Stopping only long enough to talk about his new philosophy about slowing down, Jim Courier breezed through the first round of the Newsweek Champions Cup, looking like a man in a hurry to relax.
Courier needed only 1 hour 14 minutes to brush aside Markus Zoecke of Germany, 6-3, 7-5, at the Hyatt Grand Champions on Tuesday. Afterward, Courier explained his new approach to tennis. He now believes less is more.
Courier has always been convinced that hard work on a practice court is the answer. Others simply fire their coach. His work ethic, while laudable, plainly wore him out. Last year he discovered he was all but drilled and rope-skipped to death.
His ranking fell from No. 3 to No. 13 and, after a loss at a tournament in Indianapolis in mid-August, he put his rackets away and said he wasn't going to pick them up until he regained his motivation. He returned for the U.S. Open, where he was eliminated in the second round.
"I didn't have any definitive moment where I didn't win something I was banking on," he said. "But it was a gradual thing for me where I was just playing too much, not having enough time at home and just losing interest."
Courier, 24, backed off his training and moderated his schedule so that tennis became less tiresome. He sought answers. He played golf. He chiseled out a definitive off-season and cherished it.
"For me, I had a wonderful off season," he said. "I had about seven weeks where I didn't play tournaments, really didn't travel. Just resting, enjoying life and working hard, but working smart. I wasn't burying myself on the court. I think for me, that's the thing, the working smart is the big thing for me."
Courier, a part-time resident of Palm Desert, has hardly been idle. This is his fifth tournament since January, in addition to Davis Cup. His 19-2 record is second only to Andre Agassi this season. His rank is back up to No. 11. Practice sessions may be shorter and crisper, but tournaments are as numerous as ever. He came here having won his second title of the year, at Scottsdale, Ariz., last week.
In Tuesday's match, he broke Zoecke in the first and last games of the first set and lost only three points on his serve in the set. Courier lost only five points on his serve in the second set, although he was aced eight times in the match.
In other first round action Tuesday, 10th-seeded Andrei Medvedev defeated Oliver Gross, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 11th-seeded Stefan Edberg defeated Davide Sanguinetti, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 12th-seeded Magnus Larsson defeated Emilio Sanchez, 6-4, 6-2, and 14th-seeded Thomas Muster defeated Bernd Karbacher, 6-4, 6-2.