Courier’s still blazing

Jim Courier defeated fellow American Jimmy Arias 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday to successfully defend his title at the $150,000 The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships.

courier blazing

Courier still has the skills. Photo: Ron Shillingford

The title was Courier’s eighth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players over 30, and his first of the 2009 season.

Courier, 38, earned $60,000 in prize money for winning the title and 800 ranking points that moved him past Pete Sampras into the No. 1 Outback Champions Series ranking.

Courier tops the rankings with 2,000 points, followed by Sampras with 1,600 points and John McEnroe with 1,300 points.

Arias, who earned $40,000 and 600 points for his week in Grand Cayman, moved to the No.4 ranking with 1,050 points.

Courier, the two-time French and Australian Open champion, won the inaugural clay court title in Grand Cayman last year, defeating Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-6 (3), 7-6 (1) in the final.

After both Courier and Arias, 44, exchanged service breaks in the first two games, Courier broke Arias again in the tenth game to close out the first set, capitalizing on two Arias unforced forehand errors.

In the second set, Courier broke for a 3-2 lead and cruised from there as he asserted more and more control of the match.

‘I started the match tight and Jimmy was playing aggressively,’ said Courier. ‘It was a battle. Once I turned it on, got some confidence and started playing aggressively, things went in my favour.’

Arias was playing in his first Outback Champions Series final in his 14th tournament appearance since the circuit began in 2005.

A frequent visitor to Grand Cayman and The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton for much of the last 10 years, Arias was the fan favourite all week, earning de facto home-town favourite status.

His two best showings ever on the Outback Champions Series both came in Grand Cayman – a third-place finish in 2008, highlighted by his first-ever win over McEnroe, and his runner-up showing this year.

‘I think that the clay helps,’ said Arias on why he has played his best tennis in Grand Cayman.

‘I like playing on it and I wish there were more clay matches throughout the tour. This tournament is at the end of the spring season when I am in the best shape so I play well at this time of the year. I love it here. The crowd had a great response. It was a great tournament and it is a relaxing experience.’

The whole event was masterminded by Ritz-Carlton owner Michael Ryan who did another fine job.

In Sunday’s third-place match, Mark Philippoussis beat fellow Australian Pat Cash 6-1, 1-6, (10-8 Champions Tie-Breaker).

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February.

McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final.

Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final.

Outback Champions Series events will now be played in Newport, Rhode Island (August 20-23), Charlotte (September 24-27), Surprise, Arizona (October 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (November 18-21).

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years.

To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team.

The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1.