By Bill Simons
LEARNING TO LOVE BIG GLIB JIM COURIER: Jim Courier is an iconic figure and—along with Sampras, Agassi and Chang—a forehand-flashing member of the Fab Four, who led our greatest tennis generation. The former Floridian is now very much a Greenwich Village New Yorker. Courier has long been adept at creating big moments. He wowed ‘em in Paris when he gave his victory speech in French after winning Roland Garros. Tres bien! And after claiming the Aussie Open, he jumped into Melbourne’s polluted Yarra River. Tres wild!
More recently, Courier has brought tennis joy to many by creating the PowerShares Senior Circuit, in which seniors barnstorm the land. In America and Australia, he’s a talented broadcaster.
All the while, glib Jim is one of the wittiest, abrupt, and sassiest figures in the game.
In the middle of an interview on Saturday, when a respected BBC broadcaster made an inquiry, Courier interjected, “Why don’t you ask me a good question?” Earlier, a another reporter sensibly asked what Courier would advise Donald Young if it came down to Young playing a decisive fifth rubber. Jim replied, “It’s a secret.”
And, of course, there was Courier’s inventive exchange with Inside Tennis. It started after the Bryan brothers‘ win on Saturday, when we asked him this big picture question: “Today was wonderful, a feel‑good day. Congratulations, guys. [But] let’s face it, there are some problems. John [Isner, ranked No. 13] is struggling early in the year; Sam [Querrey] is at No. 49; Donald [Young] is 79; Ryan [Harrison] and Jack [Sock] have yet to really kick in. What can we do to really get American tennis fired-up and happy?” America’s Davis Cup captain responded by saying, “More magazine [sales], more interest. Do your job, Bill.”
Of course, Jim’s response should hardly have been a shock. Few others in the game have offered more creative, provocative and blunt comments. Here’s but a sampling:
• When a reporter asked Courier what went on during his sessions with a sports psychologist, Jim responded, “I could tell you. But if I did, I would have to kill you.”
• Courier said he had “a big problem with women officials. I don’t think their reflexes are fast enough to catch men’s shots. In my experience of women on the line, they don’t get to them.”
• Once, when he was asked to explain a precipitous fall in the rankings, Courier confided, “I should have never stopped taking those drugs. Once the East German doctor left my team, I’ve never been quite the same.”
• After Courier lost a tough match, a writer claimed, “You used to win matches like that.” Courier responded, “And you used to ask good questions, too.”
• Courier, who once challenged a British journalist to step outside at Wimbledon, confided, “I have the capability to be a jerk if I am pushed to be one. There are circumstances where I have to be a jerk because people are jerks … Frankly, there’s a lot of assholes in the press who have huge egos that get off putting players down. I hate when people ask me caustic questions.”
• Courier likes to play his intellectual card. Asked to explain the outcome of one match, he quoted James Joyce: “Not in time, place, or circumstance, but in man lies success.”
• Speaking of his literary leanings, during changeovers in a loss at the ATP Championships, Courier famously read Armistead Maupin’s novel Maybe the Moon. Afterward, he said his “concentration had never been better … I just felt like doing it,”
• At the ’97 Australian Open, there was the following dialogue:
Q: Jim, do you have a ranking goal in mind for the year ahead?
A: No, not that I care to share with you.
Q: Perhaps if we were better friends?
A: I don’t think that’s going to happen.
• After Agassi claimed Courier didn’t have any natural ability, Courier said, “I’ve been reading about how I don’t have that much talent. There are many different talents besides hitting a tennis ball. Having guts on the court is a talent, having desire is a talent, having courage to go for a shot when you are love-40 is a talent.”
JUST WONDERING: Who was Brit Andy Murray’s coach—the Czech-American Ivan Lendl—rooting for? … What happened to Sam Querrey’s once loud and rowdy backers, the Samurai?
THE DEAD TENNIS PLAYERS CLUB LIVES ON? A reporter told Jim Courier, “Great Britain hasn’t beaten you on American soil in over 100 years, since 1903.” He then asked, “How does it feel to be part of the team that fell short?” Courier responded, ”It feels great to be alive in 2014 … We certainly don’t feel a lot of kinship to the last team that lost to the Brits on American soil, since they’ve been dead a long time … It has nothing to do with us. We come to play on our own terms.”
SEEDS TOPPLE: Six Davis Cup seeds fell over the weekend: the US, Spain, Serbia, Argentina, Australia, and Canada. The US will find out in April who we’ll play in the Davis Cup relegation match.