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DAVIS CUP ANNOUNCEMENT
January 7, 2006
NEW YORK CITY
TIM CURRY: Thank you for joining us today. We're here with US Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe, who's going to announce the team that will compete against Belgium in Leuven on September 23rd through 25th in a World Group playoff tie that will determine whether the United States stays in the World Group for the next year and be eligible to compete for the 2006 Davis Cup title.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you, Tim. Without further ado, the team will be comprised of Andy Roddick, James Blake, Robby Ginepri, and Bob and Mike Bryan. We're taking a five-man team over there, including two practice partners who will be Sam Querrey from California and Alex Clayton of Florida. They're going to be traveling over to Belgium.
Q. What is Alex's last name?
PATRICK McENROE: Clayton. Alex Clayton. He won the clay courts, the 18-and-under clay courts this summer.
Q. You must have been encouraged by the last few days?
PATRICK McENROE: I'm very encouraged by the last few months. The summer's been great for both Robby and James, and it's certainly great to have both of them on board. Obviously, the tough part will be that one of them won't play. But, you know, going overseas, you always feel like it's nice to have an extra guy there in case somebody gets banged up. But, I mean, they're certainly both playing well enough to warrant a spot, you know. So it's a nice change to have a couple of guys that really have earned their chance to play and really performed so well this summer. I think it's a nice luxury to have at this point.
Q. How will you decide between those two guys considering they're both playing so well?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, that's going to be tough. I think right now they're certainly both capable of going over and winning a match, or two matches. So it will come down to matchups and who I think has a, you know, better game on the surface. It's indoor clay, so that's a bit of a variable. So, you know, I'm not going to have them play off against each other, per se. I don't think they deserve that at this point; they're both playing so well. It will just be a case of me making a call as far as who I think has the best chance to win that particular match. Obviously, as I said, it's going to be a real tough call. I think we're just lucky -- you know, I'm lucky that they're both understanding of the situation and agreeing to come and be there and sort of take one for the team, I guess, if you will.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about when you told them and what their reaction was? It sounds like it was fairly positive.
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, I've spoken to them over the summer. They both knew that -- I mean, this was even -- I think the first conversation I had with them in detail was in Cincinnati, early on in Cincinnati. I told them my plan all along was to bring both of them. That obviously could have changed based on what happened the last couple of weeks. But obviously they've confirmed with me and with everybody how well they're playing and how much they've improved. So, look, one of them is going to be pissed off. That's just the bottom line. But, as I said, in the bigger picture, it's a luxury that really we need if you want to win the Davis Cup going forward into next year. For me, this is the start of 2006, trying to win the Davis Cup. I would be extremely surprised if we won the Davis Cup - if we win the Davis Cup - that we'll do it with four players. We're going to need five, six players. Whether we're playing on a fast court, maybe it's Taylor Dent who comes in. Just depending on the situation. We need the guys to be on the same page, understand that it's a group effort. It's not just going to be two guys playing singles.
Q. It would be very easy, given the way Robby has been playing, to toss out his less-than-mediocre clay court career record. Will that still make you a little uncomfortable, if you look at his record, no matter how well he's playing, even if he's playing like a clay court player?
PATRICK McENROE: I've always felt that Robby has got a game that's built to succeed on clay. Obviously, in the last few months, he's starting to play the percentages better and play more within himself. So it's something that I'll have to feel out during the week. I mean, certainly James has had some better results on clay in his career, but that doesn't mean that it's a lock that he's going to play this match. At the same time, I don't want either of them to feel like -- it's really just a situation where I'm just going to make the call based on who I think's playing better. They're not going to play two out of three sets, I'm not going to make them play three out of five against each other. It's just going to be seeing how they're handling the conditions and playing. But Robby's answered a lot of questions to me, you know, in the last couple of months, and so has James. I think now I go out, when you watch them play, you know they're going to play at a certain level. You know that the consistency is going to be there, and that wasn't the case even a couple months ago.
Q. Does that become kind of a push factor? If it's so close when you're ready to decide, that there's almost nothing separating the two of them, do you look at the career records?
PATRICK McENROE: You'll look at everything. I mean, you've got to look at everything. Look at the matchups against their players. Look at how the clay is playing, is it a little bit quicker? How are the balls, are they a little bit faster? I mean, those are things that we won't know until we get there. Am I going to sit here and say that's not a factor, no. That's part of the factor. If they play in the semis and Robby beats him in three straight sets, that's a factor, too. Let's hope for their sake that that happens for them, that they play in the semis. They can have a challenge match in front of the entire country; it will have a little more at stake than a normal one.
Q. Given Roddick's foot injury, his play here, the fact that it's going to be on clay and the fact that he's got the rest of the season to play, did you get a sense that he did not want to search for his mojo in Davis Cup play?
PATRICK McENROE: I did not get a sense of that at all. He's always been committed through good and bad. When he won the Open two years ago, the last thing he felt like doing was getting on a plane and going to Bratislava to play a relegation match very similar to the one we have here. He did it, and he lost his first match and he came back and clinched the match for us the last day. I think it will be good for him just to have something to shoot for. I think it will be a positive for him. I just heard from his coach this morning that he's starting to practice again and getting ready. I think it's a positive thing. He'll be around his buddies. Hopefully, it will be something that will help him get over what's been obviously a tough couple weeks, to lose here early.
Q. You're talking about looking at two people for one spot, not three people for two spots, is that correct?
PATRICK McENROE: That is correct. That's the way I'm going into it. Assuming that Andy comes in and he's healthy and he's ready to go, that's the plan. It's funny because we're all - and me more than a lot of people - are all excited about Robby and James and what they're doing. They're in the quarters of a Slam. It's worth noting just that the quarters of a Slam for Andy is considered a poor result. It's sort of worth reminding myself, which I've done, that Andy was in the semis of the Australian, Andy was in the finals of Wimbledon, he's been in the semis, finals, finals of Wimbledon last three years, last year was in the quarters of the Open, which was a bad tournament for him. Obviously, this year was a disappointing one for him. But it's sort of worth reminding ourselves that Andy's level and his expectations are different, you know, than the other guys. Obviously saying that, the other guys have now stepped up to where they've got a chance to, you know, really make a mark.
Q. Would their performance here influence you, if one of them went further? Given what you said about Robby, his game does seem like it can translate to clay, why hasn't it so far? Do you think it's the fact that he grew up on hard court?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I think some of it is movement, you know. He plays -- he likes to play on the baseline. To me, when Robby is at his best, he plays a similar style to Agassi: Taking the ball early, moving his opponents around, playing hard crosscourt. He's starting to do that now. I mean, obviously he's got a ways to go to get to Agassi level. But that's sort of the mindset to me when he plays his best. That doesn't always -- you know, taking the ball real early doesn't always translate to success on clay where you maybe take a step back, play a little more percentage tennis, but I think it can. I think the reason he didn't do well before was because basically he was trying to play offensive tennis too early, too early in points, too early in rallies, and trying to pull the trigger quickly. He's not doing that now. You can get away with doing that somewhat more on hard court than you can on clay. To me, it's that, and that's why I think now he could play a lot better on clay, but he hasn't yet. I think it's possible. I think it's very possible. If he were to go on to win the Open, would that influence my decision? Sure. I don't see how it couldn't. I think we've still got a ways to go to see what happens here.
Q. How do you see tonight's match?
PATRICK McENROE: I see tonight's match as a potential blockbuster. I think James has got a great shot. I think, you know, Andre, this is old hat for him in that it's a huge occasion. Wednesday night at the Open he played Pete obviously a few times. To me, a lot of it depends on how James handles that. I think if it gets down to the Xs and Os of it, James has a great shot. I think he's playing well enough to win. But, you know, handling the situation, how Andre comes out after he's had a couple tough matches, I'm like you guys. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to sit back, relax and enjoy it. I think it's going to be a great night.
Q. Do you think Andre will sit back and say "Okay, it's over, back to play Davis Cup"?
PATRICK McENROE: (Laughing). That's not going to happen. It would be great for him, but that's not going to happen.
Q. Was Andre in the mix?
PATRICK McENROE: I spoke to him, sure. I spoke to him early on in the summer. As always, he's very straightforward and honest. My conversation with him was, Just let me know if you're definitely not going to play, and he did. He called me right back and we talked and he said, you know, just based on his health and based on the last time he played on clay we know what happened, the sliding, the movement, so he doesn't want to take that risk at this point, which I certainly understand. You know, knock on wood, the other guys have stepped up. So I feel as good as I felt, you know, going in with the second guy as I felt in a while.
Q. It sounds like the Open had no bearing at all on your decision?
PATRICK McENROE: The Open?
Q. Yeah, this tournament.
PATRICK McENROE: I was certainly leaning towards those two guys coming into the Open because they'd had the best results. I mean, if Spadea had come through and had a great Open, I certainly would have considered that more. But coming into the Open, I was leaning towards Robby and James, and what's happened here has obviously just reconfirmed that.
Q. What about the guy ranked ahead of them, Taylor?
PATRICK McENROE: Taylor I didn't consider that much just because of the surface, you know, on clay. I spoke to him yesterday. Certainly he had a very good Open, but he wasn't as high in the mix as Robby and James because of the surface. If it was a hard court or indoor fast courts, he would be right in there.
Q. Can we turn the conversation a little bit to the Belgian team, the two Rochus brothers. It would be surprising to a lot of people that they don't do better on clay than what they do. Why not?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, they're small. Sometimes the ball can get up high on them. I think on clay the ball can bounce up a bit higher than on a hard court. Maybe that's a factor. Christophe, who hadn't had a great year, qualified and got to the semis of Hamburg and beat Gaudio and beat some real good players. So they're capable of playing well. I mean, Olivier is a good all-court player. He can come to net. He's got good hands. The answer to that is I'm not really sure, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over the fact that their results are better on hard court; I'm happy about that. But so are our results better on hard court, too.
Q. Who are you expecting to play doubles for them?
PATRICK McENROE: I think the last time they played in Davis Cup was Rochus and Vliegen, right? We've got our Belgian friends over here. Didn't they beat Gonzalez and Massu?
PATRICK McENROE: Who did you beat, because they had a good win in doubles. Some decent wins. I mean, Olivier is a great doubles player. I think it hurts him a little bit to not have Malisse, because he and Malisse obviously won the French. I watched them play the Bryans this year at the French. It was a very, very close match. But, you know, any time you go away, it's the same old refrain. Any time you go away and you play in a European country, they're going to be inspired, and they're going to play their best, and we're playing on clay, so that makes it tricky. I mean, no match is a given. We're the favorite maybe in the doubles, but by no means is it a given.
Q. Not that you would have come any closer to the Spanish had you prepared differently, but did you learn anything about that trip that would make you change the way you prepare the club psychologically before a European trip?
PATRICK McENROE: Not really. I think we went over there prepared. We knew it was going to be a dog fight. We played the guys that in my opinion had the best chance to win that match. Andy put his heart out out there. We see what Nadal's done in the last six months. He's lost one match on clay since that match in Davis Cup. He's lost one match since then. Andy was up 5-4 in the tiebreak at a set apiece to go up two sets to one, and lost two points on his serve. So, obviously, Mardy, you know, didn't come close to winning his match, but in my opinion, still to this day, he was the guy that had the best chance to win this match.
Q. When you've had two guys like that in the past, Blake and Todd Martin, or Blake and Fish, did you ever do a playoff at any time or watch a week of practice?
PATRICK McENROE: We've had them where they've played sets against each other. I don't sit there the night before and say, "Hey, guys, this is for the spot," but let's just say the feeling comes across, you know, when the rest of the team's sitting around and we're playing two sets and nothing else is going on. So you sort of get the message. But in this case, I don't intend on having a situation like that come up. As I said, I think the guys have earned not to have to go through that. I told them both, Come in with the expectation that you're going to play and prepare yourself, like "Friday, I'm going to play best-of-five."
Q. Did either of them have the feeling that they were going to play off for a spot?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I determine whether or not there's going to be a playoff. So I don't ask them their opinion on that.
Q. The fact that Malisse isn't on the Belgian team, does it make things easier for you?
PATRICK McENROE: It doesn't make it easier for us, no. I think it might make it tougher for them because maybe they don't have as many options. But, you know, we know it's going to be tough. I mean, Malisse may not be the guy that would play singles anyway, you know. Kristof Vliegen is another player that's had some very good results on clay. He could certainly see some action in singles as well. I think it hurts them in that they don't have that option of Malisse, but in saying that, they still have a good team and a team that's obviously going to be a lot tougher at home than they would be if we played them here.
Q. Can you talk about the Belgian No. 4.
PATRICK McENROE: I don't know. I don't know anything about him. If you could fill me in, that would be great. What's his name?
Q. Steve Darsus (phonetic).
PATRICK McENROE: Well, if you could let me know, that would be good. I'm not expecting him to see any action, but...
Q. You wanted to play doubles as well as singles. Even though the doubles situation is more or less resolved now --
PATRICK McENROE: It is? It's resolved?
Q. It's getting pretty close. A lot of people are stunned at what the ATP wanted to do here. Do you have an opinion on what they were planning?
PATRICK McENROE: I think they jumped the gun a little bit. I think they jumped the gun. I think something had to be done, but I think what was put out there has been a little extreme. But I do think that there are too many players that are strictly doubles players. I think there's too many of those around. I like the idea of getting more singles players to play doubles, but I'm not sure that the way they went about it is the best way to do it.
Q. What about scoring?
PATRICK McENROE: Scoring, I think that was a mistake.
Q. Patrick, do you realistically think that more singles players would play doubles?
PATRICK McENROE: I think there's a chance. I've always thought that if doubles were a smaller draw and were actually started later in the week when a lot of singles players were out, you know, say Thursday or Friday of a regular tournament week, and the doubles were played over the course of the last couple days, I think you'd see more. If guys go out first round, you make the draw a little bit later, and you have some sort of system where you have the doubles teams like the Bryans, you know, like Bhupathi and etc., etc. We need some of those guys still, but I don't think you need the entire draw of those guys. I think that's a problem. So I think to have a balance, and I think a way to have a balance is maybe start the doubles on Thursday or Friday. That's when the tournaments want doubles. Tournaments like to have doubles on a Saturday night; semifinal goes 6-2, 6-2, then it's nice to put a doubles out there for 10,000 people that are sitting there.
Q. Would eight teams be too few?
PATRICK McENROE: Not necessarily. Eight teams and maybe, you know, maybe you have a system set up where the doubles sort of teams play off to be in that final eight, and maybe half, maybe four of them, maybe twelve, maybe there's twelve. But there's a way to do it, I think, where you can still keep the jobs of the Bryans, who add a lot to tennis, and the Woodies, for instance. Obviously, they were singles players as well. Then I think you could get singles players. I mean, if you get -- for instance, for an American, if you're over in Europe during the clay court season or during pre Wimbledon or you're playing the indoor swing in the fall and you're there for three, four weeks and you're Andy Roddick and go out in the first or second round, you know, Hey, okay, could I get in the doubles this week? I'll take one of the wildcards in doubles. I think that's a doable situation, and I think that's where doubles becomes, you know, something that's helpful to the tournaments.
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