September 5, 2019 / 6:06 PM / 10 days ago

Tennis: Grand Slams will be up for grabs as big three wane, says Courier

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Grand Slam dominance by a handful of elite men over the last decade and a half has come at the expense of the rest of the field, but the sport will see a return to “normal” when the era ends, American great Jim Courier said.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Davis Cup - World Group Semi-Final - Croatia v United States - Sportski centar Visnjik, Zadar, Croatia - September 15, 2018 U.S. team captain Jim Courier reacts during the doubles match between Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison of the U.S. and Croatia's Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic REUTERS/Antonio Bronic/File Photo

Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won the last 11 Grand Slams between them and an incredible 54 since 2003.

The smart money is on that number rising further after the 33-year-old Spaniard Nadal reached the U.S. Open semi-finals in New York on Wednesday.

Former world number one Courier won four majors between 1991 and 1993 but none of his male compatriots has lifted a slam trophy since the now-retired Andy Roddick won the U.S Open in 2003.

Yet Father Time defeats all and when the game’s current greats hang up their rackets it will open the door for a wider number of competitors, making tournaments harder to predict, Courier said.

“Sure, it has been difficult for American men to win majors but it has been difficult for anyone outside of the top four or five players to win in the last 15 years,” Courier told Reuters at the U.S. Open.

“It has been more of a question of era in many ways as opposed to a singular American problem,” he said.

“I think there is going to be a lot of open road for our players in the next five years or so when these incredible legends eventually leave the game.”

Courier said he expects the sport to change in the not-too-distant future.

“I think we’ll get a little more of a return to normalcy where players are going to win six or seven majors but not 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 — where they are just hoarding all of them.”

Courier said that American tennis fans had still been spoiled by 23-times Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams, her seven-times slam champion sister Venus and 2017 U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens.

Yet he is also doing all he can to help more Americans achieve Grand Slam glory.

Technology company Oracle announced on Wednesday that it was partnering with Courier’s InsideOut Sports & Entertainment to launch a new lower-tier tennis circuit of men’s and women’s tournaments in the U.S.

The circuit is designed to cut down travel costs and provide more opportunities for burgeoning American players to reach the next level.

“This is a big day for American tennis,” he said of the ATP and WTA Tour events that will begin stateside next month.

“It levels the playing field for our players here to their European counterparts, who can stay near or at home and play tournaments around the clock as they try to get to the next level.”

Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Toby Davis

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