You already know "The Twelve Days of Christmas"—so we're doing something a little different this year. Throughout December, we'll highlight 12 things about the 2014 PowerShares Series, a competitive tennis circuit featuring legendary icons and world-renowned champions beginning on February 5.
Next up, two-time French Open champion and former world No. 1 Jim Courier.
1. How do you train to prepare for the PowerShares Series?
I am often asked to compare how I train today to how I trained in my 20s, and the answer is about 40 percent as much/hard. At 43, my body wouldn't be able to handle the way—and amount—I used to train. I always train to be fit enough for my worst case scenario on the court, which used to be five sets in my ATP days. In the PowerShares Series two sets is the maximum I have to play in any given one-night tournament, so that is what I train for on and off of the court.
Tennis-wise, I typically play five days a week in the month leading up to the tour, with a usual session consisting of two practice sets, which typically takes about 90 minutes. I'll also do some drills for specific shots if I feel a little off with anything, but generally these days it's all about playing points to keep sharp. I also hit the weight room twice a week to keep my muscles fit. I'll do upper and lower body weights to maintain strength as I'm not looking to add muscle at all. Daily core strength work—five times a week—is also key. To top it all off, I'll do some sprint work of various lengths on the track (20's, 50's, 100's).
Stretching is a must at any age, so I spend time stretching daily, especially my back, as I have been fighting a bulging disc in my lower back for about 10 years now.
2. Among PowerShares Series players, who was your toughest opponent during your career and why?
Pete Sampras has traditionally been the toughest opponent for me because, for starters, he's a pretty good player. His serve is so difficult to return—both first and second—and he knows how to apply pressure at the right time. I never feel like Pete's going to blow me off the court because I tend to be able to hold serve against him more often than not, but he has a tremendous knack for holding serve and then finding a way to break serve late in a set. And he's still younger than me, which irritates me as well.
3. Who are you most looking forward to facing this season?
I think it's going to be fun to line up against the rookies, Andy Roddick and James Blake, to see how I stack up against them. I am sure it is going to be more fun for them than me, but I'm looking forward to those matches the most. I've faced some big serves but Andy's is a beast. The young guys are not going to want to drop a match to us veterans, so the battles should be good.
4. Most bizarre moment you ever experienced on court?
I was playing Michael Chang in Hong Kong in the 90s and it was a very hot and humid day. I was serving, and in between points I looked at a ball girl and nodded my head—which indicated I want her to throw me a ball—and she just blinked at me. I then motioned with my racket for her to throw me the ball, and she just blinked again as if I wasn't even there (and I was 15 feet away from her). Finally I said, "Can I have a ball?"
Her eyes rolled back in her sockets and she started to fall down sideways, sliding down the back wall of the court. The linesperson who was next to her caught her as she started to go down and I ran over and caught the other side of her. The ATP trainer at the time, Doug Spreen (now our Davis Cup trainer), was right there court side too and he ran onto the court. She had passed out from the heat. Doug and I had to carry her off of the court where he administered her. She was fine in the end, just dehydrated, but that was a bizarre and scary moment.
5. Your best serving tip for recreational players?
The easiest way for most recreational players to improve their serve is to work on a consistent ball toss, which allows you to groove your serve so much more than if you're chasing the ball around in the sky. An easy drill is to toss a ball up as if you're going to hit it, but instead of swinging, allow the ball to drop to a target area on the court just in front of you. That should help you understand how consistent (or erratic) your toss is. With a consistent toss you can make big gains.
6. If you could have played any other sport professionally, what would you choose?
My father and brother both played college baseball, and I played a lot as a child myself. I would have pursued baseball if tennis hadn't caught my attention. Having said that, golf is a game I enjoy a lot and certainly is less taxing physically than any other professional sport that you can make a living at, so that would be my choice now since I'd still be in my prime at 43!
For more on the PowerShares Series, including ticket information, go to powersharesseries.com.