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He gathers greatness
When Jim Courier calls, his tennis colleagues always seem to listen.
By DAVE SCHEIBER
Published April 27, 2007
When Jim Courier calls, his tennis colleagues always seem to listen. The former top-ranked men's player has brought some of the biggest names in the game to the Mercedes-Benz Classic in the past three years to benefit the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, a program for at-risk kids. And Saturday will be no different when a pair of tennis greats, Chris Evert and Pete Sampras, highlight the fourth annual event, set for 6 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Courier called from New York City on Thursday to talk about the event, where his InsideOut Sports & Entertainment production company is based.
What does this event mean to you?
The Mercedes-Benz Classic was built specifically with the thought of putting together a fundraiser for the St. Petersburg Tennis Center and the tennis program that is so wonderful there. It provides an opportunity for kids in that neighborhood and elsewhere to play tennis and get some tutoring for their schooling - and really give them an option to stay out of trouble and learn something about themselves through tennis.
How has the Classic grown?
Through the years, we just have had a who's who of tennis names. And we've been very lucky to have these tennis players come back and support this program. The tennis world is very giving. A lot of the players have their own foundations and there's a lot of favors that are passed back and forth.
This year, Chris Evert is back for the second time. We have a great newcomer in Nicole Vaidisova, who's already in the top 10; Rene Stubbs, one of the women's best doubles players; and of course, Pete Sampras, one of the all-time greats, just like Chrissy. And we have a celebrity lineup that'll give things a different dimension with Jon Lovitz (SNL alum) and Donal Logue (The Knights of Prosperity).
What other projects are you involved in?
The Outback Champions Series is one - the (tennis) champions tour in the U.S. Pete Sampras is making his debut next week in Boston. We've got six tournaments in the U.S. and a new one in Athens, Greece. I'm very busy with that and enjoying it. And tonight, I have a film I executive produced; a documentary called Unstrung that takes you behind the scenes in the world of junior tennis. We shot it two years ago and it's making its premiere tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Thoughts on the men's game?
We've got one of the all-time greats right now in Roger Federer right now in the middle of his career. He's something very special to see, and he has some good protagonists in Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, James Blake. It's exciting. The U.S. Davis Cup team on the men's side is poised to win this year.
And the women's side?
You've got what I think is a wide open scenario. Serena Williams is playing the best tennis of anyone right now. It's great to have the Williams sisters back, re-engaged. Then you have great players like Maria Sharapova and up-and-comers like Nicole Vaidisova. I think the health of the game is very strong.