Jim Courier, all of 18 years old, hadn’t been on tour a full year when he found himself across the net from John McEnroe for the first time in the quarterfinals of an indoor tournament in Detroit in late 1988.
McEnroe, the lithe, fiery left-hander, was ranked 14th in the world, three years removed from his last standing as world No. 1. Courier was at the beginning of a career that would include four major titles and an ascent to the No. 1 ranking in 1992 – the first by a U.S. men’s player since McEnroe.
Now 43, Courier recalls a fair amount of publicity and energy surrounding that Friday night match, and McEnroe “came out fired up.” The veteran claimed a 6-2, 6-4 victory over the rookie and, Courier said, “intimidated the heck out of me.”
“John has an aura about him, a force field about him, and that’s still there today,” Courier said this week. “It’s unavoidable when you’re young and impressionable.”
These days neither can claim the former, while Courier shed any labels of the latter by beating McEnroe in their only other two meetings on tour. Tonight, they will meet again for a one-set match indoors on the PowerShares Series circuit, which visits Sleep Train Arenaat 7 p.m.