WASHINGTON -- Jim Courier, his red hair covered by a white hat, his lanky body clothed in sweat-drenched whites, looked like a dish towel searching for a dryer yesterday afternoon on the Stadium Court at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
The former world No. 1 player, who last week anchored the United States' Davis Cup victory over Belgium, could be forgiven if he wondered what had possessed him to ask for a wild card into this tournament that was being played under a scorching July sun that raised temperatures on the court to well over 104 degrees.
But Courier wasn't wondering. He is in good spirits after his Davis Cup victory, which raised his personal record this season to 12-14. And yesterday's victory over Marcos Ondruska, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6), pulls him within one of .500, as he played his first tournament match since losing in the first round of Wimbledon last month.
"At this stage in my career, I get up for the big matches," said Courier, 28. "Davis Cup is one of those, the slams are the others. Sometimes it is harder to get up for the first-round match in a tournament like this and that's dangerous because if you're not up for it, you usually don't make it to the second round.
"You have to rely on your own normal adrenalin. I am excited to be playing here, though, and I'm glad to get that match under my belt. It's a step to building my confidence."
Courier, who achieved the No. 1 world ranking at age 22 and held it for 58 weeks, says there isn't much more to write about him unless he wins more Grand Slams.
Still, with a current ranking of No. 47, Courier knows if he is to have any hope of winning another Grand Slam event, he has to start by doing well at places like this. His only tournament victory so far this season came in Orlando, Fla., in April, against Michael Chang, the No. 1 seed here. Chang and Courier will meet in the quarterfinals, if both continue to win.
Courier said that he is thankful that yesterday's early afternoon match, made necessary because of a thunderstorm that knocked out the electrical power at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center Tuesday night, is the only such match he has to be involved in.
"The conditions made it a lot harder," he said. "Because of the heat, we were both trying to end the points a lot faster than we normally would."
The conditions certainly contributed to stretching what could have been a quick two-setter.
Up love-40 on Ondruska's serve in the 10th game of the first set, Courier had three set-point opportunities but could not convert any of them, thus the first tiebreaker. In the second set, again in the 10th game, he was serving for the set, but was broken at 30, when he netted his own forehand into the net, and suddenly the set was even at 5-5 and another tiebreaker was in the offing.
"It's particularly difficult on a day like this," Courier said. "My legs kind of went at the end there and it pretty much became a battle of survival. My serve had been setting up the points for me, and when my legs went, I couldn't get up on it the way I wanted. I think I only got one first serve in five in."
Even in the tiebreaker he wasn't sure he would avoid a third set. He had another three match points at 6-3 and made three unforced errors, with two forehands and a backhand going plop into the net. Just like that, it was 6-6.
But, finally, on his fourth chance, Courier's heavy forehand forced Ondruska to hit his own forehand wide and allowed Courier to count himself lucky.
Three seeded players were ousted: No. 8 Sjeng Schalken lost to Maurice Ruah, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3; No. 9 Jeff Tarango went down to Sebastian Lareau, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; and No. 10 Andrew Ilie fell to Justin Gimelstob, 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 6-1.
The oldest player in the tournament, Jimmy Arias, also lost yesterday, 6-1, 6-2, to No. 3 seed Wayne Ferreira.
"I almost didn't want to play today, I was hurting with my ribs and my neck," said Arias, who fell out of bed while comforting his daughter and hurt his neck two days before coming here. "If I had won, I would have probably shot myself tonight, I'd have been in so much pain."
In night action, No. 2 seed Andre Agassi defeated David Wheaton, 6-4, 6-2, and top seed Michael Chang pounded Michael Sell, 6-2, 6-3. Sell had defeated Bob Bryan, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0, yesterday afternoon for the right to face the tournament's defending champion on only a few hours' rest.
Singles, first round
Jimmy Arias, def. Wade McGuire, 6-4, 2-5, retired; Ramon Delgado, Steve Campbell, 6-3, 6-2; Diego Nargiso, def. Oren Motevassel, 6-4, 6-4; Andrew Ille (10), def. Ivo Heuberger, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3; Wayne Black, def. John van Lottum, 6-3, 6-3; Michael Sell, def. Bob Bryan, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0; Scott Draper (14), def. Alejandro Hernandez, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Vincent Spadea (6), def. David Nainkin, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1; Jim Courier (7), def. Marcos Ondruska, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6); Filip DeWulf (5), def. Sargis Sargsian, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1; Sebastien Lareau, def. Jeff Tarango (9), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; Byron Black (4), def. Grant Stafford, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0; Maurice Ruah, def. Sjeng Schalken (8), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3; Gianluca Pozzi (11), def. Andre Sa, Brazil, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1; Martin Damm (15), def. Lars Burgsmuller, 6-2, 6-4; Wayne Ferreira (3), def. Jimmy Arias, 6-1, 6-2;
Justin Gimelstob, def. Andrew Ilie (10), 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 6-1; David Caldwell, def. Ramon Delgado, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; Christophe Van Grasse, def. Daniel Nestor, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4; Diego Nargiso, def. Rainer Schuttler, 6-4, 6-4; Andre Agassi (2), def. David Wheaton, 6-4, 6-2; Scott Draper, (14), def. Wayne Black, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6); Michael Chang (1), def. Michael Sell, 6-2, 6-3.
Pub Date: 7/23/98