For Jim Courier, champion tennis player turned commentator, heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open this year is personal.
IT is a clear but brisk 14C in Orlando, Florida, and Jim Courier is equal parts excited and nervous.
That is because at the time we conducted this interview, the 44-year-old American tennis legend was set to become a father, with wife Susanna due to give birth within days.
Courier is a former World No.1 with four Grand Slam titles to his credit, but those past achievements will pale against the joy of being a first-time dad.
By the time Courier travels Down Under to commentate at the Australian Open for Seven, he will have started a whole new phase of his life.
“We’re expecting a child any day now,” Courier says. “I imagine my feelings are exactly the same as any other father-to-be which is everything from excitement to trepidation – the whole gamut [of emotions].
“It [being a father] won’t even compare [to winning a Grand Slam].”
Australia has a special place in Courier’s heart. It is where he won two of those four Grand Slams.
When Courier defeated Stefan Edberg to win the 1992 Australian Open, he made headlines by jumping into the murky Yarra River.
Aussie fans warmed to Courier’s laid back charm from the start and that love affair has continued after his retirement from playing.
Courier’s expert comments and post-match interviews have been a highlight of Seven’s telecast for a decade.
For Courier, the Australian Open has become a family affair. “We love Australia,” Courier says. “Susanna was there last year. She brought her mother down. My father came down last year as well. They had a great time.
“Susanna won’t be there this year because we’re expecting a child.
“I expect in 2016 we’ll have a brood down in Melbourne.”
The Australian Open is a chance for the world’s top tennis players to make a fresh start and Courier can’t wait to see how the tournament plays out.
“Based on form coming out of the end of 2014, Novak Djokovic has asserted himself as the man to beat,” Courier says. “He has played so well in Australia, so I expect him to be favourite.
“Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro are both coming off an injury-riddled 2014. Will they be back to full speed?
“With Roger Federer it is a case of how long can he keep playing at the level we have grown accustomed to.
“On the women’s side, Li Na, the defending champion, is not coming back.
“Serena Williams, will she be able to regain the crown? She is always a favourite when she is healthy.
“There are a lot of great storylines for us to follow. It is always interesting at the beginning of the year where everyone is hopeful.”
Courier has kept busy since his retirement in 2000. He captains the USA Davis Cup team and plays in the Power Shares Series against former greats including John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.
Courier’s events company Inside Out Sport was recently acquired by Horizon Media. He founded the non-profit Courier’s Kids to support inner-city tennis programs.
Commentary duties for Seven, Britain’s ITV and a range of US TV networks fill in the gaps.
“It beats having a real job as far as I can tell,” Courier laughs. “I have been lucky enough to follow a passion and turn it into a career.
“Federer is the easiest player to interview because he’s so talkative, he’s so open.
“I want to give the players a chance to showcase their personalities.
“I love to come down to Melbourne and talk a little tennis.”
Part-time Aussie: Jim Courier loves visiting Melbourne for his Open commentating duties.