Anyway, this tall, well built American scribe looked the perfect conduit to Connors for not only was he representing a major us radio network but he also appeared to know Jimbo well, being on first name terms with the legend during press conference.
Yet he explained, “Jimmy is not so hostile to the press these days. It’s just that he is so tied up with his NBC work his tennis and with so many other things that I suppose it won’t be worth trying here. You could try anywhere else but not at this year’s Wimbledon.”
If that was bad news, getting to Connors the official way –through the Wimbledon press office-was equally impossible. Much of it has to do with the All England club’s peculiar interview system: for barring the junior players, all interview requests have to pass by the Press Office whether it be Lendl or Sabatini or even an unknown player that you wish to speak with. After you enter your name at the Press Office if the list of applicants exceeds eight then an exclusive interview is impossible. Instead, you get a general interview if however the list does not exceed eight, (let us say instead five) the player concerned is given a choice-would he/she like to speak to them individually or collectively. As it is, such a system never works with the superstars for there are never less than eight journalists anxious for an interview. Yet, just as my dreams of an excusive interview with Jimbo appeared headed for the dustbin something happened. At a press conference one day, Jumbo joked, where do I go from here (tennis wise)? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that from here I go strait to the NBC tent. I have to do some commentary. NBC tent, I thought, here I come.
Despite not having the necessary credentials to enter the television press area after much persuasion I managed to convince the security guard to let me in. It appeared a futile exercise for Jimbo was still on the air and with the NBC tent situated bang opposite the kitchen’s garbage bin; waiting was becoming a rather smelly problem.
Then finally one hour and ten minutes later James Cott Conner made an appearance as I hurriedly blurted out my request he said why do you want this interview? Can you explain?
I had my answer ready: MR Connors this is my first grand slam tournament and it could be my last. I belong to a third world country and unlike other journalists we don’t have the opportunity to tour the circuit so this is a kind of once in a life time opportunity for me. If I don’t get this interview now I may never get it all.
Connors nodded sagely and said ok you came through the Press Office. When I explained that all such attempts had failed he replied then you have to take permission from NBC because I’m working for them. I don’t know in NBC. I argued and what guarantee is there that they will approve my request?
Connors the gentleman finally saw my point and beckoned to a fellow standing nearby (Bob Basche NBC’S liaison officer) and said Bob could you set up an interview with the gentle man in the coming two or three days.
Basche arranged the interview for the day after allowing me 18 minutes with Connors the only interruption being when he had to go off and interview Agassi himself.
It had been tough but I finally had my exclusive and moreover unlike many other top players, Connors did not charge me even a dollar. Why, he never even raised the topic. Such is the stuff that makes a legend.