Jim still Open-hearted

Ten­nis com­men­ta­tor Jim Courier loves the Oz Open, writes Ross Brundrett

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

ASK Jim Courier whether his love af­fair with the Aus­tralian Open is start­ing to wane and he just about jumps right down your throat.

‘‘Are you kid­ding me? It’s like zero de­grees here in New York City. I can’t wait to get over there and get some sun­shine.’’

For the best part of the past two decades, Courier has been head­ing our way for the hottest Grand Slam event on the cal­en­dar.

The first was as a player (winning it twice) and, since 2005, as a com­men­ta­tor for Chan­nel Seven. This year he will once again join Bruce McA­vaney, Jo­hanna Griggs, Matthew White and his US com­pa­triot Tracy Austin.

The red-headed for­mer world No.1 has made quite a name for him­self with his straight-shoot­ing style and sense of fun dur­ing the player in­ter­views on court, but con­sid­ers his TV per­sona ‘‘a work in progress’’.

‘‘I think the play­ers re­spond be­cause they know I’m one of them and I do a bit of home­work. I’m like a lawyer, I never ask a ques­tion I don’t know the an­swer to.

‘‘I don’t do a lot of TV com­men­tary, just the US Open and the Aus­tralian each year and it’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tion in the US. . . (where) you are ex­pected to talk a lot more.

‘‘In Aus­tralia they say I talk too much so that’s one of the things I have to keep work­ing at,’’ he says over the phone.

The fact Courier com­men­tates on so few tour­na­ments means he keeps a fresh per­spec­tive on the game.

Cer­tainly, he re­fuses to be­lieve the sport has be­come bor­ing.

He’s heard it all be­fore — how there is no flair, and how to­day’s game has none of the char­ac­ters like McEn­roe and Agassi.

‘‘I’ll guar­an­tee that in 10 years every­one will be talk­ing nos­tal­gic-like about the good old days of Fed­erer and Nadal,’’ he says.

‘‘The fact is they hit the ball harder now than ever be­fore and they run harder than ever be­fore so no, I don’t think there is any­thing wrong with the way the game is be­ing played.’’

He ad­mits that serve-volley­ers were now al­most ex­tinct, but noth­ing short of a re­turn to wooden rac­quets and old strings would change that. ‘‘It would be like try­ing to put the tooth­paste back in the tube,’’ he says.

‘‘As for Hawk Eye, that has been tremendous for the sport and I wouldn’t change it in any way.

‘‘No, if you are ask­ing me what changes I would in­tro­duce to the sport then I would say noth­ing . . . it’s pretty well tick­ing all the boxes right now.’’

His tips for the open are No­vak Djokovic (‘‘he’s been very good in the sec­ond half of 2009’’) and the com­bustible Ser­ena Wil­liams, who re­cently lashed out at her $190,000 fine for abus­ing a lineswoman at the US Open, call­ing it ‘‘ex­ces­sive and sex­ist’’.

‘‘She’s the best woman player around . . . but that penalty was about right and it wasn’t sex­ist in the least. I don’t think there are any grounds for her claim that there are dou­ble stan­dards (be­tween the sexes),’’ he says.

Asked to nom­i­nate a player on the rise who might also get a few hearts racing, he of­fered up 19-year-old Dane, Caro­line Woz­ni­acki.

‘‘She was run­ner-up to Ser­ena in the US Open . . . and she’s easy on they eye.’’

And un­like past glam­our gals on the cir­cuit, most notably Anna Kournikova, Woz­ni­acki has al­ready proven her­self to be men­tally and phys­i­cally tough enough to mix it with the game’s best.

In Doha be­fore Christ­mas she fa­mously over­came a crip­pling bout of cramp to beat Rus­sia’s Vera Zvonareva in the $5 mil­lion sea­son-en­der.

‘‘I wasn’t scared. I was just think­ing, ‘How can I get up from here?’ It didn’t mat­ter which mus­cle I was mov­ing, I was cramp­ing,’’ the blonde teenager said at the time. ‘‘I wanted to reach the hands of some­one. But I wasn’t al­lowed to find my way up. I have ab­so­lutely no idea how I won.’’

Not that she is likely to get all the at­ten­tion at the Open, es­pe­cially now that Aus­tralian golfer Adam Scott is go­ing out with for­mer world No.1 Ana Ivanovic, al­ready be­ing dubbed ‘‘Aussie Ana’’.

Ivanovic, 21, has said she un­der­stands pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing her re­la­tion­ship with Scott will make her even more pop­u­lar.

‘‘I re­ally love it here and have been say­ing it for years — the crowds are very warm and knowl­edge­able about ten­nis,’’ she said.

FOR Courier, knowl­edge comes from con­stantly up­dat­ing per­for­mances on his lap­top and al­ways keep­ing an eye on new tal­ent.

Re­garded in his hey­day as an all-round player, on and off the court, Courier, 39, hap­pily ad­mits he has now set­tled down.

When he is not com­men­tat­ing or play­ing on the se­nior tour (where he is the No.1-ranked player), he is looking af­ter his sports pro­mo­tion busi­ness.

‘‘One day I would love to cap­tain the US Davis Cup team, but that’s about it. I cer­tainly don’t want to coach in­di­vid­ual play­ers on the cir­cuit,’’ he says of his am­bi­tions in the game.

He says he no longer has a pres­ence in the dat­ing game ei­ther af­ter find­ing his love match a cou­ple of years ago.

Which some­how brings us to the topic of Tiger Woods.

‘‘Yeah, I know him, but I haven’t seen him for years. Not since I played ten­nis with him at Todd Wood­bridge’s house, which was near his place,’’ Courier says.

And no, there was no en­tourage of gal-pals hang­ing around that day . . .

Net as­sets: (left) Jim Courier re­turns to serve at the Aus­tralian Open, nam­ing Dan­ish player Caro­line Woz­ni­acki (above) as one to watch.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.