Collected wisdom: Tennis legend Jim Courier

A television analyst, Courier a decade ago founded InsideOut Sport & Entertainment, which will produce the Champions Cup, set for Feb. 6 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
by Michael Baldwin Published: December 14, 2013

Jim Courier won four Grand Slam events (two French Opens and two Australian Opens), earning $14 million during a 13-year career. The current United States Davis Cup captain, Courier won 23 singles titles and six doubles titles. He spent 58 weeks in 1992 and 1993 as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.

A television analyst, Courier a decade ago founded InsideOut Sport & Entertainment, which will produce the Champions Cup, set for Feb. 6 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Champions Cup is a part of a men's senior tennis tour that encompasses 12 events over six weeks.

Courier was in Oklahoma City on Friday to promote the event that will feature John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl in a one-set semifinal. Courier and Michael Chang meet in the other one-set semifinal. The two winners play a one-set final.

I was so proud and humbled when the USTA offered me to the chance to be captain of the Davis Cup team. It's something I've dreamed about. The Davis Cup was always meaningful to me as a player. The semifinals is as close as we've come during my four years. We're doing everything we can to get to the finals.

A Davis Cup captain is like being on a company's board of directors. You're on the phone a lot. You text a couple of hours a week with players and their personal coaches. When it gets full throttle, I step in as a surrogate coach. I enjoy being in the heat of battle, which is the only time that really happens in tennis. I've really enjoyed it. It's been real educational for me.

Tennis has become an incredibly athletic game. Players that used to lack foot speed or size were able to compete. That's gone. You have to be fast, you have to be strong. You see a lot of juniors struggle when they make the transition to the pros. There used to be 20 to 30 teenagers in the top 100. Now there are very few teenagers in the top 200.

Globally, tennis has never been more profitable or more popular. Attendance at the Grand Slams is at an all-time high. The demand constantly has grown. The money they're generating is astronomical.

Tennis in the 1970s and early '80s when I was growing up had a lot of great personalities. It was popular here because America had a lot of high-ranked players. Now it's a seasoned tour, a global tour. There are very few tournaments in America compared to the way it used to be. It's fallen off the screen a lot in the United States.

Serena Williams is a bigger drawing card on American television than Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. Nowhere else in the world is that true. She brings in the casual sports fan. Americans want to see Americans win. That's why Americans don't watch Formula One (racing), one of the most popular sports in the world.

For tennis' popularity to rise again we need an American male player to capture the nation's imagination. They'll have to win not one major but multiple majors. I think that will (happen). If they have an engaging personality on social media it would do a lot for the sport in the U.S.

by Michael Baldwin
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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