1. Archive

Courier humbled to end up in Hall of Fame

Published Aug. 24, 2005

Jim Courier was a relentless fighter.

He pounded the ball like few in the sport and his signature shot, a powerful inside out forehand, froze countless opponents. In his prime he ranked as the world's No. 1 player, won four majors and earned millions in prize money.

Not bad for a kid raised in Dade City.

"I could never have hoped for anything more in my life," Courier said.

The bonus came Tuesday when Courier, who visits the bay area often but splits time between his New York and Orlando homes, was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. At the July 9 induction in Newport, R.I., he will be joined by Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna and Butch Buchholz.

"From Dade City to Newport is not a direct line," Courier said Tuesday by telephone from Australia, where he is preparing to work the upcoming Australian Open as an announcer. "It's overwhelming to think about going into the Hall of Fame with all the greats, all those people I looked up to as a child. To even be mentioned with them is a little scary."

But certainly fitting.

Courier, 34, won the French Open in 1991-92 and the Australian Open in 1992-93 and spent a total of 58 weeks ranked No. 1. In 1992 and 1995 he helped the United States win the Davis Cup. He joined fellow Americans Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang in dominating a decade of the men's game, and was both the first of that group to win two Grand Slam tournaments and the first to be ranked No. 1.

His favorite moment?

"Winning the final point to win the Davis Cup for the U.S. in 1992," Courier said. "It was such a big moment, and my teammates were (John) McEnroe, Agassi and Sampras. To be able to clinch for that team was very special."

Courier, who grew up idolizing Bjorn Borg, had many other memorable victories but few were bigger than his straight-sets win in the 1991 U.S. Open semifinals against 39-year-old Jimmy Connors, who had made an improbable run to the final four. "Of course (the fans) were (going for Connors) and I was secretly rooting for him, too," Courier said in a Times interview last year.

At the 1992 Open, Courier was asked if he could see himself playing competitively at 40, to which he responded, "Definitely not." He quit tournament tennis in 2000.

Today, Courier not only works in TV but is a partner with Inside Out (a sports and entertainment company) and works closely with the Raymond James Courier's Kids Foundation, a charity that benefits the St. Petersburg Tennis Center.

"It's hard to think about (tennis) in a series of snapshots," Courier said. "It's really easier to think about it in a big picture. The ride tennis has given me has been unique and incredible. It's not just the matches you win, but the matches you lose, the people you meet, the places you get to go."