Courier and friends hit the First Niagara Center
It’s not every day you get to speak with a true sports star, especially one like Jim Courier. Ranked number one in ’92, Courier is a former professional tennis player with a sterling resume. His first Grand Slam win came in 1991 at the French Open and he never looked back.
Now, he’s ready to hit First Niagara Center for a stop on the 2011 Champions Series tour. The Buffalo appearance will feature John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jim Courier, and Michael Chang, who will compete against other major names throughout the tour.
Courier recently chatted with Spree about the tour, his very busy “retirement,” and what he loves about the sport.
You’ve won the French Open, the Australian Open, and two Davis Cups, and you’re even a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And clearly, you still love playing. Is the Champions Series exciting for you?
Technically, it’s my first time competing in Buffalo … It’s a big stop there, First Niagara Center. I like to play, I like to compete, and I love to play against my peers, so it’s going to be very fun. It’s a competitive circuit, so we have twelve tournaments, and the players are competing for a million-dollar bonus pool. The first player to finish his first tour will get $500,000, $350,000 for second, and $150,000 for third. So there’s money and pride on the line, and we’re competitive creatures. I [get to] exercise my competitive instincts and go out and play high-quality tennis against guys that I respect.
What’s the best feeling when you are on the court? Is it the sounds—the sound of the ball as it hits the court, crowds cheering, the silence?
I think what I like most of all is the feeling of making solid contact with the ball and having it go exactly where you want it to. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens frequently enough to give me a good rush, and there’s a visual pleasure to that for sure. … In tennis, the ball is always moving, [and so] you’re constantly making adjustments. That’s one of the great challenges of the sport, to get your hands in the right spot, your feet in the right spot … When it all comes together and you execute a shot perfectly, that’s a rewarding feeling.
Since you’ve retired you’ve been quite busy as a player, tennis analyst and commentator, and you’ve also founded InsideOut Sport & Entertainment and Courier’s Kids. Do you think of yourself as “retired”?
I think that it’s a bit of a misconception to think that someone like myself is going to retire cold turkey at the age of thirty and not do anything else. So I think it’s more of adjusting priorities and looking for other challenges and other things to do. I feel like I live a very complete life. I get to exercise my competitive tennis instincts on the Champions Series, I get to stay involved with the major championships like the U.S Open and the Australian Open via commentary. I get to stay involved with the younger players, and the business side. I am very much not a retired person; I’m quite busy, and I like it that way.
7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 22, at First Niagara Center, One Seymour H. Knox III Plaza; for tickets, call 888-223-6000 or visit www.tickets.com.