Jim Courier (above), who was named U.S. Davis Cup team captain in October, believes all four American men's seeds can go deep in Melbourne. (AP)
Jim Courier knows first-hand what it takes to win at the Australian Open, having captured back-to-back titles at the season-opening Grand Slam in 1991 and '92. Earlier this week, the newly appointed U.S. Davis Cup captain was asked to evaluate the chances of the four seeded Americans in the men's draw. Here's what he had to say:
On Andy Roddick
[He's] as prepared as he's been in a year, and that's really important. He'll be ready to go. He's gotten the matches he needed in, in Brisbane, to be ready and match-tough. That's important for him. He's going to be well-rested also coming in there. Andy, he has the big serve as the weapon. He's fit, which means he's going to be able to play defense and hopefully get back to neutral, and then play offensively, which is when he plays his best once he gets into a rally.
He's a tough out. Everybody knows that Andy is a great competitor. I think we have to wait and see what the draw looks like. Obviously that matters: matchups do matter. But I think Andy is ready to perform at his highest level. That means getting out to the quarters, semifinals. I still hope that he can break through and lift another trophy. He has that capability if he's able to play at his maximum potential and be a little bit more aggressive from the baseline like we saw him do last year in March, particularly in Miami when he beat Rafa. That's the kind of tennis that can scare and beat everybody. If he commits to that, I think Andy can go very deep.
On Mardy Fish
Mardy needs matches. He only got a couple matches in Brisbane. I'm not sure if he's going to get any match play this week. He'll be well-rested and very fit because he had a longer off-season than most. Obviously we saw what his fitness level did for him last season, and he's there again. As far as his weight, it's right where he wants it to be. He's actually added a little bit of leg muscle. That's what he was in the process of doing when I was with him in Carson in early December.
Now it's just a question of getting that match confidence back, and once he gets that back, I think he can continue on in the same rhythm and vein that he was playing in the summer. And that means if he has some good results, he'll be Top 10 pretty quickly because he's not far away and he doesn't have points to defend for quite a while.
On Sam Querrey
Sam had a good off-season, was working very hard in Carson on his fitness. I think he's gotten his body fat down to a low level. He's probably as fit as he's ever been. And he has weaponry. Sam is a guy who, to this point, has underachieved in the majors and Masters Series. And he knows that: He doesn't need me, you or anybody else to tell him that. It's time for him to step up into those moments and play the type of tennis he plays in the 250's in the bigger tournaments. That's the next step for him and I think Sam's ready to take it. I think his off-season has put him in position to feel like he's done the work and has earned it. I'm looking forward to see how he comes out of the blocks.
On John IsnerIsner had a little bit of an interesting off-season because he had a few little injuries. He also practices a little differently than most of the players. He likes to do more off-court training and doesn't hit quite as much. Let's be clear, his style of play is never going to be a grinding style. He seems to know what he needs to do to get prepared and play well. He had a nice start to the season in Perth getting the matches that he needs there. ... He's probably the least popular player to play on tour, I would believe. No one wants to see that serve, and he's got the forehand coming.