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DAVIS CUP MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 28, 2006
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. We have with us US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who will be announcing the roster that will compete in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinals at the Mission Hill Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, April 7, 8 and 9.
I'll pass it over to Patrick, then we'll get instructions on the Q&A session.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Thank you, Tim. Just here to make the official announcement. I'm sure it will come as not a huge surprise to everyone that the team for this upcoming match will be the same team we had for our first-round match: Andy Roddick, James Blake, Bob and Mike Bryan. We'll have two young practice players there, Sam Querrey, who was with us last year in Belgium, and for the first time Tim Smyczek. Those will be our two practice partners for this upcoming tie against Chile.
Q. Have you talked to Andy since you've been here? Yesterday he said he was starting to feel a little like the old Andy again, trying to keep his head on straight. Have you talked to him? How do you think he's playing the first couple rounds here?
CAPTAIN McENROE: No, I haven't spoken to him directly. I've been in touch with Doug, his trainer, who is also our trainer for the Davis Cup team. I've sent -- Andy and I, I've sent him a couple of emails.
But I've seen his matches. I would agree that he's looking good. He seems to be serving a bit better than he has. I think he's a little more relaxed out there, which helps.
I think he looks a little more calm out there, in a positive way. I'm happy of what I've seen so far. Obviously, he's still got a ways to go I think, but I think he's looking very good. I think his draw has been pretty good so far. I'll be watching him again this afternoon.
Q. Can you assess James Blake, too. He's continuing this incredible roll he's on.
CAPTAIN McENROE: James has been outstanding. As I said after the first-round Davis Cup match, I expected him to be taking up his game another level or two. He's done that maybe and then some. He's winning a lot of matches. He's got a lot of confidence. I saw his interview after his match yesterday where he said his confidence is there when he gets to a third set. His game is explosive, we know that.
When you win matches, you get more confident. I'm obviously extremely pleased with the way he's performed in the last month. I must say to me from seeing him, a whole week of practice in Davis Cup in California, watching him go out there and have a big win when we were 1-Love down, it's not a big surprise that he's playing this well to me.
Q. Can you talk about the seriousness of the discussions you had with Andre about actually playing, what his status might be for the rest of the year?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, obviously any discussion I have with Andre about playing Davis Cup is very serious. I had a couple of discussions with him at the end of last year, early this year, before the first-round match. The last time I spoke to him, I spoke to him once during the Indian Wells event, then right before this event. So I haven't spoken to him since he pulled out of this event.
Any time he says he's interested, obviously I'm interested. I'd be crazy not to be. He's Andre Agassi. It didn't work out for this match. Andre has some other issues he has to deal with just as far as getting his health on track, seeing if he can get his game back together.
I certainly think he can. If he can and if he does, I'll be one of the happiest guys around, not just from a Davis Cup standpoint but from a tennis standpoint. I'd love to see him come back and have another good summer like he did last summer. That's really the primary concern of mine, that he's able to do that and keep playing on his own terms. If it comes a point where we're lucky enough to be in the semifinals or even the final, he can help us, I'd be crazy not to consider that.
Q. He's left the door open for that possibility?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Oh, definitely, absolutely. I mean, it was certainly open for the first couple rounds. I think we both agreed that we had better options for these couple matches. If he gets his health together, plays well in the summer, is still interested in playing, then certainly I'd be crazy not to think about that.
Q. Based on the way that James has been playing, Andy No. 4 in the world, the way Robby has been playing, Taylor being hurt, was this the easiest decision had you to make?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I never call these decisions easy. I think it's been pretty clear-cut. I mean, the way obviously Andy has performed over the years in Davis Cup speaks for itself. He's been our go-to guy basically since I've been the captain. This is my sixth year. With James stepping up, as I said, being a legitimate top 10 player, maybe going higher after this tournament is all said and done...
I would never say it's easy. Let's put it this way: I would have preferred to have it be more difficult. I would have preferred to see Taylor Dent play the last two Masters Series events because I think he could have been a real factor on grass. I would have preferred to see Andre make a great run in Miami and have it be a real difficult decision. If I have a difficult decision like that, it's a good problem to have. I always prefer to have those.
But I'm certainly pleased with the way our top guys have played in the last couple months, and the Bryan brothers have had a great start to the year. They look good. Obviously, what they bring to Davis Cup is a great advantage to us.
Q. Could Andre realistically have played his way onto the team had he not gotten hurt, maybe reached semis? Is that a moot point? He did at Indian Wells express a strong desire to attempt to play himself onto the team.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Look, I'd be absolutely nuts not to consider that. First of all, when he says he's interested, my antenna goes up immediately. I reach out to him as quickly as I can. We've had that type of relationship over the years. I've always tried to keep him in the loop on what I'm doing, what I'm thinking about. The situation came up where he was interested last year. That didn't turn out the way we all would have liked.
The short answer to your question is yes. I mean, he could have. Obviously James has made a major statement in the last month. That's had a huge impact on me, on my confidence in him, my belief in him, but more importantly his belief in himself, the way he's playing, yes.
As I said in an earlier answer, if Andre comes back in the summer, has a great run in the summer, I'd be crazy not to consider him.
Q. Following that, some of the chatter during Indian Wells was it actually wasn't James who might be up, that it would be Andy, because obviously in his own words he's had a pretty bad four-month run.
CAPTAIN McENROE: No, absolutely not.
Q. Because he's been your guy for so long?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I mean, come on, Andy Roddick is 4 in the world. He may be 3 by the time this is over. He's gone through a rough patch for a couple months. Let's be real here, Andy Roddick has been a consistent top five player or better in the last couple years.
Has he had a tough stretch? Yes. Does he know that, do I know that? Yes. Do I think he's right on the cusp of turning it around? Yes. Do I know his record from Wimbledon the last couple years? Yes. Are we playing this match on grass? Yes. That's a no-brainer.
Q. I get all that. But when Andy is saying that he's not playing with confidence on any surface, he's been doubting himself a little bit, he could very well be on the cusp of being No. 1 again, he's had a couple nice wins here, but would you like to see him beat some big-time players here, maybe get semis, final, really regain some of that confidence?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Absolutely. I would love to see that. At the same time I have total confidence in him. I love his work ethic. I love his intensity. I believe that it will come around. I believe that it might come around this week.
Would I like to see him get a shot at Federer or maybe Blake, I should say, in the semifinals? Who knows, the way James is playing, maybe he wants to get another shot at Roger. Roger is clearly the guy right now, we all know that.
But I have total confidence in Andy, particularly when it comes to Davis Cup, and particularly when it comes to playing a big match at home on grass. I mean, Andy's record, as I said, on grass and in Davis Cup speaks for itself.
Q. On the Chileans, neither of them have had great stretches on hard courts. They're both pretty talented guys. Do you expect it to be a tough tie or could the US walk out of there 3-0 pretty quickly?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I expect either one. It could be a very tough tie. We could certainly get up three-zip. You know what I'm expecting? I'm expecting them to play their absolute best. I saw that at the Olympics. I couldn't believe that Massu, after all the tennis he played, could have that type of performance in the gold medal match against Mardy, look like he was dead, win the match. Then they go out and win the doubles. They beat the Bryans, by the way, along the way.
I know how well they can play. This is really probably the biggest match for them all year. It's probably their biggest match. If they can beat the US away on grass. We're doing everything we can to give ourselves the best advantage. I'm expecting them to play better than they've ever played. I think our guys know that.
If we play well, play our game, we like our chances. I go into every match expecting a very tough match, particularly seeing what these guys have done when they play for their countries. González got to the quarters of Wimbledon last year. He obviously can play on grass. Massu has not had great results on grass. He's a talented guy. He moves well. He hits a big ball off his forehand. We're aware of what they're capable of doing.
Q. We've had a successful experiment with instant replay. Should the tour try other changes, including coaching on the court?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I absolutely think that the replay technology and the challenge system has been great. I've been watching it at home, so I've sort of had a fan's view, perspective of it. I think it's fantastic.
I think we should do more. I think we should seriously consider coaching maybe not on the court but sort of maybe after each set, sort of a 60-second, one-hour (sic) coaching chat with your coach. Initially I wasn't for coaching. My buddy and partner Cliff Drysdale, he's sort of convinced me over the years. I think the more I've been in the television side of it, maybe the less as a player, I see the advantages of doing things for the public, doing things for the fans.
I believe in tennis I think we've been too slow to do these types of things to get fans interested, to get fans not only in the stadium but on television interested. I think this is a huge step in that direction and I think we should continue to do more and try -- just do it, whether it's television-driven, whether it's tournament-driven, promoters, whoever it may be. We've got to look to get more fans, more eyeballs watching our sport, particularly on television. I think that's a way to add value to what we have.
As we've seen already from what's happened in Miami, the players will adjust, the players will be just fine, and the players will grab onto whatever the changes are very quickly. I think that's proven by what we've seen in Miami.
Q. Roddick and Blake, the Bryan brothers, are playing good right now in Miami. The Chilean players, they lose in the second round. Do you think with more days to prepare the match, this is going to be an advantage for Chile for preparing for grass?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think that the Chilean team is extremely dangerous. We have a lot of respect for them. We know how well they can play, particularly when they play for their country.
I prefer players that come in having played a lot of matches, won matches, have confidence. I would love to see my players make it to the final in Miami because that would give them a lot of confidence. They know how to play on grass. They don't really need that much time to adjust to that. We're not worried about that. But maybe that will help the Chileans, but maybe it won't. We'll see.
I as a captain always prefer to have players that come in having won a lot of matches and have some confidence. I'm happy to see that our guys are still playing. I hope they're there until the final.
Q. González is not playing so well. He said that yesterday, the last days. Do you think with 10 days of practice can change this situation for González?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I hope not.
Q. What are the chances you're actually not going to be at the tie when it takes place? How do you think that could affect the outcome?
CAPTAIN McENROE: If I knew that, I'd be some kind of genius, if I knew when my wife was going to have her baby.
I'm fully expecting to be at the match. That's the plan. The guys know the situation. I'm going to have Dean Goldfine there as my assistant. If need be, he would step in. But I'm certainly not expecting that is going to happen. I'm hoping to be there, going to do everything I can to be there. That's the plan.
The guys will be comfortable. That's the main reason, really the only reason why Dean is going to step in for me, if need be, because that's what my team wanted, that's what they felt most comfortable with. He's a guy they've been around a lot. He's been my assistant before. He's obviously coached Andy. They still have a good relationship.
Do I think it will affect the outcome? No. I'd like to think that I'm that important, but I'm -- I can't think that highly of myself. Listen, these guys know what to do on the court. Once in a while you can say something positive, but more often than not you can say the wrong thing. These guys know how to play, they know how to win. I certainly don't think that's going to have an affect on the outcome.
My biggest decision is today in picking the team, picking the surface, getting the guys lined up. They would be just fine without me. We're not planning on that happening, but if it does, I have full confidence in them.
Q. How much do you take the camaraderie of the team into account, Andre being older than Andy and the Bryans?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Look, first of all, let me say it again, Andre Agassi is Andre Agassi. He's a legend. He's been a huge part of Davis Cup teams in the past. He's a natural leader. He's a great teammate. These guys obviously get along great. They get along with Andre, too. Is it a different sort of mix? Yeah. That doesn't mean it can't be successful.
Let's put it this way: I'm extremely happy with the camaraderie of the team. The bottom line is you can have all the camaraderie in the world, but if you don't have the guns and you don't have the players, it's not going to amount for much.
At the end of the day, do I think chemistry counts? Sure. Do I think camaraderie counts? Yes. Do I think Andre Agassi would bring that same camaraderie to the table? Absolutely.
My decision is always based on one thing: what I believe gives the team the best chance to win the match. I believe that this team that we're putting out there now gives us the best chance. Sometimes I've been wrong in the past or maybe I've been right and we just got beat. That goes with the territory.
I'm extremely happy with the camaraderie of the team. They pull for each other. They get along with each other. At the same time when we had Andre there, we all got along with Andre, we respect him, he respects the guys. He's a team player. That's the long answer.
The short answer is, it doesn't -- what plays an important factor is what I think gives us the best chance to win.
Q. When you were naming the players who were going to be practice partners, there was some static. Who is the second player?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Tim Smyczek.
Q. If you do have to go home for the baby, who is Dean's assistant?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I'm not sure. I don't think his wife is due. I know he has two kids already. Jay is going to be there, who has been there for the last few matches. He helps us out with the younger guys, the practice guys. He's great. He obviously has plenty of Davis Cup experience.
I really don't envision that happening. Now that you ask that question, I might have to think about it.
Q. Have you heard any serious discussion of on-court coaching coming up again?
CAPTAIN McENROE: To be honest, I haven't. Maybe you know something I don't, but I have not heard any of that coming up. I'm may not be in the loop on that. But I think -- to me this is a big first step. This is a first step towards using the challenge system, seeing how it goes over, seeing how the players adjust to it. I love the fact that ESPN is pushing the envelope and having some of the coaches wired, hearing sound from that stuff. The USTA has done a lot with it, the prematch interviews over the years. We're trying to do that at ESPN now.
I think we should just continue to push the envelope. This is what tennis needs. Tennis needs more of this. Tennis needs more interaction with the players, interaction with the coaches, getting fans involved, anything we can do.
By the way, we can try these things. If they don't work, then we change the rule back. There's nothing that says once we try something, we have to stay with it. There's a rules committee. They do that in other sports all the time. They tinker with the system.
I believe there's be plenty more room left to tinker.
Q. From your perspective on television, it's nice to add some adult personalities to the mix there.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Definitely. That helps. Look, tennis is sometimes difficult because you have two players out there. As great as Cliff Drysdale is about telling stories on court, to talk about two players for a couple hours, sometimes you want to get some other angles in there. I think from a TV perspective, it helps a lot.
Q. Do you think Chile is too much dependent on Massu and González? What do you think about their third player?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I know he had a pretty good tournament in Memphis where he beat Robredo and won a couple matches. My assistant Dean Goldfine was able to see him play in Florida. We watched him, have a scouting report on him if we need it.
I would be very surprised if he sees any action. González and Massu have so much experience, so many great wins for Chile. By the way, I remember a team in the not-too-distant past that won the Davis Cup with two players, and they beat us along the way, Croatia. It's very possible with two players you can win the Davis Cup.
We're expecting, as I said, the Chileans to play well and play inspired tennis for their country. But we're expecting to play well ourselves. With the home crowd and situation in California, we feel very confident about our chances.
Q. What about if Chile wins, do you think this country would become one of the favorites to win the Davis Cup?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I don't think I'm going to address that question. We're hoping to win the match. If that happens, I'll address that question at a later date.
Q. Do you think Chile has less opportunities of a victory playing on grass?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Yes, we do. That's why we chose the surface. At the same time we know they have a very good chance. We think the grass is the surface that favors us the most.
TIM CURRY: Thanks, again, for joining the call. I wanted to reinforce that the quarterfinals will be held April 7 through 9 at the Mission Hill Country Club in Rancho Mirage. We are close to being sold out about 10 days out from the start of the event.
There will be a press release with the team announcement being emailed out shortly followed by the transcript of this call. If you have any questions or need additional information, feel free to email me at Curry@USTA.com, or call me at 914.696.7077.
Thanks, Patrick, for joining us today on this call.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Thank you, Tim. Thank you, everybody.
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