For whatever reasons, there are players who outperform the note on the day they hang the racket. Others, however, suffer the punishment of forgetfulness. And the truth is that we do not know very well how the balance is governed, if it depends on the titles, the charisma or the style of play, the truth is that Jim Courier He is one of those talents that over the years has gone unnoticed by younger fans. Four Grand Slam titles, two Davis Cups and 58 weeks of No. 1 should be enough to keep him in mind, but it isn’t. Yes, every time it arrives Roland Garros (or his dates) his name always rings out again. In an interview with Tennis.com, the American recalled his exploits in Paris, a place that transports him to the best stage of his career.
“Tonight he would have to be landing there to be ready on Sunday, when the tournament began,” he noted with regret in the talk made a few days ago. “I’m really down for not taking that plane tonight, so I hope we have a chance to be there later this season. Paris is a very special place for me, I love going back. ”
If we go back to 1991, the season where he had his first Grand Slam there, we find that this victory surely would not have been possible without what happened in March of that same year, where Courier also conquered the paintings of Indian wells and Miami. “Those two tournaments were the catalysts for him to believe that he could really go much deeper into a Grand Slam, more than he had previously. In my last two appearances I had stayed in the fourth round, I had never passed that round in a Slam, but in that Roland Garros I felt different, much stronger psychologically. I did not expect to win the tournament, but I did think I would have the opportunity to go far, “recalls the American.
His path to glory was not easy, especially if we stop in the third round, where an illustrious Swede was about to leave him out. “Magnus Larsson he was a very dangerous player. He came to have an advantage break in the fourth set, including some opportunities to place himself with two advantage breaks. I was almost sentenced, but somehow I slipped out of that fourth set and then I was able to materialize it all in the fifth set. It was the most dangerous round; once overcome, I felt like a cat with nine lives, “he says years later.
After Larsson, Stefan Edberg and Michael Stich they awaited their moment. “I was used to facing them on faster surfaces, so it was nice to have them face to face in conditions that were more favorable to me. It was my first time in a Grand Slam quarterfinal against Edberg. He was a great player, but had already defeated him previously in some key matches. Then with Stich it was funny, neither of us had ever been in the semifinals of a Slam, so we were both very nervous. Michael was a very good clay court player, a great tennis player overall. I was very happy to have overcome that duel, I could almost see the finish line there ”, he goes over in detail round by round.
Jim was planted in the Roland Garros final at the age of 20, but the victory was not yet assured. In the other lane, Andre Agassi He appeared with all the ballots to steal his sleep, just as he had done with the love of Nick Bolletieri, who directed their career. “The moment was tremendous, I didn’t even know how to react. The final seemed completely different to the other previous matches. My coach, José Higueras, described it as if he was playing frozen, but it was that reaching that trophy meant a lot to me. I struggled to get things going until the rain delay changed everything for me. ”
What happened to the rain? Nothing new; the one who was winning relaxed and the one who was losing took note. “Changing the tactics of returning his serve was essential to give me the opportunity to save time and be more solid in the exchanges. Andre was connecting too many winners to his serve, the dots were going too fast, they were too short and that was in his favor. “It was a great fight, I was able to turn the scoreboard several times until I ended up getting up and winning the fourth set 6-1. There I saw that he was getting more free points with the serve than he was, until in the fifth set, with 4-4, the final break came. Then of the longest 90 seconds of my career On that break, I left ready to serve better than ever to close the game, “he said of the key moment.
Courier would not let that opportunity pass and with 6-4 he became champion of Roland Garros. “There was a lot of emotion at that time, nor did I believe what I had done, I could not believe that all the work done during all those years had been carried out in this way. Being a Grand Slam champion is a feeling that accompanies you for the rest of your days. Then I did not relax, on the contrary, I tried to achieve more. It is true that I did not see myself as a player with wonderful shots, but I ended the year with strength, I felt very good, ”he says about the projection that success gave him.
Twelve months later, the Sanford man returned to defend his title in Paris, an added pressure that did not make him hesitate. “In 1991 I came to Roland Garros as a rising player, while in 1992 I came as world number 1. I arrived after winning the previous three titles in a row (Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome), which led me to build confidence until I saw the draw. I got a brutal picture, on the same side as Thomas Muster and Alberto Mancini, two of the great clay players of the time. I had confidence, yes, but I knew that that would not be enough to break through, it was like a curse, ”the American thought at the time.
But Jim did not wrinkle and kept pushing rivals as if nothing had happened. In the semifinals, one round earlier than in 1991, Agassi again crossed his path. This time, there was no fight. “I never expected to beat someone like Andre so easily. When you played against him you knew it would be a war, that’s why I was much more surprised by the scoreboard, but the experience of the 1991 final taught me a lot about how to neutralize him. I was all good that day, I felt like I could beat him over and over again, it is perhaps one of the best matches of my career. I reached the final with even more confidence, but I had a lot of respect for Korda. He was almost invincible when it was hot, but the clay gave me room to track his shots and spread the points, “says the two-time champion.
The double was already a reality, Courier was the king of Paris for another year, but the emotions were completely different. “It is a different feeling when you win a title the second time. It is more a feeling of satisfaction and not so much shock, that corresponded more to 1991, when I was champion without anyone expecting it. In 1992 I felt much safer, I was at the best moment of my careerI went on to win four tournaments in a row, so it was an incredible period for me, ”reflects the Eurosport commentator with pride.
But no streak lasts forever, although Courier’s was about to extend one more season, when he stepped on the Roland Garros final for the third consecutive year. “I was very proud to reach three finals in a row there but at the same time it was disappointing to have an advantage in the fifth set of the final and not manage to emerge as champion. I would have appreciated the fact of winning there for the third time but Sergi Bruguera He was a tremendous player: I ran out of gas and he reciprocated by melting me with his legs. ” Jim Courier, a great in victory and defeat.