The Last Word: Jimmy Connors
Credit: Mitch Haddad / Getty Images

What's the best advice you ever received?

Always keep a little bit of mystery about yourself. My grandmother told me when I was young: "Nobody ever needs to know everything there is to know about you." That's always in the back of my mind, not only with tennis, but my life. On court, a lot of people thought they knew me, but deep down they didn't, and that played a big part in my success.

In your book 'The Outsider,' you write about watching your mom and granddad being attacked by thugs on a court and how that anger stayed with you.

It burned a scar in me. I don't know if that was good or bad, but it fueled me. Whether I could have been the player I was without that anger, I don't know. I don't remember ever being without it.

You were among the first to take the politeness out of tennis, and that horrified some people.

Back then, tennis was a country-club sport. It wasn't on par with the other sports. It needed a facelift. We had to appeal to more than just the audience we had. We had to grab hold of the real sports fans. We had great players, but it needed to get down and dirty.

And you loved being center of attention...

Well, hell, yeah. That's what it's all about. Being number one. Being famous. Grabbing the spotlight. I was a part of an era that built a sport, and I loved it.

How should a man handle losing?

Losing was unacceptable. Some guys handle it better than others. I wasn't one of those guys. If losing becomes part of your everyday life, it takes away the reason you're out there: for the fight and for the excitement and to prove that you're better than the other guy.

How should a guy treat his rivals?

I had true rivalries. Not only did I want to beat my opponent, but I didn't want to let him up, either. I had a rivalry with Mac, Lendl, Borg. Everybody knew there was tension between us, on court and off. That's what's really ingrained in my mind: This is real. This isn't a soft rivalry. There were no hugs and kisses. To this day, with Mac, as friendly as we are, there's always gonna be tension there. It keeps you on your toes. There's nothing boring about that.

When should a man raise his voice?

My problem is I probably have done that way too much and way too often and way too loud – when it didn't really matter. As I've gotten older, I've learned that you save it for things that really mean something.

What's the one thing every man should know about women?

You're probably asking the wrong guy. I was lucky to get one! I was raised by two women, and that laid the groundwork for the way I treat 'em: with the utmost respect and admiration.

Did you ever hate tennis?

Never. There was never anything I wanted to do more than play tennis. Never once walked out there and thought, I wish I was doing something else. Not once.

How should a man approach getting old?

Gracefully, and I say that because I'm fighting it every day. Whether you believe in the hereafter or not, I like it right where I am, and I'm gonna do whatever I can to hang in as long as I can.

What do you think your legacy will be?

I think my greatest victory was every time I walked out there, I gave it everything I had. I left everything out there. That's what I'm most proud of. I can't go win Wimbledon anymore, so if what I've done in the past is not good enough, let it go. Because I'm certainly not sitting around thinking about it.