In his new book, “The Outsider,” Jimmy Connors reveals that he had a serious gambling problem that led him to once bet $1 million that he would beat Martina Navratilova in their 1992 Battle of the Sexes match in Las Vegas. Connors bet that he would win in straight sets and lose no more than eight games.
“Betting on myself was the ultimate gambler’s high,” he wrote. “I was out of control and I didn’t realize it, though that bet should have been a big-assed hint.”
The rules of the match gave Connors just one serve and Navratilova use of half the doubles alley. Connors quickly found himself down 1-3.
Connors said that Bobby Riggs—who played in the first Battle of the Sexes match against Billie Jean King, and who was there watching him play Navratilova—also laid down a large bet, and during the fifth game appeared to be having a heart attack.
Connors said that once he began to turn the match around, “Riggs began to calm down and his breathing returns to normal.” Connors ended up winning the match 7-5, 6-2 and won the bet.
Connors also criticizes Andre Agassi, who had taken shots at Connors in his autobiography, “Open.”
“Tennis gave Agassi everything—his fame, his money, his reputation, even his current wife—and he went on to knock it in his book. All that playing up to the fans who provided him with an exceptional living—it was a bluff. For me tennis was all about standing out there and being honest, not pretending to be something I wasn’t. People admire Agassi for fighting his way back after dropping down the rankings in 1997. I get that. But you can also look at it like this. He should have never allowed himself to sink so low. He had a huge talent but when things got tough for a while, he put his head in his hands and let it beat him.”
Connors added that when Agassi walked into the U.S. Open locker room after his last match as a pro in 2006 (Connors was there, coaching Andy Roddick), everyone clapped for Agassi except for himself. “I wasn’t trying to deliberately disrespect him, I just didn’t care about him and he did affect my life in any way,” he wrote.