerous point,” McEnroe said.

The match was still the talk of the tournament Wednesday afternoon, even in the mind of Patrick’s older brother. John McEnroe defeated Martin Laurendeau in straight sets Wednesday afternoon, then spent most of his time talking about Connors.

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“He is like a living legend,” John McEnroe said. “I think no one in tennis has the inspiration to have the longevity and the love of the game that he has got. I wish I had the love for the game as he does. That is what keeps him going when things are looking so bleak.

“There are guys like that so seldom . . . like when Pete Rose played baseball, the same mold . . . and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing at the top level for 20 years.

“It probably happens in a sport once every 50 years. I don’t know if any guy will come along (again). I suppose at some point someone will, but it is hard to foresee it right now.”

It was the seventh time in Connors’ historic career that he came back to win after losing the first two sets. The first time was 20 years ago in the first round of the 1971 U.S. Open at Forest Hills, N.Y., when Connors, then 18, defeated 35-year-old Alex Olmedo of Peru.

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Olmedo, director of tennis at the Beverly Hills Hotel, remembered that meeting with Connors.

"(Pancho) Segura told me Connors was going to be a great player, but I thought I (would have) a pretty easy win,” Olmedo said. “I remember so well, I had him beat, but even then, his main game was relying on his desire to win.”

Olmedo stopped playing Grand Slam events in 1972. Meanwhile, Connors is in the second round and will meet qualifier Michiel Schapers tonight. Connors will set another U.S. Open record just by stepping on the court--109 matches.


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