Courier wins new friends with Masters title triumph

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The Independent Online

We may not be able to see the 45-year-old John McEnroe play Father Charisma in the Masters Championship for much longer, but patrons of the year-end festival of tennis and fun will hope that other former greats at least try and fill the void.

There is only one McEnroe, of course, just as there is only one Jimmy Connors, who did his best to ignite the senior tour in America, but that does not preclude others from providing a December treat. Pete Sampras is one who has made a tentative enquires about entering, but there may be those who would regard the man with 14 Grand Slam titles as boring.

"Boring" was the word used to describe Jim Courier by a sports columnist on the BBC at the weekend, possibly a reference to the young Jim Courier, who made his name and fortune chiefly on the baseline.

The current Jim Courier, who has been approached to join the Beeb's Wimbledon commentary team, played his way happily, co-operatively and decisively through the Masters last week, and yesterday picked up the winner-take-all prize of $100,000 (£53,000). The American defeated Thomas Muster, of Austria, in the final, 7-6, 6-4.

Courier, 34, and Muster, 37, are ranked No 1 and No 2 on the Delta Tour of Champions and are among the younger competitors, so it was no surprise that they both advanced to the final - except that Muster was lucky that Anders Jarryd had to retire injured from their semi-final on Saturday when one set ahead after hurting a shoulder.

Courier was regarded by many as a "blue-collar" world No 1 in his prime, with a style which favoured slower courts, but both men coped admirably with the fast indoor court here and also proved capable of improvising shots they would not have attempted on the ATP Tour. Courier, moreover, produced a glorious backhand cross-court half-volley in his semi-final win against McEnroe, 7-5, 7-6. "It took me 34 years to hit that shot," he said.

The rallying yesterday was hectic, and both men indulged in friendly banter, partly, one suspects, to buy time for their limbs. Courier took the first-set tie-break, 7-5, and broke for 2-1 in the second set. During the presentations, he congratulated Muster on his display and thanked the spectators for helping make the event such a success.

Remembered for celebrating his Australian Open triumphs by diving into the River Yarra, Courier is too much of a grown-up nowadays to suggest that he will follow suit in the Thames.