OKLAHOMA CITY —Despite playing in Wimbledon, U.S., French and Australian Open finals, Jim Courier will tell you he also gets pre-match jitters before playing on the PowerShares Series tennis circuit.
Admitting to some first-event nervousness in Wednesdays PowerShares Series opening event in Kansas City that ended in a semifinal loss to Michael Chang, Courier re-calibrated Thursday in beating John McEnroe 6-2 in the one-set title match to win the Champions Cup at the Chesapeake Arena, home of the NBAs Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It's all about wanting to perform at your highest level," Courier said of the source of his pre-match feeling of unease. "All of us suffer from anxiety about (playing at a top level) because this is a test out here. You have test anxiety when you go in. This is a pass-fail out here. Theres no As or Bs. Its either pass or fail. I passed it tonight and Im happy about that."
Courier did not look himself in Wednesdays 6-4 one-set semifinal loss to Chang, misfiring on his trademark inside-out forehand while also playing without wearing his trademark baseball cap. On Thursday, Couriers blistering groundstrokes and his baseball cap returned in avenging his loss to Chang 6-2 in the semifinals before defeating McEnroe in the title match by the same score.
Against McEnroe, Courier lost only one point on his serve in his first three service games of the set and broke McEnroe to take a 4-2 lead. McEnroe, however, sensed the urgency of the service break and immediately pressured Courier in the following game, maneuvering himself to a break-point chance at 30-40, only to have Courier stifle it with a hard-hit first serve to McEnroes forehand wing that the left-handed was unable to control. Courier was able to hold serve and punctured the McEnroe serve once again in the next game, winning on his fourth match point opportunity.
"I was in really good rhythm with my serve and my forehand," said Courier. "Those are the two keys for me. I like to hit my backhand with topspin, but on this court, playing John, he doesnt give you much of a chance to. Im digging the ball off my ankles. I need to be aggressive with the forehand to push him back off the net. Everyone can see what he can do once he is able to get the racquet on the ball up there."
McEnroe, at age 54, was looking to dominate the first two events on the 2014 PowerShares Series, his 20th year of playing champions tournament tennis. In the semifinals earlier on Thursday against Ivan Lendl, McEnroe continued his recent near-mastery over his Czech-born rival winning for the fourth time in five career meetings on the PowerShares Series and for the second time in two nights by an identical 6-4 scoreline. But despite the final-round loss, McEnroe sits atop the PowerShares Series points rankings after the first two events with 600 points. Couriers title places him in second place with 500 points, while Chang sits in third with 300 points.
The PowerShares Series, the U.S. tennis circuit for legend tennis players over the age of 30, continues Thursday, February 13 in Birmingham, Alabama when Andy Roddick makes his PowerShares Series debut and will be joined by McEnroe, Courier and Mark Philippoussis. Good tickets for all PowerShares Series events are still available starting at $25 at www.PowerSharesSeries.com. VIP packages — including meet-and-greet and play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities — are also available here www.powersharesseries.com/vip-experiences/, by email to VIP@insideoutse.com, or by phone at (253) 315-4299.
The remaining 2014 Power Shares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:
Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex - John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Thursday, February 20, Houston, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake
Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Thursday, February 27, Portland, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Wednesday, March 12 Nashville, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash
Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash
Friday, March 21, Surprise, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang