The Lipton International Players Championships started in 1985 in Delray Beach and was an instant success, gathering the most energetic field of players outside Grand Slams and offering colossal prize money and one of the most prestigious trophies of the season.
The first edition brought a lot of surprising results, with Tim Mayotte as the inaugural champion, with the tables turning in 1986 when the event switched to Boca West. Four of the top five seeds booked the place in the semis (best-of-five matches from the quarter-final stage) and both of those matches stayed incomplete!
Mats Wilander beat the fellow Swede Stefan Edberg 6-4, 1-0 as Edberg had to retire due to a pulled stomach muscle, with the second match of the day that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats for more than three and a half hours before Jimmy Connors got defaulted against Ivan Lendl while trailing 1-6, 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 5-2!
The 33-year-old American was known for his temper and it was even more manifested in the clashes against his Czech nemesis who ousted him in the last seven encounters starting from Wembley 1984. Two legends were battling for numerous times since 1979 although they never went into the fifth set in the official matches before this crazy one at Boca West, as Connors gave his best to stay in touch with the younger opponent who was in his prime despite the fact he stayed on the court for almost four hours against Yannick Noah in the previous round.
They set the battleground on Friday evening of February 21 and the result went back and forth to send the players into a deciding set, with heat and drama reaching the melting point. The crucial moment happened in the sixth game of set number five at 3-2 30-0 for Lendl when Jimmy played a nonchalant half-swing after Ivan's volley that the American declared to be at least six inches out.
Jimmy immediately stormed towards the chair umpire Jeremy Shales from Great Britain, who already struggled to keep the strings of the match in his hands after numerous questionable calls on both sides, demanding a supervisor of officials Ken Farrar and the tournament referee Alan Mills to appear on the court.
Before that, Connors refused to resume the action at 0-40 down, receiving a point penalty for a time violation that put Lendl 4-2 in front. Three code violations for a continuous delay of play followed and a game penalty for Jimmy gave Lendl a 5-2 advantage before Mills and Farrar appeared on the court to talk with an eight-time Grand Slam champion.
They pursued Connors to continue but the American just sat and did nothing, having to be defaulted after three hours and 43 minutes. He was automatically fined $5,000 for not completing the match and had to serve a ten-week suspension, missing all the tournaments in April and May before returning at Queen's.
Interestingly, it was the first default for Connors in his career that started 16 years earlier, with wrong information appearing on the ATP site about another one in February 1976 at a near-by Boca Raton against John Whitlinger.
Instead of default, Jimmy had to retire in that encounter after taking the opening set 6-4 due to a tendon injury in his left leg.