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Going from lone wolf to open book

sports Updated: May 08, 2013 23:22 IST

Jimmy Connors showed signs of obsessive compulsive disorder and ocular motor sensory deficit as a child, long before he realized they were serious problems. He tried Gamblers Anonymous to curb a "fix" that still itches and took his grandmother's advice as a mantra: "Keep a little mystery about yourself in life."

Connors has finally decided to let the real world into the sanctuary he created on and off a tennis court. "The Outsider," an autobiography to be published by HarperCollins on May 14, is an engrossing five-setter on clay, with intense exchanges and no tiebreakers.

The Jimmy way
Connors, 60, makes few apologies for his aggressive style and behavior, although he does acknowledge several indiscretions, personal and professional. Not surprising, he also lines up friends and foes - some based on loyalties and others on perceptions that only someone with his East St. Louis/Belleville, Ill., background and take it-or-leave-it mentality could justify. "The way I played tennis was very frequently selfish," he writes.

He also borrows liberally from his overly protective mother, Gloria Connors, and a loving grandmother, Brenda Thompson, whom he called Two-Mom and who repeatedly told him, "You can get away with anything if you win." These strong, determined women, along with his wife, Patti, emerge as the foundations in Connors's often turbulent life.

The Connors voice in this 401-page account can be brash and defiant, far different in tone and temperament from most traditional sports memoirs.

Connors thrilled fans during his Hall of Fame career, which included eight Grand Slam singles crowns, 109 tournament titles, 160 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 men's player in the world and countless comebacks against players like Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and Mikael Pernfors and Aaron Krickstein.

Those fans will feel rewarded with his I-did-it-my-way theme. The unconditional love for his two children and six dogs (whom he calls "in-house shrinks"), and the ability to rebound from assorted injuries and family travails, may even surprise and touch readers.