Courier Defeats Muster in 2003 Atlanta Tennis Classics Final

August 4, 2003 10:44 AM

Last weekend was an exciting weekend to be a tennis fan in Atlanta, as three former world No. 1 players were in town for the Atlanta Tennis Classics presented by Your Serve Tennis exhibition tournament. American Jim Courier, Austria's Thomas Muster, Sweden's Mats Wilander, along with former two-time NCAA singles champion and French Open finalist Mikael Pernfors took part in the two day interactive event, held at the Racquet Club of the South in Atlanta.

On Saturday, the event kicked off with a one point shootout, with the winner advancing to face Jim Courier in a tiebreaker later that evening under the center court lights. More than 200 people signed up and took part, but the last man standing was Peter Maxwell from Fort Smith, AR, who plays No. 2 singles for the University of the Ozarks.

Immediatley following the one point shootout competition was the first of two semifinal matches, which pitted former world No. 1 and French Open Champion Thomas Muster against former Wimbledon doubles finalist and current RCS managing partner T.J. Middleton. Middleton filled in for Mats Wilander, who injured his back during the trip to Atlanta. Muster advanced to the finals with a hard-fought 7-6, 6-4 victory.

Jim Courier lines up a backhand during his semifinal victory over Mikael Pernfors

The second semifinal match, featuring Courier and Pernfors, was equally exciting. The players traded groundstrokes on several intense points, with Pernfors throwing in some of his trademark angled dropshots just to keep Courier honest. In the end, however, Courier was just too much for Pernfors, posting a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Courier stayed on the court after the match and awaited his tiebreak matchup with the aforementioned Maxwell, who emerged from the one-point shootout earlier in the day. Maxwell, who throughout the match blew several opportunities to put overheads away, finally emerged victorious with a thrilling 17-15 victory. Afterwards, he did his best Andre Agassi impression, waving and bowing to the crowd on each side of center court.

A doubles exhibition followed, and lasted till nearly 10:30, at which point everyone went into the club for the players party. A band was on hand, and the players got on stage and performed some of their favorites. Courier, who is an avid music fan and guitar player, was quite a performer. The music finally stopped at midnight and the players went home to rest up for their matches the next day. "It was really great to get to see these tennis legends up close," said one spectator. "They have all been so friendly; signing autographs and taking pictures with everyone. We've had a really great time and we look forward to coming back next year."

Mikael Pernfors sizes up his next shot

The action kicked off Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., with the tournament moving to the indoor courts because of rain earlier in the day. The third place match featured Middleton and Pernfors, with Middleton coming out on top 7-5, 6-2. After the match, several fans were randomly chosen to come down and take part in a "return a serve" competition. Each fan chosen got one chance to return Middleton's serve, with the winner receiving a miniature Mercedes Benz pedal car.

Jim Courier and Thomas Muster shake hands after their match in the finals of the Atlanta Tennis Classics

Sunday's finals slated Courier against Muster. It was a match between two former world No. 1 players, both French Open champions, Muster in 1995 and Courier in 1991 and 1992. The Atlanta Tennis Classics final was truly a show of world class tennis, with Courier emerging as the champion 6-3, 6-2. After the match Muster disclosed that he had high hopes for a return to the professional tour in the near future. He said that before January, he had not touched a tennis racquet in almost four years and that Saturday's match was his first since 1999. He also noted that he had lost nearly 60 pounds in the last seven months training for his return. "Thomas is a real competitor," Courier said. "I play just about every day, and if he can play this well after a four year layoff, that's just incredible. This was one of the most competitive matches I have played in a really long time."