Jim Courier was the winner of this year’s Vale do Lobo Grand Champions tennis tournament, part of the Delta Seniors Tour. The 33-year-old American beat Dutchman Richard Krajicek on a warm Friday night in a third set play-off. Earlier, Emilio Sanchez had beaten Michael Stich in two straight sets, to win third place in the tournament.
But the night belonged to Courier, playing his first tournament in Portugal and enjoying his first ever trip to the Algarve. The American dominated the final with his ferocious cannonball serve, sending a breathless Krajicek running frantically round the court for the first set and a half. Buoyed by a heavy Dutch presence in the crowd, Krajicek fought back to win a nail-bitingly-close second set tie-break. The contest proved to be rewarding for those who stayed on, with Courier deciding the match in a champion’s tiebreak after each player had taken a set. The American former world number one, famous for reading a book during breaks between games on the Pro Tour, promised to return to the Algarve next year to defend his title.
“When I told people I was playing in the Algarve, everyone told me that I would love it because of the excellent golf courses. Now I can tell people that it has fantastic tennis facilities as well,” said Courier in his post-victory press conference.
Henri Leconte had to withdraw in the last stages of the tournament due to an injury, but signed autographs and posed for photographs alongside fans. Jeremy Bates and Yannick Noah had withdrawn before the beginning of the tournament. Spotted in the crowd were former British Ladies champion Annabel Croft and Sir Cliff Richard – a regular presence at these events.
The final was played in good spirit, in sharp contrast to last year’s final, which had been a bad-tempered affair between Michael Stich and John McEnroe. The former Wimbledon “bad boy” was absent from Vale do Lobo this year on account of commentating commitments. Earlier in the week, Mikael Penfors gave defending champion Michael Stich a hard time in the opening match, just losing out 5-7, 6-7 against the German former Wimbledon winner. Wild card Penfors then went down to Richard Krajicek, who had disposed of Portugal’s representative, João Cunha e Silva, in straight sets.
Another Swede who had not been in the original line-up, Mats Wilander, crushed Henri Laconte 6-0, 6-4 before losing 6-1, 6-4 to Spain’s Emilio Sanchez. He in turn, was edged out 7-6, 2-6, 6-10 by Jim Courier in Round One.