Even if he doesn't care for the word "juggernaut," Jim Courier knows his tennis game is gathering momentum as he heads into the men's final today against No. 7 Petr Korda at the $7.5 million French Open.
Courier, the 21-year-old world No. 1, is defending his first Grand Slam crown, won on Center Court at Roland Garros a year ago.The top seed destroyed fellow American Andre Agassi in semifinal straight sets, prompting the use of the unfamiliar British description of his unbeatable claycourt tennis.
" `Juggernaut?' I don't know," said Courier. "That word goes right over my head. But I am hitting the ball well with a lot of confidence."
Courier, of Dade City, Fla., will be playing in his fourth career Grand Slam final in two years. If he beats Korda, he will have achieved half of a 1992 Slam after winning in Australia in January.
But Courier prefers to leave the statistics and speculation to others. His job is to play the best tennis he is capable of, match after match.
The Courier work ethic is fast becoming one of the new legends of the game.
After winning the French final a year ago, the Florida player went for a jog, delaying his match winner's press conference.
The hard-working habits have not changed.
"I'll run for 10 or 15 minutes, whatever is comfortable," Courier said after beating Agassi on Friday. "I'll also go to the practice court and work on some aspects of my game."
While Courier approaches the final methodically, surprise challenger Korda will first have to come down off of the cloud to which he rose after knocking off unseeded French favorite Henri Leconte.
"I can't explain everything, it is too much for me right now," said the world No. 8 Czechoslovak, whose best previous Grand Slam performance was the third round four years ago at Wimbledon.
"I'll go out there (in the final) enjoy myself and play the best tennis that I can. I want to make people happy."
Korda plans the low-key approach that brought him his semifinal success against Leconte.
"I watched a basketball game and I'll probably do that again," he said. "I'll start thinking about the match against Courier a couple of minutes before it starts."
Courier's defense of the French crown will be the first shot at back-to-back titles since Ivan Lendl did it in 1986 and 1987, the sixth time in tournament history it was accomplished.
On four other occasions, defending champions gained the finals only to lose, with Lendl also among those when he did it in 1985.
Courier is riding a 22-match win streak that began in Tokyo in April. He has won 13 consecutive matches at the French Open.
"My goal is to be the most professional player out there," Courier said. "I just want to be ready to play every time that I go on court."