tsf interview: jim courier on davis cup, escaping nyc and his first year of marriage


That’s no sound stage. Behind that HSBC classic? A grass tennis court — in Manhattan. (TSF photos)

HSBC‘s “Wimbledon 2011 at Rockefeller Plaza” bestowed Manhattan with its only grass tennis court — even if it was just for one week. The yearly event has run this entire week while Wimbledon itself rocks out across the pond, the real-grass playing court sitting nicely between 50th and 51st making the city that hosts the down-and-dirty U.S. Open feel a little dignified for a few days.

On Monday, TSF took the trip down to Rock to check out the set-up, which only begins at the grass court. The Wimbledon experience is in full-force, with a big screen set up to watch the week one action, Prince stringers available to re-tune your racquets, Wii tennis to play and strawberries and cream (but no Pimm’s!) served up by period-dressed Wimbledon fashion folks (see pictures below) to round out the SW19 feel.

While the court will disembark as of Friday, Monday saw Monica Seles and Jim Courier kick off the event with a little hit and giggle together and with ogling fans. Before the two hit the court, TSF (full disclosure: I was there covering the event for TSF and TennisWire.org) caught up with Courier and Seles both.

More: Our off-the-cuff interview with Monica

TSF: The Davis Cup tie against Spain on July 8-10 in Austin is huge for you guys. Tell us what about that.
Jim Courier: 
I’m not going to Wimbledon but I went to the Queen’s Club tournament for three days and I got to see the guys play on the grass there. I’m disappointed that Sam Querrey has an elbow injury that he had to have surgically repaired and he won’t be an option for us. We have five good options, though. We have Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, John Isner and Bob and Mike Bryan. We’ll have four of those five players on the court ready to do battle with the Spaniards.

TSF: Do you guys hope to have a big, raucous crowd there?
JC: 
Tickets sold out in about two and a half hours … 15,000 seats for three nights. 45,000 tickets! We’ll play on a fast indoor court that will meets ITF specifications and it’s going to be high energy and high passion.

TSF: How big is this tie for hometown boy, Andy Roddick.
JC: 
This is probably the only time that Roddick is going to get to play a real Davis Cup match at home.

TSF: You’re a New York City resident. How do you enjoy the summer here?
JC:
I love Central Park. I love getting there when I can. It’s sort of a magical place among the concrete jungle that we live in. I have a car in the city so I’m able to get out into the suburbs and see some different things, play some golf and go to the beach.

TSF: What about tennis? Where do you play?

JC: I play my tennis at Randall’s Island or Long Island City.

TSF: What big plans have you made for your one-year wedding anniversary? [Courier married former tennis player Susanna Lingman in August, 2010.]

JC: Yeah, I don’t [have anything planned]. I haven’t thought too much about it. Hopefully I’ll get a little surprise. [Laughing.]

TSF: You’ll leave the plans to her then?

JC: Yeah, that’s her responsibility. [Smiling.]

TSF: OK, I have to ask: who are your picks for Wimbledon?

JC: I like Rafa assuming that he’s not playing Djokovic in the final. If Djokovic is in the final against Rafa, I like Djokovic.

TSF: And for the ladies? That’s a little more difficult to pick.

JC: The women is a much harder pick. If Serena makes it through to the second week she’s the favorite. Otherwise, I think I like Sharapova this year. The younger, talented players have not proven to us that they can hold their nerve in the moment. They have the talent, but they haven’t proved that they can hold their nerve. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Check out more shots of “Wimbledon at Rockefeller Plaza” after the jump.

tsf interview: monica seles talks twitter, figure skating and her love of fashion

I cannot tell you how many thousands of hours I have spent hitting a tennis ball against a wall. Recently, I moved to Harlem in Manhattan and have discovered that there are hand ball walls just two blocks away from my new place. My afternoons? Now often spent hitting the ball against the wall, with curious walkers by baffled that I’m not playing hand or racquet ball.

Much of this fascination is due to the fact that when I was just 12 I read Monica SelesFrom Fear to Victory, the book that chronicled her life into tennis — including her love of hitting the tennis ball against a wall in a parking lot below her family’s apartment.

This last Monday I got the chance to talk to Monday for the third time in my short, young career as a journalist. I was visiting HSBC‘s “Wimbledon at Rockefeller Plaza,” a week-long event that the Wimbledon-partnered bank has put on for several year that allows Manhattan to boast a grass court in the city — even just for one week.

It was here that I (full disclosure: I was on a media pass both for TennisWire.org and TSF) got to talk to both Monica Seles and Jim Courier. For more on the HSBC event and it’s details, see the Courier post here (or scroll up).

TSF: Monica, what about social media? Why aren’t you tweeting up a storm?
Monica Seles: 
I don’t think anybody would care what Monica Seles is eating or what she’s doing.

TSF: [Laughing.] Monica, are you kidding?! I think you’d be surprised.
MS:
I’m an old dinosaur. [Twitter] is more all of these reality show stars that everyone watches. This is how this generation that has shifted. We didn’t have reality TV when I was growing up and now they’re the biggest stars. I really enjoy [my time away from the computer] because I’m on it a lot for work, but you kind of have to. My 10-year-old godson is tutoring me on the computer of how to navigate everything.

TSF: But you did Dancing With the Stars, so you’re sort of a reality star. What about trying Skating With the Stars?
MS:
 I couldn’t even [dance on] dry land! [Laughing.]

TSF: But you skated as a kid, right?
MS:
Yeah, I skated for about a year and a half. That’s what I wanted to be. I loved it. I loved the costumes and all the glamor stuff. But I haven’t been on ice skates since I was 8 years old. I think being on Dancing With the Stars was enough. [The show] was more about art and how you look and how you present yourself. In tennis I didn’t have to worry about where the camera was or what angle to smile at. I loved [Dancing] because it was so out of my comfort zone.

TSF: What about favorite figure skaters. Do you have any?
MS:
I always liked Kristi Yamaguchi in skating and she was on Dancing with me. And I always liked Nancy Kerrigan, too.

TSF: So you didn’t get to design figure skating costumes, but you still love fashion. Do you ever see yourself diving into it like Venus Williams or Maria Sharapova have?
MS:
[Fashion] is something I enjoy looking at, but I don’t know. Tennis is really hard because all of the big companies have kind of taken over. I love it when you see the girls come out [for the players' parties] and you want to see what everyone is wearing. Now, it’s going to be more and more daring. At Wimbledon all the girls got all dressed up and it allows the fans to see the girls in a different light — I like that.

TSF: Did you see Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ dress?
MS:
[Laughing.] No… but I heard about it. I saw Maria’s and Ana Ivanovic‘s. Ana was very classy.

TSF: What is one thing that you must do when you’re in New York in the summer?
MS:
I love Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It’s really nice to just sit and be outside — I love being outside. You can sit there on a nice day and just have your friends eat with you — that’s my favorite.

TSF: Do you ever think there’s going to be a young star again? WTA success seems to be coming at an older age these days.
MS:
Oh yeah. The tour has their age regulations, but there are always going to be young girls coming up who are powerful. Martina was powerful. And then Stefani. And then me. Then the Williams sisters came along. I think the sport always evolves. Maybe age mentally — how you manage success and fame and money — but otherwise, I think we’ll always have young players coming up.

(tsf photo)

summer monday? spend it with monica and jimbo

Courier serving things up at the Rock in 2009. (Getty photo)

NYC greenery: Plenty of New Yorkers (and Americans, we presume) have “summer Fridays.” You know the idea: it’s freakin’ nice outside so employees get to peace out for all or part of Friday to frolic in the sun. While we appreciate such a gesture from the higher ups, before you go off sunbathing and boozing before 5 pm today, you might want to re-consider utilizing those free hours this coming Monday.

It is, after all, day one of Wimbledon, which means you could wake up at your usual ungodly time and take in some of ESPN 2′s coverage of day one at The Championships. After a few hours of tubing, you’ll be itching to get outside (it is summer, after all!) and we’ve got just the solution for you: Monica Seles and Jim Courier, playing some grass-court tennis at Rockefeller Plaza. Seles and Courier hit the court at noon on Monday for what should be an entertaining hit and giggle, former ESPN commentator and Tennis Channel buff Brett Haber will emcee.

Can’t make it Monday? There’s more: Play (yes, you! Play!) on Manhattan’s only grass court Monday through Friday. To reserve a court call (855) 688-7715. Can’t find the right bounce on the grass? Prince has pros who will be there to touch up your game. The sched? Monday 4 to 5 and Tuesday through Friday noon to 1 and 5 to 6. Plus: Get your racquet re-strung Monday through Friday between 11 and 1; eat some special strawberries and cream all week long; and play some Wii “Grand Slam” tennis. Find out all the info of HSBC’s Wimbledon at Rockefeller Plaza here.