ATP Legacy: Jim Courier Reflects On Reaching No. 1
Jim Courier is an American tennis legend who accomplished plenty during his illustrious career. Thirty years ago on 10 February 1992, he hit perhaps his highest mark when he climbed to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for the first time.
Courier positioned himself for a shot at No. 1 when he won his first Australian Open title in 1992. Two weeks later, he reached the final in San Francisco to earn his spot atop the men’s tennis mountain.
“I remember feeling incredible amounts of stress in each match, trying to get there. Because you look at the rankings and you realise, ‘This is a real shot.’ If I get to the finals I’m going to get to No. 1,” Courier said. “But there’s also a chance that I never get there. Because it wasn’t clear what Stefan [Edberg] and what Boris [Becker] were going to do. And they could have run away from me and I could have never touched it, so I was feeling a lot of pressure to get there. And then, a lot of relief and excitement when I finally did.”
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The American spent a total of 58 weeks at World No. 1 and finished atop the year-end ATP Rankings in 1992. Only 11 men have held the top spot longer than Courier.
Current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has spent a record 358 weeks in the prestigious position. But World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, the recent Australian Open finalist, has been charging hard for the No. 1 spot.
“Medvedev has proven himself to be right there as far as the best hard-court players in the world. He and Novak clearly separated themselves last year. It was a lot of work for him to get up there, and he’s done a great job,” Courier said. “His next step in his evolution now is to maintain on the hard courts, and then add a little bit more on the grass, which I think he can especially prosper in. And then also on the clay, it’s going to be more challenging.
“But you need that all-around game and the all-around opportunities to gain points on all surfaces, I think, to really be a No. 1 with longevity.”
Another player who entered the year in the No. 1 conversation is Alexander Zverev, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion. The German lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, but he remains World No. 3.
“I think Sascha’s second half of the season was incredible. Once he got lift-off in the Olympics and didn’t let go from there, he just kept on putting big tournaments in his pocket. It was really impressive,” Courier said. “And he’s got an all-court game, he’s got an all-surface game. And he’s got the mindset, I think, to just stay tough and roll with the punches. And he’s going to be a real factor in the No. 1 conversation in the years to come.”
Rafael Nadal also made a statement to start the season by winning a record-extending 21st major title at the Australian Open. The legendary lefty, now World No. 5, is plenty familiar with the top spot.
“Rafa I think, if he’s healthy, he’ll certainly get himself back in contention for it,” Courier said before the Spaniard’s run at Melbourne Park.
The American is one of only 26 players who have held No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. He added that it does not get easier once you reach the top of the mountain.
“There’s no doubt that the No.1 player carries a huge target,” Courier said. “That’s a big scalp for any player in the locker room to try and get a win against. It’s a badge of honour also, and it’s something that gives a lot of confidence when you carry it.”