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What Really Happened During The 1983 U.S. Open Final

So what really happened during the 1983 U.S. Open men’s singles final? As you may recall, Jimmy Connors, playing in his seventh – and final – U.S. Open singles final, was hobbled during his match with Ivan Lendl with major foot problems and left the court in the third set after with what he later described as a case of diarrhea. Was Connors lying?

Donald Dell, the tennis agent supreme, founder of ProServ (now BEST) and Connors agent at the time, tells the REAL story behind the curious events that unfolded as Connors won his record fifth Open title in his entertaining and useful new book called NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER (Portfolio Books, $25.95 click here to pre-order).

This Saturday in Newport, R.I., Dell will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, along with Monica Seles, Andres Gimeno and Dr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson.

Connors was diagnosed with a blood blisters and the morning of the Open final and could not run or practice. He said he was going to default the final to Lendl. Dell, who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week in Newport, R.I., wrote “The growth of tennis really started to plateau, and I could see this non-finals really hurting the game.” So, the day of the final, Dell got in touch with a trainer with the New York Jets who recommended Connors take a shot of xylocaine, a sort of “souped-up novacaine.” Dell presented Connors with this option and he agreed not to forfeit the final to Lendl. The only problem with the shot was that it only lasted about 90 minutes before the effects would wear off and the pain would return. Should the match go longer than 90 minutes, Connors had to somehow get off the court so the trainer could administer another pain-killing shot. Players are authorized to leave the court for one bathroom break during a match, so when the pain-killer would begin to wear off, Dell orchestrated for Connors to take a bathroom break, where the trainer would be secretly hiding in the bathroom to administer another pain-killing shot. After Connors won the first set 6-3, he lost the second set 6-7, and at 2-1 in the third set, he began to limp noticeably on court. Dell signaled for the trainer to make his secret move to the bathroom to wait for Connors. While Lendl protested in vain that Connors should not receive medical treatment, no tournament officials followed Connors off-court into the bathroom. Another shot was administered and Connors went on to beat Lendl 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 6-0 to win his fifth Open title.

Wrote Dell, “Afterward the official doctor for the Open came up to me and said “Donald, I don’t know what you did, and I don’t want to know,” I said, “If that’s the way you feel, fine. But I can live with what I did.”

Connors, in his post match press conference, was asked why he left the court, and answered “I had a horrible attack of diarrhea.”

Now that’s a genuine behind-the-scenes story.

In addition to other fascinating stories and anecdotes, NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER is an excellent read and must-have for tennis and sports business enthusiasts.