By Jason Brown, USTA.com
NEW YORK – Jim Courier was formally announced Wednesday as the 40th captain in U.S. Davis Cup team history, officially signaling an end to Patrick McEnroe’s term.
Courier, a 40-year-old native of Sanford, Fla., carries impressive credentials to the team bench. A former No. 1-ranked player, Courier won four career Grand Slam titles and two Davis Cup trophies (1992 and 1995) and was a 2005 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
One of the most clutch players to ever wear the Stars & Stripes, Courier was a remarkable 13-1 in Davis Cup play, including a sterling 5-1 record in clinching matches and a 3-0 mark in decisive fifth singles matches.
"It’s a great honor to play for the tennis fans of the United States," said Courier. "When you hear the chair umpire say, 'Game, United States,' instead of, 'Game, your name,' it does change the dynamic of playing and changes the energy of the building that you’re playing in. You know that you’re playing not only for your teammates, which is also a rare occasion in professional tennis, but also for all of the tennis fans back home that are supporting tennis and wanting you to do well. It’s a privilege to be a part of it, and from the time that I played to the guys representing the country now, everyone takes great pride in it."
A former Davis Cup coach under McEnroe, the newly appointed captain will make his debut next March in the 2011 Davis Cup World Group First Round, leading the U.S. away at Chile.
"We’re certainly going to have a test down there, there’s no doubt about that, playing in South America," said Courier.
While there had been several candidates discussed for the position, Courier’s appointment was widely lauded, including a statement from former Davis Cup teammate Andre Agassi that was read during the announcement at Gallagher’s in New York.
"Jim has the experience, integrity and focus needed to bring the U.S. Davis Cup to new heights," said Agassi. "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."
McEnroe’s distinguished 10-year tenure as team captain ended on a winning note, with an important 3-1 victory over Colombia in the World Group Playoffs that retained the U.S. in the elite World Group that competes for the Davis Cup title.
"Ten years went by fast," said McEnroe. "I certainly never would have thought that it would happen that way, but it was pretty emotional for me because of so many great memories and experiences. There’s nothing like walking out there with the Davis Cup uniform on."
Courier has a wide variety of player options to choose from going forward, a testament to the depth that was cultivated during McEnroe’s tenure as team captain and general manager of USTA Player Development.
"I think it’s a bit of a transition time and a great time for a new captain to come in," said McEnroe, who stressed the importance of establishing a new core of players that includes John Isner, Sam Querrey and rising youngsters, like Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock.
After taking a year off from Davis Cup competition, Courier said that team leader Andy Roddick has committed to playing a full 2011 season. Roddick carries a 31-11 career record in Davis Cup experience, including a penchant for closing out ties.
"I’ve spoken to all of the players throughout this process to make sure that they’d be comfortable if I was nominated to be the captain and to take their temperature to see what they were thinking about going forward," said Courier.
"Andy is very much a straight shooter. He was very clear with Patrick last year that he wasn’t going to be able to play, and he was equally clear with me that he wants to play next year and that he’s available for all of the ties. So with Andy, he’s either in or he’s out, and he’s in for 2011, which is really exciting."
Mardy Fish has turned his career around and merits heavy consideration after winning all three points for the U.S. in the critical playoff against Colombia.
Entering their prime, Isner and Querrey emerged as top-25 players and figure to be a part of the team for many years to come. Frequent doubles partners on the ATP Tour, Isner and Querrey give Courier a variety of mix-and-match options.
Bob and Mike Bryan, the top-ranked doubles team in the world, are at their absolute best in Davis Cup competition with an unparalleled playing record.
Although there’s been a change of leadership, team continuity will remain in place, with all coaches and team staff expected to return, including Jay Berger of USTA Player Development and trainer Doug Spreen.
The 32-time champion United States is the most prolific nation in Davis Cup history. Three years removed from the team’s last title, a 2007 triumph over Russia in Portland, Ore., Courier has set the bar high and expects to compete for more titles.
The new journey awaits.