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January 27, 2004

Patrick McEnroe

Davis Cup

RANDY WALKER: Welcome everyone to our USTA Davis Cup conference call with Patrick McEnroe. Before we turn the program over to Patrick, we want to remind you that this first round series between the United States and Austria will be held February 6th through 8 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, about a two hour drive from both Boston and New York. A limited number of tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling 888-484-USTA. Or logging on to www.tickets.com. We will have a transcript of this conference call. Please e-mail me at r.walker@USTA.com if you would like to receive a transcript. We will also be sending this out to our Davis Cup and USTA e-mail distribution lists. Before we start with our question and answer session we'll turn it over to Patrick who is calling Wednesday morning in Melbourne, Australia and Patrick will officially name the U.S. Davis Cup team and then we'll turn it over to guess questions. Patrick.

PATRICK MCENROE: Thank you Randy. Good morning from Australia. Good afternoon back in the States. The Davis Cup team for the first round match coming up against Austria is going to be a five man team, until I have to name the four, the day before the match. That will be Andy Roddick, Robby Ginepri, Mardy Fish, Bob and Mike Bryan. And Robert Yim, who is a Kalamazoo winner last year will be a practice partner for this match.

RANDY WALKER: Okay. We'll turn it over to the question and answer session. If you can instruct the reporters on how to ask a question.

Q. What was the deciding factor in picking Robby and Mardy for that second single spot and also if you could say does one have an edge over the other right now?

PATRICK MCENROE: Obviously this was a very, very tough call. I was very happy with what I saw from James Blake down here. He played a very good tournament. He played a great match against Marat Safin. So in my mind James is playing as well as he's played in a while. So I think that bodes very, very well for him for this year. And I told him that just a few hours ago. I think he's going to have a great year. Robby, I think, has stepped up his game to the next level. He's had very consistent results. He's the only one out of the Blake, Ginepri, Fish, Dent, sort of four some that hasn't played a singles match yet in Davis Cup. I felt -- Robby is the front runner, by the way, going into this match. I feel like he's probably -- more than likely going to play unless somebody gets a little hurt or a little nicked up, Robby will play. Because he's very solid, he had a very good tournament here as well, with a good win over Escude. His ranking is continuing to improve. And I felt like this was an excellent opportunity for him to get an opportunity to play. And Mardy knows that, I spoke to him yesterday, Mardy's obviously had a great year last year, he just hasn't played too many matches, he's played two matches in basically three months. He's coming in and I'm super, super happy that he is, to basically be there to get some practice, to be there in case something happens to any of the players during the week of practice, and that includes singles and doubles. Mardy can do both. So I'm really happy that Mardy's coming on board. Showing his commitment to the team. And he'll get some good practice. But the plan is to play Roddick and Ginepri in the singles.

Q. I understand what you're saying about Ginepri, again, he looked really good in Australia, but let's say Fish went into that practice week and just blew you away with what he did, he's a good indoor player. Would you reconsider?

PATRICK MCENROE: As I said, I always leave that door slightly open. But I really was very clear to the guys to both Mardy and to Robby that I'm planning to have Robby play. You know it was different in Slovakia when we went there because Mardy had had such a great summer, James had played well at the open, they were both playing a lot of matches. Even if Mardy were to maybe beat Robby in a couple of sets in practice, which is certainly quite possible, Robby's more match tough right now. He's just played in a lot more matches this year and that counts for something. And as I said, I just want to reiterate that Mardy's commitment to the team and his desire to want to come and get a good week of practice and be part of the team because he's been so important to, for us being back in the world group, you know, that's the kind -- that's the kind of morale that I've been working to build with these guys. And that's what we need. So, no, we're only going to have a couple of days up there to practice, because it's the week right after the Australian, so that's going to make it tricky. But I'm certainly -- my intention a hundred percent is to play Robby in this match. But let me tell you, Richard, I'm very, very glad to have Mardy there in case something happens.

Q. How did Blake take the news and when did you tell him and how, was he okay with it?

PATRICK MCENROE: He took it very well. I spoke to him actually in the middle of the night here, because he was flying back and I sort of missed him before he left Australia. So I left him a few messages and he called me as soon as he got off the plane in L.A. And he took it well -- look, and I told him over the phone, and as I told him after he lost, I really thought he's played as well as he's played in a while and there's no question in my mind that James Blake could come into this match and get us a couple wins. There is no doubt that I think he could do that. But I also think the other guys can do that. And I think Robby -- you know Robby is going to be ranked quite a few spots higher than James at the end of the Australian open. But James is on the right track. There's no question that James is looking good. And, yeah, I think he understands. Look, you want him to be a little bit disappointed because you want guys that want to play. And the same with Taylor Dent. I just got off the phone with him a little while ago and he's out working out already trying to get in a little better condition. He knows that that's something that he has to do, that physically he needs to step up his off court training, which he has made strides in that department. But he needs to make more strides. So all these guys are very, very close right now. There's no one of these four that's clearly above the others yet. And I feel that this is a very good opportunity for Robby, he's earned a chance and James took it well. James is very good friends with Robby. So they all get along. And they support each other while at the same time competing with each other. So I think that's a very healthy environment for these guys to continue to improve.

Q. Going into the Australian I know in the back of your mind you had an idea of what you wanted to do as far as this team went, but did you go into thinking if X, Y, Z happens, I may change the plans and did it in fact happen?

PATRICK MCENROE: Well, certainly. I was very much coming into this event with open eyes. It's always a tricky time of year, it's the first Major of the year. There's not too much practice or tournament time before this event. And that's why I came in and said, listen, I think I said -- I know I said before I came down here that Mardy and Taylor were sort of the front runners because of their success indoors and how well they played last year toward the end of the year. But starting off down here, clearly at the moment Robby and James were playing a little bit better. Taylor played pretty decent down here, made the semis, he won a couple rounds, but he got blown away by Roddick. So because these four guys are very close, any one of them could beat either one of the other one a given day, I have to really go by form as of late. How they're playing recently, how they match up against potentially the opponents that we're going to face. And there's no question that as we look, assuming that we can get through this first win with Austria, which I'm very confident that we can, all these guys are potential players for us in this year. And I think they all know that. That's how I feel about it. And it's really going to be a question of who is in the best form at that moment, you know, unless all of them all of a sudden out of nowhere wins a tournament and moves up to 12 in the world.

Q. I was wondering, the Austrian team, all three of them are left handers, is that going to affect the way you prepare, do you think you'll get your brother out there to help out?

PATRICK MCENROE: No, I spoke to him about that, actually, and I wanted him to come up and play some doubles against the guys. He, unfortunately, he's playing two exhibitions in New Zealand right after the Australian, so he's not going to get back until Wednesday and as you know this is -- we have very little practice time because of the timing of this match. Robert is a left hander, the young kid who is going to be joining us up there, so that's obviously part of the reason why he's coming. To be a practice guy. I know these guys, Koubek and Melzer pretty well. Robby has played Melzer in the finals in Newport last year, and they're not like sort of nasty sort of lefty players, they play relatively straight up. But certainly having Bob Bryan there who is a lefty, and having Robert, I feel like we'll be pretty well covered in that situation. As far as guys getting a look at lefty serves.

Q. I was just wondering, I heard on the news this morning that Andy Roddick lost his match to Safin?


Q. And I haven't heard any details whatsoever. I wonder if there was any injury or illness involved or if you could sort of tell me what the key to the match was.

PATRICK MCENROE: The only injury or illness for Roddick was how well Safin played. It was one of the matches of the tournament. It was a phenomenal match. And Safin is back. That's the bottom line. Safin is a guy who was U.S. Open champ, who destroyed Pete Sampras in the finals when Sampras was still Sampras. And Roddick played well. He was 6-4 in the fifth. Roddick had a great attitude, fought, really got out played for a couple of sets. But had an opportunity to break in the fifth, which he didn't take. He had a break point early in the fifth. It was just a great tennis match. There's nothing -- believe me, there's nothing wrong with Andy Roddick, he played well and looked extremely fit and was very positive in the locker room after the match. He said I -- as he said by the way at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, I want to get better. I need to get better. And he realizes that when playing someone that's at his highest level, that there are still things that he, Andy Roddick, needs to do better. Hit his backhand better, get into net at the right times a little bit more, so I'm not worried one bit about Andy Roddick.

Q. I'm pushing the James Blake angle too. What was exactly you mentioned in the rankings? Was there anything you saw when you watched him play in the Australian that made you think that Ginepri would be a better candidate?

PATRICK MCENROE: No, Jane, as I said, James played very, very well here. I was really happy with what I saw from James. I'm really happy with what I'm seeing from Robby. Robby is ranked, is going to be ranked in the mid 20s when the new rankings come out after Australia. James is still going to stay about where he is now, which I think is around 40, because he made the fourth round here last year as well. I'm expecting James to have a great year. But so I'm expecting the same from Robby. James has played some big matches for us in Davis Cup. He's always answered the call. And I believe that he will continue to do that, because that's the kind of person he is. Game-wise, I'm extremely happy in the direction he's headed right now. But Robby is 21, he's a work horse, he's got a very, very solid baseline game that only is getting better. As he gets more confidence in his game and his abilities, I believe he's going to continue to get better. And I think that this is an excellent opportunity for him to get that confidence, to play a big Davis Cup match, and I believe he's playing as well if not better than any of the other guys right now. He's a very tough guy to beat, and in best of five sets he's very fit. He made it to the fourth round here, just like James did. He beat Escude. Nicolas Escude, who is one of the hot players coming in, he beat him in straight sets. So it really, I mean, I can really, without spinning this in any way, it's the honest truth, I feel very positive about what James is doing right now and where he's headed. But I feel strongly that Robby is going in the same direction and that he deserved the opportunity to get a shot.

Q. Was it any part of the your consideration the fact that James is kind of a local kid? I mean does that enter into it at all?

PATRICK MCENROE: Absolutely not. No. That has nothing to do with my decision. You can take that as a positive or negative, however you want to take it. I don't concern myself with that. This is Davis Cup, it's too important, the opportunities to play are too important for these guys, and, sure, it would be nice to have James play in his home state. I'm aware of that. I cannot allow that to factor into my decision when I feel like all these guys are battling for a place, all these guys -- you know, this is a home tie, but to me they're all wanting to play. To me it's playing in home for all of them. You know what I'm saying? So I don't look at it -- and a few people have asked me about that, and quite honestly, I'm a little surprised that people would think that I would choose someone based on that for this kind of match. I'm just not going to do that.

Q. It's been since 1995 that you all have won the Davis Cup. I was wondering how much or how little does that play on your guys' mind?

PATRICK MCENROE: That plays on our mind a lot. I think all these guys, all of our players are very committed. And the one thing they have all said to me as we look forward to this year is that we want to win it this year. We're not satisfied with winning a couple of matches. We want to win the whole thing. And that's the first time I've heard that from them. That's the first time that I really believe that we're -- that we have a strong chance to win it. We had a chance a couple of years ago when we made the semi finals. This is the time talking since I became captain in the three years that I've been there and now this is my fourth year. So I strongly believe that it's of high importance to these guys. I love that attitude. I love their enthusiasm and their commitment. And Mardy is there, as I said, to be committed to the team, knowing that more than likely he's not going to play. And that's what we need. And that's exciting. And that's fun to be part of. And we can win it this year. This is obviously there is a lot of very strong countries, we're not going to dominate, but I think that nobody is. I think we're one of the teams for the next few years that every year people are going to say the U.S. can win it. And has a good chance to win it. That's how we feel, that's how I feel, that's how the guys feel, and it's a nice feeling to know that all of your players are starting to think like that. That we want to win it. And I think we can this year.

Q. And then when Robby played Melzer at Newport, can you walk me through that match real quickly?

PATRICK MCENROE: I saw quite a bit of it on television, I wasn't there. But they split the first two sets and Robby won the third, but he easily won it 6-1 in the third I think. Robby is a great returner, his biggest strength is his return of serve and his ability to attack the ball early and Melzer is a guy who has a pretty good serve and can come in behind it or can certainly come in off the ground. So it's, I feel like it's a pretty good match up for Robby, he usually plays pretty well against players that like to attack and come in. So I think it's a good match up for Robby, that certainly is part of my decision. But more, most important part of it is just that I feel like Robby is playing the best of those guys right now. And they all are so close that that's my call, it's not necessarily going to be the right one, but -- in other words if he played head to head against Taylor or James or Mardy, it wouldn't shock me if he lost a set or two. But at the same time, I feel like he's earned it, he's earned his opportunity and his ranking and his results speak to that.

Q. Just wanted to ask you about the court surface you finally decided on and how that might have factored into your decision on who is going to play?

PATRICK MCENROE: Yeah, it's going to be a medium to slow indoor hard court, with a relatively high bounce. It didn't factor in that much. I know that all of our guys are pretty comfortable on that surface, obviously Mardy has won a tournament indoors, Taylor won two in a row last year, probably on courts that were slightly faster than this one. I feel like this -- obviously I consulted all the guys about what they wanted. And one of them might say oh I want it medium to fast and the other one might say medium to slow, etcetera. I take all those things into account and sort of weigh them all up and say, okay, what's going to work best for us, and hopefully work to our advantage against the team we're playing. So I think it will be a medium to slow, with pretty high bounce, which should be very good for our guys.

Q. Can you tell me anything about your schedule once you get up here? Are you practicing locally at all or strictly going to be practicing at Mohegan Sun?

PATRICK MCENROE: Probably just at Mohegan Sun just because the court surface is really, we do have a practice court, but it won't be identical, probably, to what's at Mohegan Sun. And because we're getting in pretty late Monday, most of the guys will probably get there Sunday night. I'll get there Monday night, very late or early Tuesday morning, so it's a quirk in the schedule. We don't have as much time as we normally would. But luckily the guys that are all playing are all match tough. Roddick is obviously very match tough. I'm more concerned with them resting this week and now that Roddick is out, getting home and getting a few days at home and coming in fresh and getting a good, three, four days on the court and ready to go. The Bryan brothers are still in the doubles here and I have seen them and they have already played a ton of matches this year. So we'll be good to go.

Q. And I guess Roddick losing has a silver lining for you in a way?

PATRICK MCENROE: Well, I prefer to have him come in a little tired as the Australian Open champ, to be honest, and heading once or twice on the court would be fine for me. He looked good, it was a tough loss for him, but as I said, I am in no way worried about the direction that Andy Roddick is headed in as a tennis player.

Q. Does the fact that Blake didn't have to face anybody too tough in the first round to determine how tough it was for him to get into the fourth round?

PATRICK MCENROE: That might have helped him if he would have beaten him. But he had a pretty routine draw to get to the fourth round. That was there. Although saying that, I saw quite a bit of his tennis when he was here and as I said, I was, I'm very impressed with the way he's playing. He's playing very well. And he played a great match against Safin, the things that he's been working on in the off season like his serve his back hand is more solid, his serve I thought let him down a little bit against Safin, after serving very well through the first few rounds of the tournament. And he's going to go back and continue to work on that. We just spoke about it a few hours ago. He said that it definitely is something that he's going to continue to look to improve. I think he's made some strides. But you get into a big match against a guy like Safin, who by the way is one of the best returners out there, that can expose a weakness that certain other guys can't. And James is in great condition and is hitting the ball very well, playing much smarter, in my opinion, than he has at times in the past. So I think it's going to be a very good year for him.

Q. You mentioned the Bryans before, have you seen them play this week? Obviously they're not, they're through to another great result at a Grand Slam. Are they excited?

PATRICK MCENROE: They're unbelievable. They have such a great attitude. Mike's been struggling a little bit with sort of a stomach bug virus, he's actually been getting sick in an a couple of the matches that they have been playing. So they have been just really toughing it out here. They have had 7-6 in the third the last one and they have had a couple of tight ones. But they won Adelaide, the first tournament of the year, they got to the finals in Sydney, they're so pumped up for Davis Cup. They're just great kids. I'll tell you, it's a load off my mind to know that they're there and they're our doubles team. That really rang true with me in Slovakia was how hard they worked, how great they are as team guys, obviously the fact that they won the match is important, but more their whole mood and just knowing that they're on our team is taking I think pressure off the other guys as well, the singles guys. Before when I decided not to pick them, at times we mixed and matched, we had James and Mardy playing some doubles, we had Todd Martin, etcetera, now it's nice to go into the few days of practice that you have and know that the singles guys can concentrate on singles and the Bryans are going to be doing their thing and doing their double stuff to get ready. So knock on wood they stay healthy and they're going to be a very solid team for us.

Q. You spoke about Ginepri's strength, his stroke, his return and his speed, and he's the youngest of all those guys. He has a big upside. What do you see for him potentially in terms of his ranking in the future years down the road?

PATRICK MCENROE: I'm glad you asked that Richard because you're very perceptive. That is part of the reason why Ginepri is playing now is because I believe his up side is very big. He's a guy who in my opinion is only scratching the surface of how good he could be from the baseline. He hits the ball big on both sides, he moves exceptionally well -- he's very fast, but he still needs to work on his footwork. His footwork was one of the things I talked to him about his four set loss there was when he learns to get his footwork excellent this guy is not going to miss. This guy is going to be very, very solid. Now when he gets rattled slightly he can make a few enforced errors in bunches and that's what hurt him against Grosjean, despite being a break up in the third at a set all, which it looked like he was going to be able to run away with the match, Grosjean turned it around. So Ginepri's serve has gotten better, he can win some cheap points with that, he's very tough. He's mentally tough and I think that this experience of Davis Cup is going to be really, really good for him. For going out there and being set and knowing that's going to play a match. He's got a big upside. Very big upside. It would not surprise me if he moves up 10, 15 spots by the end of the year. He's already in the mid 20s, so you do the math.

Q. He seems like pretty quiet kid whenever I talk to him but I know he wanted to play Davis Cup for awhile. How did he handle it when you told him? Was he excited, did he take it in stride what was his reaction?

PATRICK MCENROE: He was very tired because he literally was walking off the plane in Atlanta when I called him. So I left him a message, he was flying, because obviously it was between him and James, they were both sort of flying back, I was trying to reach them, and he literally was walking off the plane and was exhausted. But when I told him that I wanted him to get, I wanted him to be ready to get back on another plane in a week he was very excited. And he said that, "I'm psyched to play" and I think that with Robby, it's more been his actions and his results and he's not a guy that's going to go out and make a lot of noise and with what he says to the press or anything like that, but he's gone about his business and he's just won matches, he's just been consistent on the court. I'm really excited that these guys are all want to play. How nice is that? That these guys are all playing to do well at the Australian Open, but also to get named to the team and be able to come in and step in and play. So that is -- people asked me all week they said, oh, you got a tough decision coming up. I said, yeah, I do, but isn't that nice? To have a tough decision like this? I mean, it sure makes me feel good that these guys are all playing hard and busting their butt out there and trying to get better, and one of the reasons they're trying to do that is to try to be part of the Davis Cup team. I think that's what it's all about. And as I said, my goal for today, from the day I took over the job, was to try to help these guys get better and help them improve and realize that Davis Cup is just a part of their growth as a person and as a player. And Robby is one of those guys who I have watched lose 6-0, 6-0 to Layton Hewitt, and he was a practice player for us when we played against Spain on grass and who went down on the practice court and we thought he had a really serious knee injury, practicing one day with Sampras. So he is a guy that I have seen grow up. And I believe that his upside is very, very high.

Q. If something happens to happen to Mike Bryan with a stomach illness that gets worse or like that, just in case, who would be stepping in for him?

PATRICK MCENROE: Well, I think Mardy could step in. Mardy is an excellent doubles player. He's played doubles for us before in Davis Cup. I'm certainly in no way expecting that's going to happen. Mike is sort of been playing his matches here and just trying to fight off this sort of bug. And he'll be fine. It's not -- it's not anything serious, it's just -- actually a few of the players early in the tournament were, had a little bug going around and a couple players had to retire during matches because of it. But certainly Mardy gives us the, that option. He can step in and do both. And certainly James is a guy who could do that. He's played some great doubles for us in Davis Cup as well. If, for example, Mike Bryan got super sick and couldn't even show up, we could always have James come in. That's not going to happen. Mike will be fine, he'll get back to the states will take long trip back and he'll have a few days to rest and as I said, those guys are very match tough right now. So as long as they get a couple of days used to the court and they will be ready to go on Saturday for the doubles.

Q. I would like to sort of follow-up on a question or comments Richard made. Wouldn't you say that the same is true of Mardy Fish and his potential to develop even further as a player?

PATRICK MCENROE: Oh, definitely. There's no question. Mardy showed what he can do last year in Cincinnati and handled the pressure of Davis Cup well. Mardy is not as match tough at the moment as Robby is. Just in losing first round in the Australian, losing first round in Sydney. So he's only played two matches. And that's a factor. But there's no question that Mardy's game is potentially monestrous. He's a potential top-10 guy. There's no doubt in my mind about that. So I would -- so is Taylor Dent by the way. Taylor Dent continues to get better, get in better shape, which he's got to do. He's got a big enough game too. So this is sort of the fun part. We can all sit here and say, hey, do we think, I mean you know James is a top 15-ish player as well, so let's sit back and watch. And let's see what these guys are able to do. But there's no doubt that each and every one of them has an upside that I think is very strong. I'm very happy with what Mardy's commitment and Mardy's desire to want to come and still be part of the team and it should and good practice week for him. And get him some practice sets in and get him ready for the next phase of the year.

Q. The other thing I wanted to find out about is I understand that you allow their coaches to be there for practice or for during the week. Generally how does that go?

PATRICK MCENROE: Well, I didn't allow it for awhile and then last year when Jim Courier hurt himself when he had that accident, he wasn't able to come to Slovakia, and so I allowed, because this sort of happened last minute, it was during the U.S. Open when Jim finally determined that he wasn't going to be able to travel, so I allowed the guys to bring their coaches and it worked out pretty well. I think that these guys are all now been on the tour for a couple years, all of their coaches, knock on wood, we all get along together. And I think my relationship with the coaches is just as important as it is with the players. And I've tried to develop that. So we're on the same page. They know that I want what's best for their guy, and I do. So it's worked out well. The guys are comfortable having them around. They also know that I'm going to be the one making the decision and just as I had to in Slovakia in telling James and his coach that I felt like Mardy was the guy I had to go with in that match of the. And so they, you know, I operate on the same premise with the coaches as I do with the players. Be up front, be honest, tell them why you made your decision, tell them the factors involved, and they might not agree with it, but I think they respect it. And that's the way I've always tried to go about it. I don't envision this being any problem. In a situation like this where, look, I'm here in Australia and I've got my responsibilities with ESPN, so I'm very happy to have Robby and Mardy show up on Sunday and be there with their coach and get a hit in and get a hit Monday with their coach. That makes me feel comfortable knowing that they're going to be comfortable coming in and I'm actually getting there later than I ever have before, so -- because of my commitment here -- so it's working out, I don't expect any problems. If it, if there are problems that come up at some point, then I have the ability to change that. But right now I feel, I felt good about the situation as it is.

RANDY WALKER: I want to thank every one for joining us and thank Patrick for taking time out of his morning. If there are any questions I can be reached at 914-696-7289 or via e-mail.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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