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Ex-champ Courier to give clinic here

On Thursday, Jim Courier, one of the greatest American tennis players of the past 20 years, will conduct a tennis clinic at the McMillan Tennis Courts in Delaware Park, from 3:30-5 p.m.

Courier was formerly ranked No. 1 in the world and won the French and Australian Opens two times each. He now is a television tennis commentator and is in charge of running the Senior Pro Tennis tour.

Courier will be in town as part of the "Raging Rackets" program that works with children in the Police Athletic League program.

Under the auspices of HSBC, Courier has been traveling throughout the United States for the past three years putting on such clinics.

"I know what a great tennis town Buffalo is from my good friend Jimmy Arias, a Grand Island native," Courier said. "Buffalo was selected because of the success of the local 'Raging Rackets' program under the direction of Earl Tomkins. I love the program and the chance to work with the kids who are involved in it. I am really looking forward to coming to Buffalo."

As for Courier's tennis prowess, he still talks about his great 1993 Wimbledon final match against Pete Sampras. With tongue in cheek, Courier said, "Even though I lost to Pete, I am the reason for any success he has had in his career."

As for the state of junior tennis in the United States, Courier thinks that Pat McEnroe, John's brother, is doing a great job in heading up the national junior tennis program. "McEnroe has a great array of talented youngsters in the 14-15 age groups," Courier said, "Hopefully, they will have great success in the future."

As for the upcoming Wimbledon tournament, Courier picks Rafael Nadal to win the men's singles if he can get past the early rounds. His next choice is defending champion and all-time great Roger Federer.

On the women's side, Courier likes Serena Williams, if she can stay healthy, and Samantha Stosur, who defeated Williams, Justine Henin, and Jelena Jankovic in the French Open.

The focus naturally will be on Courier at the clinics. He will be assisted by Tomkins and his staff.

The "Raging Rockets" program started 14 years ago when Tomkins called Sue Gonzalez, the director of PAL.

"Gonzalez, a former police officer, has been fantastic from the program's inception," Tomkins said. "Any supplies or equipment that we need we can always count on her."

The program runs six weeks on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays starting July 6. The sessions run from 8:30-10 and 10:15-11:45 a.m. Each session is limited to 24 kids. Most kids come for one or two weeks, while a few do up to six weeks. The children run from age 7-17 and almost all are beginners.

The five instructors, along with Tomkins, each stress fun and sportsmanship with some vocabulary work, riddles and coordination drills as well as the basics of tennis.

Thursday's clinic is limited to 15 PAL beginners. The clinics are open to the public to watch.

"I am so excited about Courier coming to Buffalo," Tomkins said. "Even though he is a great tennis player, he is really a personable and humble guy. He loves to reach out and help people, especially kids. The kids are going to love him."

e-mail: thegreatgar@verizon.net

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