Jim Courier, an American story

Feb 12, 2013, 6:21:00 PM

"I just wanted to read it" On the 17th of November 1993, during a Masters match against Andrei Medvedev, Jim Courier occupied his side changes by reading Maybe the Moon, a novel by Armistead Maupin. A not so trivial...

"I just wanted to read it" On the 17th of November 1993, during a Masters match against Andrei Medvedev, Jim Courier occupied his side changes by reading Maybe the Moon, a novel by Armistead Maupin. A not so trivial episode since it marked the start of the hopeless decline of a player, and the rise of a new man.

"Life is too interesting to only care about tennis" If Jim Courier once said this, he hasn't always thought it. Pure product of the Bollettieri Academy, the American has long lived for the love of the little yellow ball, and only for it. And pretty well indeed. At 23 years old, he already had four Grand Slam tournaments and 58 weeks in the shoes of world number one under his belt. Even his classmate Andre Agassi, was far from such results. Compared to the handsome, fancy and already tortured kid from Vegas, the Florida's ginger looked a little bit redneck, a little bit rough, him who was holding his racquet like a baseball bat. A nice guy but that you could easily picture adding ice cubes in his red wine. His image and career were to change after two defeats in 1993. If no one has forgotten his unlucky finalist speech at Roland Garros against Sergi Bruguera (and the famous "Spanish cow"), the "Armistead Maupin"  episode is perhaps the most revealing of the changing perception from the world of tennis on the then world number two.  

E.T and the NAFTA

When he arrived in Stuttgart for the season-ending Masters, Courier looked quite poorly. Since his surprise defeat against Cedric Pioline at the U.S. Open, the 23-year boy was dragging around his misery. After a defeat against Magnus Gustafsson at Bercy, the American confirmed a certain weariness: "Currently, my best surface is my bed". No fun. And his defeat against Michael Chang in the Masters first round didn't help his mood. Then came the match against Andrei Medvedev. In a first set lost 6-3, he gave the impression of being elsewhere. His behaviour surprised the audience. Before serving, he turned towards his camp and said: "You know what's going on in my head? I'm thinking that NAFTA (the famous free-trade agreement in North America, ed) should be ratified." Enough to disconcert the observers and spectators. But the Stuttgart public still had surprises in store. In the second set, Courier took in his bag, between two bananas and a few racquets, something that looked like a book. Better still, he started to read it extremely seriously. A joke? Not even. The player didn't let go of his novel until the end of the game (that he lost 7-6 in the third set after having wasted four match points). When asked at the press conference the title of the book, Courier didn't let go: "It's my little secret" he said, while everyone knew that it was Maybe the moon,  the latest novel of Armistead Maupin, author famous for his Tales of the City. Inspired by the life of Tamara Treaux, the book tells the story of a dwarf actress crushed by Hollywood. If his name means nothing to you, De Treaux was the actress hidden behind the character of ET.  

A tennis rehab and Jean-Luc Godard

The relation between a broke actress of 2.5 ft. and a sports star of 6.2 ft.? At first sight, none. Initially, the double winner of the French Open didn't provide much more information to explain his behaviour: "I ​​just wanted to read it. It's a book I'm addicted to.” Courier didn't mislead anyone. Under the cap, something was wrong. His coach, Jose Higueras, was also ready to send him to the first psychiatrist on the way. "The fact that he's reading at the middle of the match perhaps shows where his mind is at the moment, he whispered. Jim is neither in the right mental or psychological state to deal with this type of player. He's still the same, but a lot of things happened since we started working together." Later, Higueras added that his student "needeed a detox from tennis." Criticized for his attitude during the match, Courier received a few days later the support of a very special tennis fan . "How could anyone blame him for reading between two exchanges? We should, on the contrary, have all signed a petition to support his action" said an offended Jean-Luc Godard. The rest of Courier's career is, to quote the Franco-Swiss director on some of his films "rather failed." At 23 years old, the American had already gone on the other side of the mountain. A few years later, he will say more about this reading at the middle of a match: "I wasn't well with my tennis, I needed to clear my mind.” Facing a first period of doubt on a career started on dreamy foundations, the former dorm mate of Andre Agassi then wondered if winning tournaments made ​​him a better person: "As an athlete, it becomes very dangerous when your self-esteem depends on your results." With this lunar episode, the ruthless hitter showed a more fragile side to his opponents. "When you talk about your feelings, it always turns against you" he said. "What a cruel world for the weak" could have said Tamara Treaux. By Alexandre Pedro