Every morning during the U.S. Open, Richard Pagliaro will take a look back at a significant match that took place on that calendar day.
August 28, 1991: Jimmy Connors d. Patrick McEnroe, 4-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 (First Round)
When the sun went down in New York, the ultra-combative Connors exuded intensity with the brilliance Times Square emits light at night. The 174th-ranked wild card, who would celebrate his 39th birthday on Sept. 2, gave New Yorkers a night to remember with one of the most remarkable comebacks of his career.
Thousands of fans had already bailed out of the match when Connors looked like a first-round casualty, trailing 4-6, 6-7, 0-3, 0-40. McEnroe appeared to be in command; Connors had other ideas.
Throwing all of his guile, experience and court craft at the former ball boy, Connors roared back and took the few fans remaining on a thrill ride that ended at 1:35 a.m. Watch and listen to Connors’ precise footwork in the video above; his preparation and intensity still impresses.
“There’s no place in the world like playing in New York before a night crowd,” Connors said. “They want to see guts and effort and if you can give ‘em blood all the better. If you bust your butt and give them everything, they’ll give it right back to you.”
This match has become a bit of an urban legend around New York, as thousands claim they stayed for the duration, but watch video highlights and you can see how sparse the crowd was at the end. Connors would go on to become the oldest U.S. Open semifinalist since 39-year-old Ken Rosewall, who lost the final 17 years before to none other than Connors himself.
This match sparked Connors’ inspired run to the semis—several of his ’91 wins maintain an annual presence at the Open on jumbo screens during U.S. Open rain delays—as well as a wry response from McEnroe when recalling the match.
“People often come up to me and say ‘Patrick, I was there rooting for you during that Connors match,’” McEnroe has said in the years since. “I always say ‘Oh yeah, well where were you? I didn’t hear you that night.’”
This Date in U.S. Open History
August 27: The defending champion survives his opener (1985)
August 28: Jimmy Connors' legendary run begins (1991)
August 29: Pierce rises from the dead (2003)
August 30: Santoro, Blake put on a show (2007)
August 31: Agassi's final, epic victory (2006)
September 1: Sampras' win streak snapped (1997)
September 2: Doubles players announce lawsuit vs. ATP (2005)
September 3: Safin survives in breakthrough tournament (2000)
September 4: A bizarre Williams vs. Williams match (2005)
September 5: Unbreakable: Pete vs. Andre (2001)
September 6: A Seles-Capriati classic (1991)
September 7: The late show with Agassi and Blake (2005)
September 8: Venus' late comeback vs. Hingis (2000)
September 9: Sharapova feels pretty powerful (2006)