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October 27, 2010

Jim Courier

TIM CURRY: Joining us today is Jim Courier, who earlier this afternoon was named the 40th U.S. Davis Cup captain at a luncheon at Gallagher's in Manhattan.
Jim takes over for Patrick McEnroe, who was the longest-tenured U.S. Davis Cup captain with a 10-year stint as U.S. captain. Patrick also tied Tom Gorman for most wins by a Davis Cup captain with 18.
Jim was coach for the U.S. Davis Cup team for five ties from 2001 until 2003 while Patrick was captain and also has a very impressive record in the competition himself. Jim was 16-10 in singles, helped the U.S. win titles in 1992 and 1995. In addition, the U.S. was 13-1 when Jim competed for the U.S.
He holds a few Davis Cup records. Most notably he's tied with John McEnroe for most five-set Davis Cup match wins with seven and holds the U.S. record for most five-set victories in fifth and decisive matches with two. He's 5-1 in clinching situations and was 3-0 in fifth and decisive matches. If anyone knows the drama of a Davis Cup tie, it's definitely Jim.
Jim, I'll pass it on to you to give a few comments about becoming captain and open it up for questions.
CAPTAIN COURIER: First and foremost, it's a great honor to be announced as captain of the team. I'm privileged to be able to step into the very worthy shoes of my predecessor, Patrick McEnroe, who did a terrific job for the team in his 10-year tenure and laid a great groundwork for the way the team works together and the camaraderie they've shown in this decade. That will be one of my main goals, is to maintain that same energy that Patrick has created around the team. So I look forward to working closely with Patrick and the U.S. development staff that he works with with our younger players as well.
Obviously the goal of any captain is to win Davis Cup titles. That certainly is where I will start. But I have another big goal along the way here, which is to help our players who are both playing on the team and those that are hopeful to be on the team maximize their abilities along the way. I'll have a unique opportunity to help our players in competition and I'll hope to be able to advise them, along with their coaches, who are in the trenches with them on a day-to-day basis along the year, and be of assistance as I can.
I guess one other thing to announce is Jay Berger, who worked as the Davis Cup coach, along with Patrick, since 2005, will continue on as the coach of the Davis Cup team under my watch. I've spoken to all the players and we're all collectively excited to get going here in 2011 in Chile.
With that, we can open up the floor to questions.

Q. Jim, how would you characterize the relevance of Davis Cup to U.S. sportsfans at the moment and how do you see the role of the captain in promoting the event, if you see a role for the captain?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I think Davis Cup, when it's played in America, gets pretty good visibility. But it certainly has its challenges when our team plays abroad and when our team is not in competition.
I think all of us who kind of live within the sport recognize that Davis Cup certainly could be a little bit more visible if perhaps there were some adjustments made to it and it was made a little bit more easy to understand for the fans, if there's a little bit more of sort of a start and a finish line. It's hard for anyone in the 24-hour news cycles that we all live in now to follow something that the first round is played in March and the final finishes in December.
I understand the challenges there. I certainly will do my very best to be the front man for our team and to help promote it, get the word out there when we're playing. I will do everything in my power to make sure people are aware that our team is out there fighting the good fight for the tennis fans of the United States.

Q. How do you expect this match against Chile in Santiago without the presence of Fernando González to go?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I certainly think it makes it better for the United States team with Fernando not playing. I certainly don't wish him to be injured. He's a great champion and a great player. I would have really enjoyed our team having to play against Fernando.
But if you look at the matchups, obviously he's been the best player in recent years for Chile. That certainly helps our chances. But we will not be underestimating the Chilean team by any means. I've played plenty of away Davis Cup ties when the United States has been favored on paper and we had to go into serious battle. I expect the Chilean team to put up a strong fight. We're going to have to bring up our very best players and very best tennis to win that tie.

Q. In 1988 you won a tournament in Viña del Mar. You never got paid for that title. Is that true?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I played the tournament as an amateur in 1988. In those days junior players kept their amateur status to retain the ability to play college tennis in the United States. So I did win that tournament. The $5,000 first prize stayed in Chile with the tournament and I didn't collect on that.
I think it's okay. I think I've gotten over that.

Q. Do you know something about Nicolas Massu and Paul Capdeville?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Yeah, I've seen Nicolas Massu play plenty. I was in Athens in the Olympics when he had his incredible run there doing commentary back to the United States.
I haven't seen a lot of Paul Capdeville play in person, but I've seen him play on television. I'm aware of his range and his lankiness. Certainly I'm following all of the players now more closely that I'm captain. Jorge Aguilar, who I guess is also one of the top players for Chile, I'll be following his results and paying attention because that's my job, is to be aware of those guys.

Q. Can you anticipate now if Roddick will play the tie or not?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Andy has made himself available for the U.S. Davis Cup team for 2011, which means if he's healthy, he's available for all the ties. But we're not announcing the team today. We have some time between now and then to see who will play.
It certainly would be my hope that Andy would be a part of the team, yes.

Q. Could you speak to your thoughts about the ideal mix of a Davis Cup team that blends experience and youth, veterans and newcomers, or have you given that any thought?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I think we're at a transitional period now where the core team who has been really representing the United States with Andy and with James and the Bryan brothers, it looks like there's going to be some space now for some other players to come along. James has suffered with some injuries and is on his way back. I hope he'll be able to compete for the U.S. team again. At the moment, he certainly is behind a few other players in the cue.
You have other guys who are coming into the team like Sam Querrey and John Isner who are really hitting their strides and I think will be a big part of the team going forward. You have a younger group led by Ryan Harrison and hopefully Donald Young Jr. that will be part of the team going forward, along with some others.
I think the role with Andy and the Bryans and Mardy Fish, who has been a part of the team on and off, was a real hero in Colombia, the veterans I think will be a big part of bringing the younger players into the fold and making them comfortable, making them a part of the squad.
I think it really is an interesting way and time to be able to integrate those younger players into a veteran team. I think it should be very helpful.

Q. On Isner and Querrey, would you like to see them continue their occasional work as doubles partners with an eye of being an option for you down the road?
CAPTAIN COURIER: It's always great to have options. The Bryan brothers have earned their spot on the team. They're a virtual lock for a point. That will be the case going forward. Injuries are a part of the sport. You always have to be prepared for anything that can come at you.
John and Sam certainly have proven to be a capable doubles team, and Mardy Fish obviously played very well in Bogota, as well, and has a good track record in doubles.
I think that's what's really nice about where we are, is that there are some options out there. You need options, as physical as the sport has become these days. You need to have as much ammunition as possible to put your best foot forward at all times.
TIM CURRY: We did have a statement that we received this morning from Andre Agassi about Jim's appointment that I wanted to share with everyone. If I can just read it quickly.
'My deepest congratulations to Jim Courier and the USTA for the inspired choice of making Jim our Davis Cup captain. Jim has the experience, integrity and focus needed to bring the U.S. Davis Cup to new heights. I know firsthand that a man with Jim's credentials as a warrior and champion will bring out the best in our players and our fans. I wish all the best as you take this historic step forward.'
Again, Jim, if you want to comment on that or any of the other people who might have reached out to you after finding out you became captain.
CAPTAIN COURIER: Sure. Well, just addressing Andre for those beautiful words, it's flattering to hear that from someone I went to battle with, battled against as well, have become closer to over the years. It means the world to me to hear those words from him.
Andre and I speak frequently. He'll certainly be one of my confidants that I'm in communication with as I go through this process as a captain. That's a great, great thing to have, the ability to get his ear and his thoughts.
Throughout the process, as I knew the USTA was interviewing various candidates, I wanted to make sure I reached out to my captains, Tom Gullikson and Tom Gorman, get their take on what the job requires, any things I may or may not be aware of that I should be aware of. They were both extremely helpful in talking to me about what their experiences were like, the things that they think were important for a captain to know, to hopefully get ahead of the curve on.
I spoke to all of the players along the way, as well, just to make sure there was no discomfort if I were to be offered the job. The last thing I would want would be to be in the way of one of our players playing because they were not going to be comfortable sitting on a bench with me in competition. Thankfully that is the opposite of the case. Everyone is really excited about it. That's heartening to me. The inspires me to hopefully do a great job.

Q. Jim, do you have a favorite Davis Cup memory as a player, something that stuck with you?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Yeah, I do. Certainly the most memorable moment for me would be clinching the Davis Cup title for us in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1992, in my second singles match over Jakob Hlasek. That was a special team and that was the first time I won a Davis Cup title. That was a momentous occasion.
I was talking about this earlier. One of the great things about Davis Cup that the public doesn't get a chance to see are the moments that you spend bonding with your teammates and your coaches and captains leading up to the ties when you're on-site practicing and training and eating together and playing cards together.
As much as the public moments mean to me when I look back on my playing career in Davis Cup, those private moments spent playing cards or watching movies or just goofing around with the guys that are normally your sworn enemies in the regular weeks of the tour, those stick out as well.

Q. Do you recall the first time you thought you would like to be a captain?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I certainly along the line in the '90s when I was being given the opportunity to play, I knew that if I was given the chance to be the captain, that I would like to take that. It's a great honor. It's also a great way to compete with the current generation of players and get into the mix with them, lead our country into the competition.
So it's something I've thought a lot about over the years. I'm just thrilled to finally get the chance to do it.

Q. As a player, your record speaks for itself. You've been committed to Davis Cup. What are you most excited to be bringing to the team as captain?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I think when I look at what I might be able to bring to the team, I look at it both for the weeks of Davis Cup and also just throughout the year. I mean, I'm really excited about the chance to get engaged with all of our players, not just the obvious players who you would look to to be involved in the team immediately, but some of the younger players that are up-and-coming, to really get in the mix with them and with their day-to-day coaches.
I'm not going to be taking over the coaching job of anybody. I'm there in an advisory role, and certainly as captain of the team during the week of the tie I'm there to help them with on-court strategy shifts in real-time. My hope is that I can help make these players maybe just fractionally better than they already are. That's the goal of any every player, it should be, is to get better. If I can help them get better throughout the year, that's going to pay off, pay dividends for the U.S. Davis Cup as well.

Q. You've stayed current with the game as a player, as a broadcaster. So you know the guys out there. Will you be looking at them differently or looking and talking with them differently in the new role?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I'll be certainly communicating with them more frequently. I'll be more visible. I typically have not traveled very frequently to ATP tournaments other than the ones that I've done sparing commentary at. So I haven't been that visible on a week-to-week basis. I will be more so as a result of this position. I'll need to be. These players need to be comfortable with me and I need to be more integrated into what they're doing on a day-to-day basis with their coaches and know what makes them tick. It's going to be important for me to understand them so I don't say the wrong thing when they're on the court or I can say the right thing when they're on the court with me.

Q. Is there anything specific as far as you working with younger players? Are you planning on going to more junior tournaments, maybe college tournaments? Are there particular players that you are going to be looking at?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I think most of my focus will be working closely with Patrick McEnroe and his team, Jose Higueras, who was my great mentor during my career, Jay Berger who will remain as the coach of the team, and all of the staff at the player development sites they have, whether it's here in New York where I live or down in Boca and Carson. I think that's a way for me to get to know these players a little bit better. I'm planning on traveling some this winter to those locations where they're having some camps so I can see some of the younger players and also see some of the players that are going to be playing Davis Cup for us next year as well. Obviously that's important.
I've signed a multi-year agreement, my hope is to be in the position for quite a while and to integrate some of our much younger players into the team over time.

Q. Back in your playing days, that's when you thought about being a coach? Did the USTA contact you or did you contact them about it?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, as some of you may know, I was put on the spot by my colleague moments after Patrick was stepping down. I happened to be doing commentary for CBS, that was a segue out of that segment right out of our set. He put me on the spot and asked me if I would be interested in the job. Certainly I was and I indicated that.
Shortly after that Jim Curley of the USTA reached out to me and we had a sit-down during the US Open so I could formally express my interest in the position. Then the USTA ran their process where they interviewed multiple candidates and eventually settled on a captain.

Q. How is this going to affect your outside ventures going forward now?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I think this is additive. I certainly am pleased with the timing of the opportunity because when I started Inside Out Sports, this wouldn't have been possible because I was really getting a business started. Now that we're a lot more mature and we have a staff in place, I have a little bit more freedom and flexibility to commit the time and energy that this job requires. I wouldn't have accepted this job if it had been offered to me earlier years because I wouldn't have been able to commit the time and the energy.
But the timing now was just right. I look forward to doing that and continuing to work on the Champions Series, helping to build that property. I do occasional television broadcasting at the Aussie Open for Channel 7, and I'm a secondary analyst at the US Open for a couple weekends where I don't do a lot. So that's not really an issue as far as I'm concerned.
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us on the call today. Congratulations, Jim, and thank you for the time for this media call.
CAPTAIN COURIER: Thanks, everyone.
TIM CURRY: Hope you can follow us in March when we're in Chile next year.

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