Courier returns to form with scorching victory Repeats as champ in 150-degree heat

February 01, 1993|By New York Times News Service

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Jim Courier was running for the river, running toward a repeat of last year's victory swim with his coach and high-energy soul-mate, Brad Stine.

But suddenly, Courier stopped and reached for his right leg, feeling the beginnings of a cramp. The Australian Open final was over, but his body was not about to let him forget 2 1/2 hours in 150-degree heat.

"At one stage, you feel like death," said Stefan Edberg of Sweden, whom Courier beat in the final, 6-2, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5. "Then you start to feel that it's not so bad; then it hits you again. It was brutal."

Temperatures were indeed brutal on the rubberized Stadium Court at Flinders Park, but for most of the long, still afternoon, Courier was stronger than the conditions and considerably stronger than Edberg.

The victory for the 22-year-old American from Dade City, Fla., who is ranked No. 1 in the world, gave him his fourth Grand Slam singles title and his second straight Australian. It represented a fitting end to a tournament that he dominated from the start with an aggressive backcourt game and a confident attitude.

"It's always very special to win Grand Slams, and to come back and defend makes it twice as special," said Courier, who also beat Edberg in four sets in last year's final.

Despite his ranking and No. 1 seeding in Melbourne, Courier had not won a tournament since he swept to the French Open title on clay last June. He finished last year looking tired and out of sorts on fast indoor surfaces, although he did manage to beat Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland to clinch the U.S. Davis Cup victory in Fort Worth, Texas.

But time has proven that a rested and relaxed Courier is the most dangerous kind of Courier. And he arrived in Australia in fine spirits.

"A big key for Jim is that every year we come down here to Australia, he's feeling loose and happy," Stine said. "And when he's having a good time, he tends to come onto the court in a good frame of mind."

It might be January in Melbourne, but Courier already is looking ahead to September in New York. One of his goals for the year is to improve his performance at the U.S. Open, where he lost in the final in 1991 and in the semifinals last year.

To do so, he will attempt to reduce his schedule.

"Certainly, the last two years, it's been a big concern of ours, but we haven't been able to do much about it," Stine said. "It's one thing we're shooting for this year. I'm not saying he's going to win it. But we want to try to have him arrive there not feeling too fatigued."

The second round of Davis Cup, which is scheduled for mid-July, could undermine those plans, however.

"Davis Cup is obviously very important," Stine said.

Courier wasn't the only player to have a memorable day at Flinders Park. Gigi Fernandez and Natalya Zvereva continued their dominance in Grand Slam events by winning the women's doubles title, defeating Pam Shriver and Liz Smylie, 6-4, 6-3.

Fernandez and Zvereva trailed by 4-0 in the first set but recovered to win their fourth straight Grand Slam title. They had won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1992, but tennis historians generally do not consider four in a row a complete Grand Slam unless the feat is accomplished in the same calendar year.

"I don't think we won the Grand Slam," Fernandez said. "There's an asterisk by this. When our careers are finished, we can look back on this and feel good, but I still think we have to win it in one year."

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