TODAY   |  May 10, 2013

Jimmy Connors on abortion allegation: We were young

Tennis legend Jimmy Connors discusses his book “The Outsider,” and his decision to discuss an alleged abortion by then-girlfriend Chris Evert without her consent, saying “It was a part of my life.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> jimmy connors is a tennis legend. throughout his career he made headlines both off and on the court.

>> now jimmy is opening up, writing candidly about the highs and lows, holding nothing back in this memoir called "the outsider".

>> nice to see you. it's been a long time.

>> you came with gifts.

>> happy mother's day to you both.

>> thank you.

>> i know you're relaxed on this show.

>> appreciate that.

>> have a nice mother's day.

>> you had a long, interesting relationship with your own mother. your mother took a lot of heat for being your coach early on, didn't she?

>> well, she did. it was always okay for the fathers to come up and give joe montana a football or wayne gretzky a hockey stick , but for gloria connors to give her son a tennis racket --

>> she was a pioneer.

>> she was.

>> you tell a story in the book about how your mom coached you and two punks came up and basically started punching her. her teeth were knocked out.

>> right.

>> she didn't complain. didn't seem like a complainer in life.

>> she set a good precedent at the beginning. that set the stage for me in the way, you know, i continued to live my life. i was helpless at that time to do anything.

>> you were 8 years old at the time.

>> i was. i stood by and had to watch that. but the next day after going through everything she had to do, she got up the next day and played tennis with her sons.

>> let's talk about the thing that's controversial about this book. one thing about the book, the name chris vert comes up and i guess she's upset. here's what you write. you write an issue had arisen as a result of youthful passion and a decision had to be made as a couple. i was perfectly happy to let nature take its course and accept responsibility for what was to come. chrissie made up her mind that the timing was bad and too much was riding on her future. you don't use the word abortion but it is clear what you are talking about. why did you choose to tell the story?

>> well, we were young. we had a decision to make and a decision on where that was going to go. i'm happy to stay by that decision. i mean, it was something we had to go through. we were very young. there was a lot riding on that decision. you know, i was 21 or 22. chrissie was 18, 19.

>> she was 18. why bring it up in the book? it was clearly something she wasn't comfortable talking about?

>> it was part of my life.

>> did you ask her, jimmy? that's what people are concerned about. this is a private thing for a woman.

>> i understand that.

>> did you ask her?

>> i talked to her after. you know, when things were starting to come out. i didn't really talk to anybody to let them know what i was writing.

>> her response. she wrote, in the book jimmy connors has written about a time in our relationship that was personal and emotionally painful. i'm extremely disappointed he used the book to misrespect a private matter and made it public without my knowledge. i hope you understand that i have no further comment.

>> i can understand that.

>> did she speak to you after.

>> we spoke as the book was coming out. i can understand her disappointment and the way she feels. but, you know, it was the way i saw things. and the way i was looking back. you know, i waited until i was 60 to write the book. i had a good view of what was in there.

>> we should point out that is really a small part in a long life.

>> one paragraph basically.

>> i'm sure when you included it, you knew that was going to be the thing -- there is a whole other book, a ton of stuff you have been through.

>> 400 more pages to the book.

>> right.

>> there is a lot about my life and the way i lived it. i had a great life. don't get me wrong. but i think a lot of people see the raising of the trophies and everything you go through. even though the life was great, it was hard-lived. you know, i'm happy to write about that.

>> i sure watched you all those years. you and "nasty" as you call her and --

>> bjorn.

>> you and john mcenroe .

>> that was magic. the original bad boys of tennis, ladies and gentlemen .

>> we got a lot of criticism for that.

>> yeah.

>> i don't know if we'd fit in today's time with what we were trying to do and the way we handled ourselves. during that time we had a special time.

>> jimmy, thank you very much.

>> appreciate it.