Champion’s splash: Tommy Paul and the memory of the iconic Courier’s celebration

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MELBOURNE – The city is in full swing. Offices are emptying and bars are filling up, trams are at capacity, and traffic is heavy but never stops flowing.

Melbourne’s rush hour can be felt from a privileged place. In the middle of it all, but at the same time, oblivious to the hustle and bustle. Being on a boat on the Yarra River, in the heart of the city, is a special feeling.

Rowing is the most popular sporting activity on the city’s river and the long, narrow boats, which carry one, two, four or eight people depending on the mode, move freely. They pass by the waterfront of the Southbank neighborhood full of seagulls, and are captured by tourists’ cameras and are flown over by bats. They also pass by the side of Melbourne Park.

Sometimes the heavy oars, responsible for the balance, play a dirty trick and cause an unwanted swim. It is not exactly a river where you feel like a dive, although it does not hurt either.

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Jim Courier’s iconic celebration in 1993. Jumping in the Yarra River for the second time/ Getty Images

The US Open is located in Corona Park , Queens next to a train station, Roland Garros is a neighbor of the Bois de Boulogne, and Wimbledon is between the houses of its residential neighborhood. The Australian Open is the only Grand Slam in the urban center with a body of water around it. So Jim Courier was able to celebrate with a splash when he won in 1992 and 1993.

The American jogged after matches and practices along the river during his ’92 campaign with his coach Brad Stine, who told him, “If you win this, I’m jumping in the river.” Courier replied that if he jumped in, he would follow.

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Thus they fulfilled the promise after their first title in Australia and second Grand Slam. There is no photographic record of the unexpected celebration after the victory over Stefan Edberg. The following year and against the same opponent, the celebration could not be different. This time, with the organization and the media prepared to run to the shore.

Three decades after his two-time championship at Melbourne Park, Courier officiates as one of the most valued commentators in tennis and his on-court interviews are among the most entertaining. Courier is out of the ordinary. On the first week he led Daniil Medvedev to talk about his skinny legs and Marton Fucsovic’s muscles. Also he got Stefanos Tsitsipas to tell what was behind the postcards he gives his fans after each victory, and made him invite Australian actress Margot Robbie to his box.

Courier was part of the group of eight North Americans who in 1996 made it to the third round in Australia. In 2023, that number was repeated, although the top two in the rankings – Tiafoe and Fritz – were already out. Not since Andy Roddick has there been a US-born Grand Slam champion among the men. Tommy Paul is the only survivor of that crew. He will face Novak Djokovic on the semifinals on Friday.

If Tommy Paul makes the impossible so far (the Serb has never lost a semifinal in Melbourne), he would be the first of his generation among his fellow countrymen to experience a Grand Slam final.

The circle of tennis: Brad Stine is now coaching Tommy Paul. The 25-year-old already challenged Stine to repeat his splash in the brown river, thirdy years after he did it with Courier in case an unexpected victory occurs.

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“I’m going to make him jump in the Yarra if we win this thing. I’m not going, but I’m going to make him do it,” Paul told the New York Times. 

It would be worth it for a big title.

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