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2004 Nov 29 - Courier prepared for Masters

Jim Courier will play in his first Masters Tennis event at the Royal Albert Hall in London this week.

At 34 years of age Jim could still be playing on the ATP tour alongside compatriot Andre Agassi, who is four months his senior, and yet he chose to retire from the tour in 2000.

The American won 23 career singles titles including 4 Grand Slams: 1991 - Roland Garros. 1992 - Australian Open & Roland Garros. 1993 - Australian Open.

John McEnroe may have been responsible for encouraging Jim to enter The Tennis Masters series but he will face stiff competition from his new recruit who is intent on taking the $100,000 winner-takes-all prize fund.

Jim said:

"If he thinks he is just going to be able to walk off a television studio and win this tournament he's going to have a rude awakening.

"John's been chirping away like he does, but he's had his good years at the top of this Tour and we are here to announce that it is officially over for him.

"John is becoming more of a television star than a tennis star."

Pat Cash and Henri Leconte are in the same half of the draw as the American but he is confident of qualification. Jim said:

"I'm pretty happy with my group. "I had a tough match with Cash in Brussels recently, but I think I can get through that one. "Leconte couldn't bother to show up for the press conference as he was so late for his train, let's hope he's late for his match as well."

Jim was always fiercely competitive but The Tennis Masters brings back some memories. He added:

"It's a throwback, it's a bit like it was 20-25 years ago on tour when guys fight hard, but there's lots of camaraderie afterwards.

"We go for a beer together or a meal and we are all mature and a lot less petty than when we were 20 to 25 years old.

"We've found our balance in life and we understand that you lay it on the line on the court and you don't take it personally."

Although this is the first time he will play in The Tennis Masters at the Royal Albert Hall it won't be his first time here. Jim added:

"I played doubles here in 1989 as a mere tyke so I'm familiar with the ambience and I know it will be great atmosphere.

"John (McEnroe) said to me that it's fantastic, the energy is good and there is always a great crowd.

"He gets a little bothered by the champagne corks popping but it doesn't bother me, if I'm doing bad on court I can go and have a sip to chill out."

The stakes are high and the stage is set... and Jim Courier is looking for another career title.

"It would be nice to get a win under my belt here in London.

"I'm scratching my head, I don't think I've ever won an event in London, so it's high time I break my drought.

"I've come close but I need to get over that hump, so it's a big week for me."

Live coverage will be courtesy of the BBC from Tuesday 30 November to Sunday 5 December.

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