Tennis Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors says he had a serious gambling problem that included betting $1 million on himself in the 1992 Battle of the Sexes match against Martina Navratilova.
In his new autobiography The Outsider, Connors says he bet that he would beat Navratilova in straight sets without losing more than eight games. He had to do it getting only one serve, with Navratilova using half the doubles alley. Those were the Battle of the Sexes rules.
Connors lost three of the first four games before winning 7-5, 6-2 to win the bet.
“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.”
Bobby Riggs, who was watching the match in Las Vegas and who had played a Battle of the Sexes match against Billie Jean King in 1973, also wagered big money on Connors. When it was 3-1 Navratilova, Riggs appeared to be having a heart attack, according to Tennis.com.
Connors rallied, and “Riggs began to calm down and his breathing returned to normal,” the book recounts.
In an interview with ESPN.com, the 60-year-old Connors was asked whether he felt like throwing up as he stared at a possible $1 million loss.
"No, but that's the feeling I was looking for," he said. "I was trying to find that daily thrill, especially after I quit playing, even if it was just three seconds. And then it doesn't always happen. So then you just chase more. ... Whether it was watching a basketball game or a football game, or [playing] cards or rolling dice or whatever."