Jim Courier, an American in Paris

Looks like Americans don’t like mud. The numbers show that the United States has only won four men’s titles at Roland Garros since the start of the Open era (Michael Chang in 1989, Jim Courier in 1991 and 1992, Andre Agassi in 1999) against fourteen. at the Australian Open. , fifteen at Wimbledon and nineteen at the US Open. Born and educated in Florida, Jim Courier, armed with his cap and his superpowered right arm, had no a priori reason to deviate from this rule. However, throughout his career, the American has been able to forge a special relationship with French clay and not just to speak French. This love for Parisian ocher began in 1987, during a junior Roland-Garros won in doubles with Jonathan Stark, with whom Courier also won the Davis Cup eight years later. Then it was strengthened in 1989, the year of the man’s first victory in a top 10 (Andre Agassi, defeated in the 3rd round). Trained as Jim Courier at Nick Bollettieri Tennis Acadamey, the Las Vegas Kid took his revenge in the round of 16 in 1990 before a grand victory in the final of the 1991 edition, scratched by surprise by all by Courier , then winner of his first. Grand Slam. The last ? No: the start of a two-year dominance of world tennis, culminating in a second Porte d’Auteuil title in 1992, lifted after a bulldozer-style tournament (a single set lost and an Agassi finally devoured). We are back fifteen days apart.

A stratospheric start to the year

When Jim Courier arrived in Paris to play his first game in the spring of 1992, he quickly realized that his rating had risen with a Parisian audience that seemed to have discovered him a year earlier. Logic: “The Rock” is the defending champion and has just finished first in the world over Stefan Edberg, whom he defeated a few weeks earlier in the Australian Open final. The Melbourne fortnight was just a taste: 1992 was going to be the year of the great Jim. Atomized during the round of 16 in Australia, Marc Rosset recalls: “ I take a beating. It hasn’t been unplayable that year since I won it at the Davis Cup and the Olympics, but in Australia it was much stronger than me, that’s for sure. I liked playing against him. I liked this challenge. It was hitting hard. In Australia, I remember as soon as I warmed up, when I was on the net, it hit me hard. You quickly sensed that he was there. “Let the Swiss be reassured: at that time, he was not the only one to suffer from Courier’s law, who only lost two sets at the Australian Open before turning to keep his title in the clay tracks of Rome. He is, therefore, a man with confidence and undefeated for sixteen consecutive days who packs his bags in France to defend his title.

A lost set to hold your crown

A first round of Grand Slam is never an easy task, even when the opponent, here Nicklas Kroon, has just come out of the standings. If Jim Courier plays Roland-Garros for the first time with the favorite tag, the pressure will only be felt during a first set where the Swede pushes the American to the tie-break. Courier wins tie-break before finishing his opponent in three sets. Kroon still doesn’t know, but he will be the only one to bring “The Rock” to the tiebreaker during this 1992 edition. in 1990 and winner of Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier – to Andrei Medvedev – winner of the juniors a year earlier – through Alberto Mancini, everyone fell under the blows of a detached Courier. Only Goran Ivanisevic was able (very) slightly to shake the beast during the quarterfinals. Even the semi-final against Andre Agassi was just a formality as the tennis world waited for a battle. And the final, then? Rebelotte: Against Petr Korda, the suspense lasted only a short time (7-5, 6-2, 6-1).

So where do you place this Jim Courier hit? First, the American is not the only player to have won a double at the Australian-Roland-Garros Open in the same year at the time of the Open since Rod Laver also did so in 1969. that Mats Wilander in 1988. He was also signed by Novak Djokovic. twice (2016, 2021). “The Rock” is also not the only player to have achieved the feat of completing his fortnight with only a small set on loan from Björn Borg (1978, 1980), Ilie Năstase (1973) and Rafael Nadal (2008, 2010, 2017 , 2020). ) have even done better not to give up any set of Porte d’Auteuil. However, this 1992 Roland-Garros remains in everyone’s memory because Courier will have managed to atomize seven opponents with a weight of 32 Masters 1000 tournaments and 11 Grand Slam tournaments by the end of his career.

An initial end of career

Behind this great success, Courier will experience a slight gap during the summer with the elimination of the third round at Wimbledon and the round of 16 of the Barcelona Olympics against Marc Rosset. Then the American will start again with a semifinal at the US Open, a sign of such a promising year in 93. Confirmation for the test with a beautiful new series: victory at the Australian Open, final in Roland-Garros, Wimbledon final. What Jim Courier doesn’t know, though, is that this is his last Grand Slam. Blame it on Sergi Bruguera and the rise of Pete Sampras. However, the redhead does not lose his smile outside the classroom, as confirmed by his friend Marc Rosset: ” We often met at his hotel. He never gave his name when making the reservation. It was still under names based on Quentin Tarantino’s filmReservoir Dogs. It was Mr. Pink or Mr. Brown. It was good. He also spoke French because he had a French girlfriend at the time. I also remember a discussion at the Barcelona Olympics while waiting for transportation. It was good. »

This smiling and nice character contrasts with the one on the wall who throws chocolates and dark looks at the track. ” Everyone wanted to win, he had a strong character and he was a bad loser, but I had no problem with him on the field.replaces the one who beat Roger Federer in the final of the Marseille tournament in 2000. He was still fair play. Me, someone who has personality, who wants to win and who makes you feel, that doesn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, it works well fights. Despite being 23 years old in 1993, Jim Courier already seems to be in decline. Physically, already, his game focused on power and base mines hurting his opponents less, but also mentally, the American seemed to lose motivation, as this match against Andrei Medvedev in the Masters of the end of the year 1993 where Courier reads a book at every change. sideways. No surprise to Marc Rosset: ” Sometimes he felt like he was asking too much. That’s why it may not have lasted as long as a Sampras. He was very focused on tennis, but he also had other interests in life. In the field, it looked like a machine and a steamroller, but outside, he played drums, guitar, to read. It wasn’t just tennis for him. »

An heir who is slow to arrive

Retired since May 2000, Jim Courier is still the only American to have won Roland-Garros twice in the Open era. A status that should be maintained for many more years despite the arrival of a new American generation on the ATP circuit (Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Sebastian Korda, Jenson Brooksby, Tommy Paul, Brandon Nakashima). Far, far away from what dominated world tennis in the 1990s. When we lost the 92nd Davis Cup final to the United States, there were Sampras, Agassi, Courier and McEnroeMarc Rosset recalls. Michael Chang was not caught and Sampras only played doubles. It was the Dream Team, you couldn’t play. “However, if the former US coach at the Davis Cup between 2011 and 2018 may not find his heir in Uncle Sam’s country, many players have been inspired by his game to hear Marc Rosset : ” Now there are more and more base beaters. Players who can relate to their style of play, there are a few, but the aura it had, the character it was, is harder to find. Now a commentator, Jim Courier, who no longer wears his hat, has not drawn a line with tennis although he has never competed in the famous Roland-Garros Legends Trophy. That doesn’t stop it from being a true Porte d’Auteuil legend.

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