Jimmy Connors: why I split with Chris Evert

NEW YORK: They were the golden couple of tennis, champions on the court and youthful sweethearts off it. But shortly before Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert were scheduled to marry in the mid-1970s, the wedding was called off.

Neither American discussed what went wrong, leaving tennis fans mystified for nearly 40 years. But Connors has now made a surprising revelation about the demise of the love affair between the world's No. 1 players in his new memoir.

Using barely coded language, he has indicated that his fiancee decided to have an abortion after he made her pregnant. He was 22 at the time, with a volatile bad boy reputation, while she was 19, the all-American girl from a devout Roman Catholic family.

"An issue had arisen as a result of youthful passion, and a decision had to be made as a couple," he writes in The Outsider, according to sections of the book quoted in the American media.

"Chrissie called to say she was coming out to LA to take care of the 'issue'. I was perfectly happy to let nature take its course and accept responsibility for what was to come."

In his version of events, Connors signals his bitterness that she took the decision alone. "Chrissie, however, had already made up her mind that the timing was bad and too much was riding on her future," he writes. "She asked me to handle the details."


He says he told her: "Well, thanks for letting me know. Since I don't have any say in the matter, I guess I am just here to help."

Their public romance had captured the world's imagination. When they both won the Wimbledon singles championships in 1974, the media named their collective achievement the "Love Double".

Connors says Evert's decision helped to end their relationship. "It was a horrible feeling, but I knew it was over," he writes. "Getting married wasn't going to be good for either of us."

He said he told her they were still young and should "take a step back". But in his account, she responded coldly: "OK, if that's what you think. I've got a match tomorrow. Not a problem."

But he says he does not believe a marriage between the two players could have worked out. "It kept going back to the same old question: Can two number ones exist in the same family?"

Connors, now 60, also discusses his battles with dyslexia, a gambling addiction and the infidelities that "came that close to ruining his marriage" to Patti McGuire, his former Playboy model wife of 34 years, with whom he has two children.

An issue had arisen as a result of youthful passion, and a decision had to be made as a couple.

Jimmy Connors

The book chronicles in lively detail his rise to tennis stardom and his adventures, love affairs and rivalries both on and off the court with fellow tennis players, including Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe and Bjorn Borg.

Evert, 58, who has not responded to requests for comment, later married three times. First to John Lloyd, the British tennis player, then Andy Mill, the Olympic downhill skier, with whom she has three sons, and finally Greg Norman. All three ended in divorce.

Both she and Connors went on to enjoy stellar careers. She won 18 grand slam singles championships and three doubles titles, while he won eight in singles and two doubles crowns.

Telegraph, London