Courier proves worthy successor to Agassi
FORMER world number one Jim Courier has emerged as the man to beat at this week's Salem Hong Kong Open at Victoria Park after he won the Japan Open title in Tokyo yesterday.
The American world number 15, who won in Hong Kong in 1992, defeated top-ranked Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4.
It was Courier's sixth successive win over Agassi, a hero-turned-villain to Hong Kong fans after he pulled out of the Salem Open three days ago saying he wanted to rest his back.
Workaholic Courier showed that he is just as determined to win in Hong Kong when, soon after defeating Agassi, he went straight on to the practice courts.
It was Courier's third title of the year and the 445 computer points he picked up are likely to lift his ranking a few notches when the new list is issued today.
Defending champion Michael Chang is the tournament's top seed. But the Chinese-American will be fully aware of the threat posed by Courier, who beat Chang in the semi-finals of the Japan Open two days ago.
Third-seeded Courier was given what appears to be a routine first-round match against South Korean Yoon Yong-il, who gained a wild card into the main draw after winning the Asian Championships in December.
Chang was handed a much harder first-round assignment against Switzerland's 89th-ranked Jakob Hlasek.
MAIN DRAW First round: 1-Michael Chang (US) v Jacob Hlasek (Switzerland); Joern Renzenbrink (Germany) v Alex Radulescu (Germany); Kenneth Carlsen (Denmark) v Jim Grabb (US); Wally Masur (Australia) v 7-Jan Siemerink (Holland); 3-Jim Courier (US) v Yoon Yong-il (South Korea); Henrik Holm (Sweden) v Jonathan Stark (US); Tommy Ho (US) v Mark Philippoussis (Australia); Ofer Sela (Israel) v 6-Alexander Volkov (Russia); 5-Jonas Bjorkman (Sweden) v Marcos Odruska (South Africa); Anders Jarryd (Sweden) v Greg Rusedski (Canada); Sebastian Lareau (Canada) v David Prinosil (Germany); Luis Herrera (Mexico) v 4-Thomas Enqvist (Sweden); 8-Martin Damm (Czech Republic) v Alexander Mronz (Germany); Lars Rehmann (Germany) v Jan Apell (Sweden); Markus Zoecke (Germany) v Jeff Tarango (US); Jeremy Bates (Britain) v 2-Wayne Ferreira (South Africa). ORDER OF PLAY Centre court: 2 pm - Markus Zoecke (Germany) v Jeff Tarango (US). Followed by: Wally Masur (Australia) v Jan Siemerink (Holland). Not before 6.30 pm: Tommy Ho (US) v Mark Philippoussis (Australia). Followed by Luis Herrera (Mexico) v Thomas Enqvist (Sweden). Court 10: 2 pm - Martin Damm (Czech Republic) v Alexander Mronz (Germany). Followed by: Joern Renzenbrink (Germany) v Alex Radulescu (Germany). Not before 6.30 pm: Jan Apell and Jonas Bjorkman (Sweden) v Marcos Ondruska and Grant Stafford (South Africa). Followed by: Final round of doubles qualifying.