TNT, CNN/SI Sign Courier for Wimbledon

New Orleans-Jim Courier officially retired from the men's pro-tennis circuit last week, but the Grand Slam champ will still be at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club Wimbledon Championships.

Courier will handle color commentary for the prestigious British tournament's debut on its new cable home, Turner Network Television and CNN/SI.

Wimbledon coverage moves to the two Turner Sports networks this June after 25 years on Home Box Office.

Last Tuesday at the National Show here, the two networks announced Courier's signing to a multiyear contract that starts with Wimbledon, from June 26 through July 9. Two preview shows will air June 24.

The two networks are planning 89 hours of coverage from London: 61 hours on TNT and 28 on CNN/SI. The announcement dovetailed with official word of Courier's retirement, which could give the networks an added publicity boost.

"I've been looking for a new challenge," Courier said. His closest friends and family have known for two months that he was planning to retire. When Turner made the approach, the move seemed natural.

Courier didn't flinch from the inevitable questions about comparisons to John McEnroe, whose strong opinions and deep knowledge were integral to HBO's Wimbledon coverage. Courier promised to be equally candid.

"I'm pretty popular in the locker room. Maybe I'll be less popular," Courier said, adding that he doesn't plan to gossip or cross lines into private lives unless off-court behavior impacts the player's performance.

The rest of the on-air Wimbledon crew is far from certain. Marv Albert might join Courier in the booth if some conflicts in the veteran announcer's schedule can be ironed out.

Barry McKay, whose previous play-by-play assignments include ones for ESPN and USA Network, has already been signed, but the official announcement was postponed due to a death in the family. An executive with Turner Sports hinted that an announcement featuring a major name in women's tennis is coming, as well.

Courier made his off-camera debut for TNT and CNN/SI at a "Breakfast at Wimbledon" photo op for conference-goers last Tuesday morning. Visitors to the booth sipped champagne and splurged on strawberries and cream while Courier posed for pictures and autographed fluorescent green tennis balls.