April 18, 2005, 1:32AM
Agassi, Courier do Waylon/Willie act
Old gunslingers join forces for Westside doubles
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Andre Agassi and Jim Courier go way back. Way back, which makes their doubles debut tonight all the more special. These famous thirtysomethings have got some serious history between them.
Agassi bloomed first, to be sure, but the gap closed quickly.
"We grew up together (in tennis) from 8 years old," Agassi says. "There were a number of years there when I was playing at a much different level than he was and never considered him to be a threat.
"And then, all of a sudden, I played him in Kalamazoo, (Mich., at the U.S. nationals). Boy, he just dropped a match on me that I'll never forget. Then the first time I played him professionally, I realized, 'This guy's the real deal here.' It was pretty clear to me."
It was made all the more clear when Courier, rallying from a two-set deficit in the 1991 French Open final, beat Agassi for his first Grand Slam title. The redhead from Florida would win six of the last seven meetings in their rivalry, although Agassi took the final one in the 1996 Australian Open quarters.
Agassi, 34, had just three Slam titles then to Courier's four. But Courier, who is almost four months Andre's junior, was already fading. It was as far as he would get in any major before opting to retire after the 1999 ATP season, citing burnout.
"Jim had a great work ethic, and he had an ability to punch in the clock every single day," Agassi said. "You know, there's still room for guys on the tour that are just willing to work, and he did it with a fair bit of talent, to say the least."
Agassi was the instigator in this doubles adventure that will pair a pending Hall of Famer — Courier will be inducted in July — with a certain future member of the Hall.
After they defeated Mardy Fish and James Blake, the defending Clay Court champions, in a 7-5 exhibition set before the recent Nasdaq-100 Open, the nagging began.
"Andre's a detail guy," Courier said, "and he's pretty persistent. He had it all mapped out, everything set up. Security clearances, the whole bit. He kept asking me, 'Are you in or out?' He didn't leave me much choice."
Their only experience as a team before the Miami fund-raiser last month was practice matches during their Davis Cup years. But the game plan is in place. Agassi will play the ad court so, Courier said, "he's in charge of all the important points."
That old Baylor (service) line
Baylor's two best players, Benjamin Becker and Benedikt Dorsch, were participating in the River Oaks International, but the Bears stayed undefeated without them and recently won their 46th consecutive match over two seasons.
Under director of tennis operations Matt Knoll, the defending national champions remain atop the Intercollegiate Tennis Association college rankings for the 12th week in a row.
Baylor (24-0, 6-0) swept Texas Tech at Lubbock on Saturday.
Another Houston event?
Jim Courier's acceptance of Andre Agassi's invitation to play with him in Houston could serve a dual purpose.
Could Courier also announce that a Delta Tour of Champions event will be played at Westside in the fall, giving the club an event to replace the Masters Cup, now in Shanghai?
"Can't say yet," Courier said, being coy.
Expect an announcement before the week is out. And chances are it won't be to tell us a deal didn't get done with Jim and Linda McIngvale.
Courier was once the No. 1-ranked player on the 35s tour in 2004 but has participated in just one of the three Delta events this year.
West Point wonders
Three cadets from the Houston area are contributing to Army's women's tennis team, especially Marissa Limsiaco of The Woodlands, who has become the only player in Army history to win more that 100 doubles matches.
Her younger sister, Christine, and fellow freshman Diana Alquero of Sugar Land are also on the team.
Juniors seeds set
The super championship junior half of the Houston Coca-Cola Open tennis tournament begins Thursday at eight sites around the city.
Top seeds in the two draws of the super championship boys 18 singles are Aaron Carpenter of Katy and Zach Nichols of Joshua. No. 1 in the super championship girls 18 singles is Lauren Lui of Houston.
Andre Agassi forever