Thursday, May 22, 2008

Favorite French moment #3: Courier delivers

Here's the first (or I guess third, however you want to look at!) in my countdown. Two of my favorite tennis players of all time are Jim Courier and Andre Agassi. Those two are the ones I've tried to emulate most over the course of my playing, and are guys whose career stats I know pretty much like the back of my hand. This, as the headline above implies, is about Courier.

I had been following Courier's career since around 1989, and was ecstatic in 1991, when he won his first Slam in that classic five-setter against Agassi at the French. (Well, ecstatic might be too strong since he was going up against Agassi; maybe "hapy" might be better.) Anyway, this is actually about the 1992 French, when Courier put on what I feel was one of the most dominant performances in Grand Slam history—one, also, that gets totally overlooked in great performances.

Disregarding his first-round demolishing of Swedish journeyman Nicklas Kroon, Courier faced a murderer's row of opponents like none I've ever seen before or since, and over the two weeks only dropped one set against these guys! His final six foes would end their careers with a total of 61 clay-court titles (including all the major ones played on clay), multiple years spent in the top 10 and 11 Slams.

It first started with Thomas Muster: Perhaps you've heard of him, the former number-one player in the world who won 40 career clay-court titles? Courier beat him 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Then came former Italian and Monte Carlo champion Alberto Mancini. The result? 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. Next, Courier beat the up-and-coming teen Andrei Medvedev (who would go on to reach number four in the world and become a French finalist later in his career) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

After breezing through those matches, Courier had his first hiccup in the quarters against his old rival in the juniors, Goran Ivanisevic. Goran was the only one to take a set off Jimbo but still fell 6-2, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5. The semis was a rematch of the previous year's final, with JC taking on my man Andre, but this one was a lot easier: 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. (A note: Matches between those two were always the hardest for me to watch!)

In the finals, Courier played the surprising Petr Korda, who did well to get through a bottom half of the draw that had been completely wrecked. Courier took it 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.

Now, take a look at those players and what they went on to do in their careers. If anyone can find a display of dominance by ANY Slam champion over the years on the men's side, you're a better man than me!

And before I forget: You know that little victory speech custom that's been done over the years of addressing the crowd and sponsors in French? Well, it started here with a 21-year-old kid from Sanford, Fla., kicking it off!

(Thanks to the ATP for those scorelines: My memory's good, but not that good!)

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