Jim Courier’s ties to Australia run deep.
Not only is the United States Davis Cup captain a two-time Australian Open champion and long-time commentator at the grand slam tournament.
But Courier says he has an Australian – Harry Hopman – to thank for kick-starting his tennis career.
Hopman retired to Courier’s home state of Florida after steering Australia’s Davis Cup team to stunning success.
As captain-coach Hopman, who died in 1985, won the Cup an unmatched 16 times.
Courier, who is leading the Americans against Australia in their World Group first round tie starting at Kooyong on Friday, said the generosity of Hopman gave him a chance to pursue his love of tennis.
“I probably would not be here if not for your great Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman,” Courier said.
The former world No.1 said when he was 11 he saved up $50 by mowing neighbours’ yards to attend Hopman’s academy for one day.
His mother spoke to Hopman while Courier was on court and asked if the Australian could look at him in the hope of earning a scholarship as they couldn’t afford to send him regularly.
“Hop came on the court and spent about 30 minutes and said I could come any time I wanted,” Courier said.
“That for me was a real fork in the road and led me to the next level of junior tennis and on from there.”
In Friday’s opening singles matches Australian Sam Groth is drawn to face American No.1 John Isner before Australian No.1 Bernard Tomic plays their No.2 Jack Sock.