As soon as there was an opening for a new U.S. Davis Cup captain, Jim Courier began lobbying for the job.
His aggressive approach worked.
The four-time Grand Slam champion was hired by the U.S. Tennis Association to lead the country’s Davis Cup team, replacing Patrick McEnroe, who resigned last month.
“I’ve always known, once I got a taste of playing Davis Cup, if I were given an opportunity to be the captain, I would certainly want to take it,” Courier said Wednesday during a news conference in New York.
Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and highest-ranked American man, tweeted: “jim courier new davis cup captain…. great choice!” Courier said Roddick told him he was committed to playing Davis Cup next year.
McEnroe served as U.S. captain for 10 years, winning the 2007 Davis Cup to end the country’s 12-year drought. Saying he wanted to dedicate time to his family and his other jobs, McEnroe abruptly announced during the U.S. Open _ where Courier was working as an analyst for CBS Sports _ that he was stepping down.
Within less than an hour of McEnroe’s departure being reported, Courier said on TV during his network’s coverage of the tournament that he would be interested in leading the team.
“I was kind of put on the spot by my colleague Ian Eagle at the U.S. Open,” Courier said with a laugh. “I hope I handled it OK. I didn’t want to be seen as grandstanding or lobbying too hard for the position.”
And he knew USTA officials were already well aware of his interest.
As a player, Courier helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 1992 and 1995, and he finished with a 16-10 record in singles, 1-0 in doubles. The Americans were 13-1 in series in which Courier played, and three times he clinched a U.S. victory in the fifth and final match.
“I know we’ll see the same fighting spirit from the captain’s chair,” USTA President Lucy Garvin said.
Known for his big-cut ground strokes and white baseball cap, Courier was part of a phenomenal generation of U.S. talent that also included Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang.
Agassi called Courier an “inspired choice” as captain.
“Jim has the experience, integrity and focus needed to bring the U.S. Davis Cup to new heights,” Agassi said in a statement Wednesday. “I know first hand that a man with Jim’s credentials as a warrior and a champion will bring out the best in our players and our fans.”
Courier said the two talked frequently in the past month about the position and Agassi was “very encouraging and excited about it.”
Courier was No. 1 in the ATP rankings for a total of 58 weeks in 1992-93. He won the French Open in 1991 and ‘92, and the Australian Open in 1992 and ‘93, while playing in three other Grand Slam finals.
The 40-year-old Courier retired from the professional tour in 2000 and was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005. He coached the U.S. team under McEnroe in five series from 2001-03.
“He’s a guy who’s never taken a shortcut in his life,” McEnroe said. “Being the captain, it’s the little things that make a difference.”
On the day he resigned, McEnroe mentioned Courier and 1999 U.S. Open runner-up Todd Martin as clear candidates for the position. The USTA also considered 1996 Wimbledon runner-up MaliVai Washington.
Courier’s 2011 debut as Davis Cup captain will come in the first round at Chile on March 4-6. If the Americans win, they will face Spain or Belgium in the July 8-10 quarterfinals. The United States has won the Davis Cup a record 32 times.
In McEnroe’s final series, the U.S. beat host Colombia 3-1 in September to remain in the World Group, the competition’s top tier.
That victory featured some fresh faces, with younger players such as John Isner and Sam Querrey taking part instead of veteran stalwarts Roddick and James Blake, who may not have many years left in Davis Cup.
“That was certainly part of my decision to step down at this time: I think that it is a bit of a transition time,” McEnroe said. “And I think it’s a great time for a new captain to come in.”
AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.
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