Jim Courier hoists the French Open Men’s Championship trophy (above).
Inside Tennis and The Tennis Channel are both reporting that former world # 1 and 4 time major singles champion Jim Courier will succeed Patrick McEnroe as America’s Davis Cup Captain, having beaten out Todd Martin and Brad Gilbert for the post.
Reliable sources indicate that Jim Courier — who heads a short list of candidates that includes Todd Martin and Brad Gilbert — will replace Patrick McEnroe as the next captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team.The 40-year-old former No. 1-turned broadcaster was quick to put his name in the hat following McEnroe’s resignation at the U.S. Open, saying, “Davis Cup means the world to me. And at some point in my life I certainly hope to have that seat. I’m definitely interested in the job, so hopefully they’ll give me a call and we’ll chat about it.”
Courier, who went a combined 17-10 in Davis Cup play in the ’90s, lost both his matches against Russia during America’s victorious run to the World Group title in Moscow in ‘95, but played the role of hero in ‘99 in Birmingham, England, where he posted a pair of dramatic five-set victories in lifting the U.S. to 3-2 victory over Great Britain. In one of the greatest post-tie celebrations, U.S. coach Tom Gullikson rolled around on the court hugging Courier, then single-handedly carried him around on his shoulders.
We applaud this decision, especially when considering the alternatives. Courier, a Floridian who now lives in the city, has been our pick since we learned who the candidates were. Todd Martin’s poor run with Novak Djokovic’s coaching team which destabilized the world # 2, set the young Serb back markedly. Martin was brought in to help the Djoker improve his serve, but in tinkering with Djokovic’s service motion, things went awry. Djokovic, whose serve was once considered a strength of his game, only began to regain his serving edge late this summer, months after Martin had already been dispatched.
Aside from his short tenure with Djokovic, Martin has little experience working with elite players. While the same could be said of Courier, who has settled in as an announcer, at one time for USA Network and currently for ESPN, we have no doubts that Courier will have the player’s attention on the American team. Courier, once upon a time, helped dispell the myth that Americans could not win on clay by winning back to French Open titles in 1991 and 1992, famoulsy upsetting rival Andre Agassi in the ’91 final.
Courier, a work ethic player with a big serve and forehand, was a guy willing to grind out, but who could also win free points and end points off either wing and at the net. In 1992, Courier won 2 major titles, and Courier made two major finals in each of the years 1991, 1992, and 1993. Courier, coached to his greatest successes by Spaniard Jose Higueras, who had short stints coaching both Sampras and Federer as well, may pick Higueras’ brain frequently on Davis Cup matters, considering that Higueras is now one of the USTA’s top coaches.
Courier once said that he was so determined to adapt to clay that he would practice on the surface for between 9 and 11 hours a day leading up to Roland Garros. That’s the attitude that the American squad needs. Young Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner would both seem to benefit greatly by Courier’s hire, as in all likelihood, they will be playing a lot of singles in Davis Cup over the next few years. The entire American stable of players would likely benefit, including impressive young Texan Ryan Harrison and rising American Mardy Fish, who all play styles similar to Courier’s.
Brad Gilbert was apparently also in the running for the job, and we are ecstatic that he doesn’t seem to be in line for the coveted spot. Gilbert, admittedly a “pusher”, or grinder, is uncomplicated as a coach, and has clashed with his last two big ticket clients, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray. His coaching style consists of imploring his players to just get it back, and many have griped at the emphasis Gilbert places on weight training. Gilbert likes to say that players should only come to the net “on their terms”, which produces a very boring style of baseline tennis that encourages passive play. That’s not the American style of play and is not a style best suited to American hardcourts.
In other quality tennis news, Rafael Nadal finally lost. Fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez bested the world’s undisputed # 1, 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in 2 hours and 45 minutes in the semis of the PTT Open in Thailand.