Earlier today I interviewed current U.S. Davis Cup Captain and former world No. 1 Jim Courier. (Two videos from that interview, about gear, will be posted this weekend.) Afterwards, we kicked around the peanut for a few minutes, talking about his special grip size, specs. on the racquet he used when he was at the top of tennis, and the lengths that Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl went to sizing up their opponents.
Justin diFeliciantonio: I’ve heard that you use a special grip size. What are the details?
Jim Courier: It’s a 4 and 7/16ths—in between a 3/8ths and a 1/2. The thing is, I play with TournaGrip on my racquets, and that adds about 1/16th of an inch. What I’m looking for is a 4 and 1/2 [size], in total. And obviously, if I’m using a 4 and 1/2 handle, with the leather and TournaGrip, it’ll be bigger than that.
JD: What’s the nature of your palette?
Underneath I use a custom leather grip that Roman Prokes
[of RPNY Tennis] makes, and then I use TournaGrip. It’s more the Wilson shape. It’s the shape that I’ve used since I used a Wilson racquet, so I presume it’s the Wilson shape.
JD: You used a pretty small Wilson Pro Staff when you were on tour. What was the weight?
JC: You’d have to check with Roman. He has them exactly. But traditionally [on tour] I’ve played with 385 grams, all in, with string and grip. And I’ve come off of that, mostly out of the head. Roman is very good with the particulars. I just tell him what I’m looking for, and he does the work. Then I feel it, and if I like it, great; if not, we tweak it.
JD: That’s a pretty heavy stick.
JC: Yeah, 385g, all in. Pete was like 400g, and Andre was, I think, right around where I was. Some players are a little lighter. Like Rafa now, he’s in the 330s, very light. But he’s got a racquet that’s hollow and very powerful. And obviously, being such a strong guy, he has unbelievable acceleration with that light frame.
JD: Did you feel very personal about your racquet when you were on tour? Your racquet, those of your opponents, is this something you paid a lot of attention to?
JC: Not really. I wasn’t that concerned about it. I figured, my racquet was my racquet, and I didn’t worry too much about what the other guys were playing. I was just going myopically along. Andre, in his book, said that he would ask for racquets from players to sell them for his charity. And he would sell them for his charity. But first he would hit with them for a bit—test them out just to see what his opponents were using, just to see if he was missing anything.
JD: Oh, really?
JC: Yeah, Lendl used to do the same. Lendl would get racquets, say, whatever Mac (John McEnroe) or [Jimmy] Connors were using, and he would play with them to know what their racquets felt like. So if he could exploit any weaknesses in the racquet, he would have that information.
JC: Yeah, it’s a whole ‘nother level, isn’t it? It’s like checking out the missile defense system of your opposition.