David Wheaton

Beginnings and Endings For Jim Courier

In the Tuesday, March 24 edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” we note a significant day in tennis history for Jim Courier. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), today marks the 18th anniversary of Courier winning the biggest title of his young career back in 1991 at then branded Lipton Championships (now the Sony Ericssson Open). Nine-years later in 2000, Courier wins his final match on the ATP, taking out 18-year-old David Nalbandian in the first round of the then-branded Ericsson Open (also the current day Sony Ericsson Open.) The full book excerpt is below.

1991 – No. 18-ranked Jim Courier wins the biggest title of his career to date, defeating David Wheaton 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. “I feel like I can compete with anybody out there,” says Courier following the win, which vaults him into the top 10 for the first time in his career at No. 9.

2000 – Jim Courier wins what eventually becomes his final match on the ATP Tour, defeating 18-year-old David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. “This is the golden twilight for a certain period of American tennis, but hopefully the dawning of a new era,” says the 29-year-old Courier following the win over Nalbandian, playing his first ATP Tour level match. “What are you going to do? I’ve been on the tour and this is my 13th year. Pete [Sampras] and [Michael] Chang the same. And Andre [Agassi] has been around even longer. People can’t expect us to be around forever. Hopefully we’ll be around competitively a few more years, but it’s the enjoy-it-while-you-can time of our careers. You start to get limited physically once you get into your 30s.” The next day, Courier plays what is his final professional singles match, losing to world No. 7-ranked Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.

1927 – In a match described by The New York Times as “spectacular and bitterly contested,” George Lott, the No. 9 ranked American, upsets U.S. No. 1 Bill Tilden 6-3, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win the Halifax Tennis Championships in Ormand Beach, Fla. Writes the Times, “Lott stuck stubbornly to his method of going after every return. Long rallies were frequent with Lott winning better than his share. Many of the game went to deuce. The large gallery was on the side of the 20-year-old ninth ranking player.”

1990 – Sixteen-year-old Monica Seles wins the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., – her second career singles title – defeating Judith Wiesner of Austria 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

1998 – Seventeen-year-old Martina Hingis saves two match points and comes back from a 3-5, 15-40 third-set deficit to defeat 16-year-old Serena Williams 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals of the Lipton Championships.

2005 – In a battle of the shortest and tallest players on the ATP Tour, five-foot-four inch Olivier Rochus of Belgium defeats six-foot-ten Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

2006 – American Meghann Shaughnessy, who loses her first five matches of 2006, breaks out of her funk at the NASDAQ-100 in Miami, upsetting No. 3 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 7-5, 6-4 in the second-round. “This one is very special because I’ve been struggling lately and haven’t been playing my best tennis,” says Shaughnessy, who doesn’t face a break point in the match. “So to go out and play a match like that against Justine, it means a lot to me.”

The Journeyman: Back to Beijing!

Mark Keil, director/producer of the tennis documentary that depicts life on the tour in the late 90’s, tells us about the tour event that is being played out in Beijing, China. The stop this week takes us to the home of chicken chow mein, where the player’s travel back to the far east.

This spectacle is a great place in that the tourist attractions for the player’s are endless. In 1997, I teamed up with TJ Middleton of Dallas. It’s quite a way’s to go play an event, but the tour provides free hotel rooms for main draw player’s at each event. The only major expense is the airfare; the tournament usually has a gratis meal plan for at least two eats a day. The singles main draw competitors receive a room for the entire week. The doubles players each get their own accomodations up until the night they lose.  When that happens, the player’s usually then bunk up and share a room with another guy until they leave to go onto the next tourney. Even at the future and challenger level do the male’s receive a free hotel stay.

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The entry level tournaments to the tour are similar to the mini tours in golf, and the minor league baseball system in the states. This housing system help’s out immensely with the player’s being able to make a living. They then can pocket most of their prize money without having too many expenditures. I got a chance to visit the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. The huge mural of the late leader of China, Chairman Mao, is an awesome sight to see. The event is now played at the ‘08 Olympic tennis venue. First round, Middleton and I played Byron Black and Jonathan Stark. Bryon won the NCAA doubles championships with Eric Amend for the University of Southern California. He was a stalwart Davis Cup player for his native Zimbabwe for many years. His sister Cara Black, is currently the No. 1-ranked individual doubles player in the world, and shares that position with her partner Leizel Huber. Stark is from Medford, Oregon, and played at Stanford along with competing for his country in Davis Cup doubles. He now lives in Seattle. He actually was the most normal person that ever played tennis at Stanford. Most of the other Cardinal were very peculiar. In the second round, we beat the unusually superstitious Dane Kenneth Carlsen and America’s David Wheaton. David grew up in Minneapolis, was a Wimbledon singles semifinalist, and played for the US in our sport’s version of the Ryder Cup.  He was a good hockey player, and now has a radio show and wrote a book titled “The University of Destruction.”  It theorizes that US college’s are warping are youth’s mind’s. We played well and won 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.

In the semifinals, Middleton and I lost to India’s current Davis Cup partnership Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. Mahesh was an All American out of Ole Miss, and used the scholarship he received there to improve his game immensely.  He now also own’s a major production company in India and  manages athlete’s and personalities.  Paes is still one of the most successful doubles player’s on the tour, having just won the US Open mixed title and reaching the men’s doubles finals’ as well.  TJ and I had great time there, cruising around the city and having a few Tsing Tsau’s in the evening’s.  We practiced hard though, and made around $7,500 each that week.  The odyssey continue’s and until next week, check out all of the result’s in the small print at the back of your local sport’s page.