After he appeared at an Indiana Pacers match-up against the Miami Heat in December, Jim Courier, a former No. 1 star in professional men’s tennis and four-time Grand Slam tournament champion, talked to us about his impending PowerShares Series exhibition downtown on Valentine’s Night. Joining him: the legendarily explosive John McEnroe, the classically stoic Ivan Lendl, and former Age of Love reality TV star Mark Philippoussis, another retired star of the sport.
Here we are at the Five Seasons Sports Club in Indianapolis. Talk about turning 21 in Indy. You probably have some vivid memories of the city.
I do. I’ve been coming here since I was 16. And I remember when there wasn’t much downtown. I remember when the Hyatt hotel was basically your only option. When the Spaghetti Factory was basically your only option for pasta. And as great as St. Elmo is, it’s not really the diet of a tennis player. So you go there at the end of the tournament or before [it] started. God, I remember so much. I remember my mom driving up from Florida to watch me play when I was a junior, with my little brother, who was like 3 years old at the time, all the way to playing Davis Cup here, being able to win the tournament here. I have any memories of going to the hospital for IVs when you got caught on a hot, humid day in August.
I remember vividly playing Boris Becker in a quarterfinal match. I’m pretty sure it was a quarterfinal match. But I had cramped up the day before against Jason Stoltenberg. I hadn’t gone to the hospital, and I cramped up again at night at the hotel. At this point in time, the hotel was the Embassy Suites. I came out to the courts, tried to warm up. My body hurt so badly that I just abandoned the warm-up, came in and told my coach, “I’m not going to play, I can’t play.” Then they got the [ATP] Tour trainer, Todd Snyder, who would become our Davis Cup trainer, to talk to me. He said, “We’re not going to put you at risk. But let’s 15 minutes before match time get you a jump rope, and we’re going to try to get you sweating and your body temperature up. And go out there and try to play. If it feels bad, or if you feel a risk, we’ll pull the plug.”
And I went out there against Boris and realized that I couldn’t move. So I just tried to hit every ball for a winner and threw him completely off. I won the first set, and should’ve won the second set. I think I served for the match once if not twice.