Jim Courier: Tennis-X One-on-One Interview
By Richard Vach
Posted on September 11, 2004
Former No. 1 Jim Courier has made the transition from prickly personality (during his last couple years on tour) to one of the premier television commentators in tennis in the U.S., covering the Athens Olympics for NBC and alternating between studio and court-side commentating for USA Network's coverage of the US Open. Courier is developing into a smooth on-air personality with original insight and, like fellow commentator John McEnroe, an affinity for calling events like he sees them.
Tennis-X caught up with the two-time French Open winner as he emerged from the USA Network studio in the tunnels beneath Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open, wearing a jaunty beret and a long-sleeve dress shirt hanging out over jeans:
Tennis-X: Thanks for taking the time, Jim.
JC: I like your site, it's inside, man, it's way, way inside -- it's good.
(Courier gives a shout-out to a passer-by good-naturedly ribbing him about an interview with Sargis Sargsian, with Courier laughing that he hadn't brought his "A"-game.)
Tennis-X: As an announcer, you're kind of coming into your own...
JC: Am I (smiling)?
Tennis-X: You're relatively new...
JC: Yeah, I don't have a lot of reps...
Tennis-X: Do you feel a responsibility, or is there something you want to get across as an announcer -- do you think there is a way the game should be presented?
JC: Well, I don't have a ton of control when it comes to producing shows, so what I'm in control of is what's coming out of my mouth, based on the pictures I'm presented with. I love to help the game because I love tennis, I don't want to hurt it by being overly negative, but I do have an obligation to tell the truth and I believe in that. I believe if something bad is happening or if something inappropriate is happening, I believe it's my job only not to sugarcoat it, but to let people know this is happening and why, more importantly the why part. It's really easy to slam people and not give context for what's going on, and I think it's important that people know big-picture wise. There are going to be times that you can't cover up that Marat Safin's tanking and you just have to call it out. On the other hand I want to be fair and balanced when the player is doing something on the positive side that might balance that out, I'd like to point that out as well. I just want to be real truthful and I want to be candid, but I want to be fair. Sometimes it's easy to get on a negative vibe up there and stay with it. I really hate as a viewer when people are just "homers," you know, when they are just rah-rah cheerleader types, when you know it's illegitimate. So I try and just be myself within those guidelines of looking for the different truths and trying to present it, that's how I see it.
Tennis-X: What do you think about (ATP CEO) Mark Miles stepping down in 2005?
JC: I think it's time. Personally I like Mark Miles, I think after the ISL (marketing) debacle he's been in there longer than he should have been. It's a tough job, I'm not suggesting what he's been trying to do is easy by any stretch. But I also think it's time for a change, we need a visionary, we don't need a politician. We need somebody who can take the game, step outside the box and say we're competing against these other sports. How do we raise the profile of tennis? Because we've been lapped -- over the last 15 years we've gotten lapped.
Tennis-X: The American CEO of the ATP is stepping down, there are no U.S. players on the (ATP) Player Council, they've all been voted off -- which way is the wind blowing?
JC: Oh it's going east. It's definitely going east. It'll be going to -- is Europe west? (looks around to get his bearings) Well, it's east as far as I am standing right now. I'd be shocked if the next CEO is not from the (European) continent.
Tennis-X: Do you see the ATP headquarters moving?
JC: Why not? What is Ponte Vedra (Florida)? It's a bad idea. Ponte Vedra is a bad idea. If we have headquarters in American they should be right here (at the US Open National Tennis Center). This is where the money is in America, this is where all the advertisers are, where all the media is, it's all here. If we want to be a big-time sport we need to be right here. We're big business, it's time to act like it.
Tennis-X: Can I ask you a personal question? Why are you so happy?
JC: Why am I happy?
Tennis-X: Yeah, your last couple years playing, a lot of people described you as "difficult." A lot of people at the ATP who handled you, handled the players said "Jim's not happy, Jim's not...
JC: OK, well I think you answered that question as to why I was unhappy. When you're not playing well and you have injuries, it's not easy to be positive on the road, it's kind of hard to feel good about it. Where I came from in the last 12 months, every day looks like a rainbow to me after my shoulder injury. Last year when it didn't look like I was going to be able to do much of anything, the doctors were not super-positive with my prognosis, and (since then) I've found a new start. I worked hard to get my shoulder back in place, and I've pushed my life in a new direction. I am happy, thanks for noticing.
Tennis-X: It comes out in your work.
JC: Life takes you in different places. I hate that perspective thing, but when you bounce back, perspective only comes from diversity and tough scenarios. I had a really rough six months, and the last six months have been really great.
Tennis-X: You must be over the injury because what's the story with showing up as your first senior tour event and winning it?
JC: Well, I am over it, in many ways I'm not 100 percent but that was fun, that was great. I got to play in Spain a couple weeks before that at the Senior Nations Cup and it was just really rewarding for me, doing the work and therapy then being able to do something that I thought might have been taken away from me. I play with a really light heart out there right now: if I lose I lose, if I win I win. I'm still enjoying interacting with the fans and taking it in a way that I hope comes out and the people enjoy it, because I know I'm enjoying it.
Tennis-X: Thanks for you time Jim.
JC: Keep up the good work, don't get blasted out with too many people and go down on me like you did three night ago (referring to the Tennis-X site crash during the first week of the US Open).
Courier began his television commentating career in 2001 as an analyst during TNT and CNN/SI's coverage of Wimbledon, and also serves as an assistant coach to U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. Courier was born in Sanford, Florida, and currently resides in New York City.
Leave a comment: http://www.tennis-x.com/viewcomment....xct=c&xrid=227