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November 18, 2004

Cliff Drysdale

Patrick McEnroe


THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Thank you for your patience as we got things settled here. We're here to talk tennis with ESPN's Cliff Drysdale and Patrick McEnroe. They are in Houston for our week-long coverage of the Tennis Masters Cup. In a couple weeks they will be in Spain for the Davis Cup final. Cliff will be calling the matches and Patrick will be moonlighting in his role as US Davis Cup captain. We will go ahead and take any questions you have.

Q. Patrick and Cliff, why, in your perception, has Davis Cup fallen sort of in the hearts and minds of Americans over the years? What do you think can revive its stature?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: I'm not sure that it has fallen. I think, just like everything else in life, there are more options for people. So I think to say that it has fallen I don't think is accurate. I think it still has a warm place in people's hearts who have any interest in tennis. I just got to say that I feel very strongly, and have been singing this song for a long time, that if the Davis Cup was formatted differently, and in a season, that you would be asking me the question in a very different way. The question would be: How come Davis Cup has become so successful so quickly? Unfortunately, when you format the competition in such a way that you play four matches throughout the year, it just does not give the competition any continuity. To me that's important whether we're talking about Spain or the United States or anywhere in the world.

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I agree with a lot of what Cliff said. You know, in my role as the captain, I've tried to foster a sort of team spirit and an interest in us, meaning within the team, within the players, trying to build something that people will be drawn to. I think we're on our way to doing that. We have great young talent in Roddick, in the Bryans, that bring a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm to the table. So they really genuinely care about Davis Cup. I think from my perspective as a captain, that's what our goal has been and continues to be. It's sort of like the baseball movie, If You Build It, They Will Come. If people see interest and see how much we're passionate about it, I think it will come back into the consciousness a little bit more. Obviously, what Cliff said about the format I completely agree with. I think that would really help. But at the same time, we're going over to Spain. We're going to be playing in a football/soccer stadium with almost 25,000 people. It's a little hard for me to accept that it's not successful in that way. When we went to Paris a couple years ago in the semifinals and played in France. We had a tremendous crowd there at Roland Garros. We've had very successful home ties this year going to, yes, not huge cities, but medium market cities where people don't normally get to see tennis. We had tremendous turnouts. We had our best home match in years in Charleston, South Carolina, about 10,000 people every day. I think if you go there and talk to those people, they love Davis Cup and they love what the team is bringing. Obviously, winning I think helps a lot. So if we can do that over the next few years, I think we'll be doing pretty well.

Q. Which format would you prefer, like to see?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I like the idea of having a Final Four type format where the holder, the team that wins the Davis Cup, then automatically gets to host the Davis Cup the following year. The other teams would play sort of home and away matches in a fashion that we do now, maybe in a round-robin type format, and play to get to the other three semifinal spots. Then you have a 10-day to two-week event that can get publicized, that can get marketed. The home team you know is going to be there. Then you have four countries coming to one place. Obviously, I'm not going into the details of exactly what the format should be. But I think from a broad perspective, I think that's something that could really work, that television would be able to know exactly when the matches are going to be and where it's going to be.

Q. As the Masters Cup moves on from here, what is the potential for the venue? Is there some way this venue could be used to perhaps host something else that would be of a potential corresponding important event? It does seem to be something of a unique venue. Also, I'm curious if you've had more tennis or more rain delays this week?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: I think Mr. McIngvale is going to come up with something. It would be difficult to imagine something other than the year-ending championships for men, but he's not going to allow the stadium to lie dormant for long, would be my guess. A, he's got World Team Tennis scheduled for next year. B, he has a very successful clay court event every spring in Houston. It's not going to be a white elephant as long as Mattress Mac is around.

PATRICK McENROE: I certainly think it's a great site for Davis Cup. We played here two years ago against Spain on grass. They did a tremendous job in sort of building a temporary stadium so we could play on grass. It's a great facility. I'm sure that down the road, it will be a strong contender for more Davis Cup matches and maybe some Fed Cup matches, as well.

Q. Rain or tennis, I haven't had a stopwatch keeping track. Which have we had more of?

PATRICK McENROE: We've had a lot of rain. But the good news is that we see some sunshine today, some blue skies. They've actually gotten caught up on the singles part of the tournament, which is key. We're looking very good for the next few days and for a great weekend. The good news is that Federer looks, as he looked all year, pretty much unbeatable. Safin looks very good coming off winning two Masters Series events. Roddick had a great match with Tim Henman. Hewitt looked pretty good in his win over Moya. To me, those are the Top 4 with three guys with a chance to get to No. 2. Obviously, Federer has clinched No. 1. It looks like it's going to be a heck of a four days coming up.

Q. Patrick, you can correct me if you think I'm wrong, but I believe there was a time not so long ago when the US had trouble getting its top players to participate in Davis Cup. In September, only a couple months ago, Cliff said that a large part of the credit in getting them to play now goes to you. What did you do to get the guys to play? Are you that persuasive an individual?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I take Cliff out to a lot of late-night dinners and pick up the tab, so he has to say nice things about me. I've been very lucky. I came in at a time when we had a changing of the guard that was inevitable basically. You know, Sampras was essentially at the end of his career, though he did play quite a bit of Davis Cup in 2002. Agassi had stated his intentions that he was finished committing to Davis Cup, I have to say after playing a lot of Davis Cup for about 10 years of his career. So he did a lot for Davis Cup. So it was a time when we didn't have too many other players that were sort of veteran-type players that were at the top of the game, and it was a time to look to the younger players. Obviously, Andy Roddick was the obvious guy. We've had other players like James Blake and Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Robbie Ginepri and the Bryan brothers. There was a good young core group of guys coming up and it made sense to go in that direction. I've had a good relationship with all those guys and tried to be supportive of them, not just in Davis Cup, but throughout the year. It's fun for me. I enjoy trying to help them. But the bottom line is they deserve the credit because they're great kids, they're really inspired by Davis Cup, they're really passionate about playing for their country, and they get along with each other. I mean, you could be the captain and these guys would be pumped up and jacked up to play, and maybe you'd be a great captain. Maybe you might get my job. But these guys really deserve the credit. I'm going along for the ride and enjoying myself and happy to see them having some success. We've had some tough losses in the last couple years, but we're starting to really build a good team unity and chemistry, along with having great players. That's a combination you need for long-term success in Davis Cup. You can get lucky a year here or there if you've got a couple good players. But to really be in the hunt and in contention year after year, I think you need, number one, great players, but guys that are committed to it, and also you need some versatility. You need some players that can play on different surfaces. You know, we're facing a tough test in Spain. We're looking forward to it. We know we're the underdog. But we think we've got a good chance to go in there and get it done.

Q. Patrick, I was hoping you could talk about Mardy Fish for a second, his development, why you think he's ready right here and right now to perform well on clay.

PATRICK McENROE: You know, Mardy's got a lot of talent. He's got a lot of game. He's a versatile player. To me the thing I've always pushed with him and been on his case about is working hard and working harder and physically getting stronger because I think that's been something that is a place where he can improve. You know, I feel like game-wise, he's got a tremendous game. He's got a great serve. He's a natural player. I think as he gets stronger and gets fitter, you know, he's got the kind of game that basically he can dictate the play on any surface. He hasn't played much on clay this year, but he's a guy that's played a lot of clay when he was younger. He grew up in Florida. He's won some matches in his career. But clearly I'm not going to sit here and say it's his best surface. It's not. He's a good fast court player. I think he's got the type of game that can translate well to different surfaces. And I believe in him. He's had some great moments for us. He won a huge match for us last year in Slovakia on clay, that was a key match for us, probably the biggest single match we've had since I've been the captain was that one win he had. We were down 1-0. Roddick had lost. We were away, crazy crowd. So that was a big match for him to win of the. I think he's got the capability of playing well on a big occasion.

Q. Will you be going to Europe early?

PATRICK McENROE: We're leaving the Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. We'll be there about a week early. The guys are -- obviously Mardy is at home training. Vince Spadea is also going to be making the trip with us. I've spoken to him over the last few days. He'll be part of the team, as well. Obviously, Roddick and the Bryan brothers are here in Houston. That's all they talk about now is getting ready for Davis Cup. Obviously, this is a huge event for them, but they're very focused. We'll get there on the Saturday, so just about a week before. That should give us enough time to get acclimated and get used to the clay over there.

Q. Roddick's serve, does he do anything differently on clay?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, you know, I'd like to see him mix it up a little bit more on clay and hit some of those heavy kick serves. He's got one of the best kick serves in the world, if not the best. I think that's something we'll work on. Obviously, just blowing it past people on clay is not as easy as it is on grass or a hard court. I like what I saw from Roddick the other night against Henman. He mixed up some serves, he served and volleyed a bit. I think that's important. I think he can do that on clay. I think that will make it tougher for guys to return his serve.

Q. Patrick, can you sort of talk a bit more about how tough Spain is going to be?

PATRICK McENROE: How tough what?

Q. The Spanish team will be.

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, look, they've won something like I think 11 straight matches at home. They're very deep. You know, they love playing on clay. The conditions are obviously going to be extremely slow. That's what they're doing to try to blunt our game. We understand what we're up against. I mean, the fans there are extremely passionate, to put it mildly. When you're talking about well over 20,000 people for a tennis match, you know, that's right near record territory for a tennis match. So it's going to be crazy. But we know -- without having experienced it, we have an idea of what it's going to be like. The key for us is going to be to keep our heads down and to play, you know, and not try to let the crowd influence the way we play. Now, if they're going to play great, that's fine. But we have to try to play the way that we can play. Obviously, with Moya as their No. 1 guy right now, he played pretty well down here in Houston. He looks good. Ferrero is a little bit of a question mark. He hasn't played that much. But he's obviously gearing himself up for the Davis Cup final. And then they've got Nadal and Robredo, who are a very good doubles team, and either one of them also could step in and be very tough singles players. They've got great players, they're very good on clay, and we know that we're the underdog.

Q. Have the guys on your team discussed that it's been since 1997 the US has reached the final?

PATRICK McENROE: That's right, but this is a different team. I mean, I think I saw some quotes from Andy Roddick. He said, "Look, we've been together for about four years." For us, obviously we understand the history in the US, the great tradition of our success in Davis Cup. We'd like to add to that. At the same time, we look at ourselves as a team that is doing it now. So we don't really look at that. But at the same time we realize, hey, we expect to do well in Davis Cup. So we're not surprised we're in the final, but we know it's going to be difficult. At the same time we feel we're ready to go in there and play our best. We hope that our best is good enough.

Q. Somebody brought up the court at Houston, the versatility of the facility. I always wished since the '70s that there would be like a round-robin on three surfaces. Now that you got the world game, everybody wants to be good on every court, the Spaniards train on hard court, everybody is pretty good on everything these days, to a point that I'm wondering if it isn't anybody's great advantage, if even the tour considered going back to maybe the green clay, making it so you don't have these late-season injuries and problems with player commitments. How wide is the tennis industry considering the court question right now?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: You're talking about playing on clay because it's easier on the body?

Q. Yes.

CLIFF DRYSDALE: It's a very good point. It's not fair to say that everybody likes the surfaces equally, so you have got a greater variety of players now, starting with Roger Federer, who can play on all surfaces. But, frankly, he's still going to have the toughest time winning on a soft court. The more general question about injuries is a very, very good one. I just don't have the answer to it. The only solution is to have these guys - guys and gals - understand how ruinous hard courts are on the body and try to prepare themselves by, A, not playing quite as much and, B, by exercising their muscles in such a way to avoid injury. As for playing everything on a soft surface, I don't see that happening any time soon.

Q. I've enjoyed listening to you guys banter and sometimes get a little chippy on TV when you're doing a match with each other. What is it like, Cliff, to be the guy in the booth who has to pass comment on Patrick's performance in this event?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: It's a challenge for me. The interesting thing is that I've heard him with a self-effacing nonsense answer two questions to you guys today and I just have to look up at the sky. He talks about the boys and about how he's not responsible for it, all of that. A, he was responsible for getting these guys to become more Davis Cup oriented and to become a team. More than just this team, he's sort of instilled into the fabric of future players. So for a long time to come, I think the days of Connors and Agassi, where Agassi was a great supporter of Davis Cup, but others were not particularly good supporters of Davis Cup, I think they are over largely because of what he did. He's also talking about underdogs for the match against Spain. The realism in that, I know full well that he thinks that the US can win this tie. They've got the second best singles players in the world and one of the best doubles teams in the world. It's hard, but it's one of those things I have to bear.

Q. Patrick, you guys went into France a couple years ago into the semifinals, sort of up were against a similar surface. I'm wondering what you learned from that match, whether the surface is at all similar?

PATRICK McENROE: Oh, yeah, the surface is very similar. I'll never forget, it's sort of one of those Davis Cup moments that will be embedded in my memory, getting the team together after we lost that match, sitting everybody down in that room and saying, "This is the team that I want to stay with. You're the group of guys." Obviously, Todd Martin was a part of that team. He's been a big part of helping a lot of these young guys come up into the tour. But Andy Roddick was there, James Blake was there, Mardy Fish was there. I felt something with that team. We lost and we played a very tough French team that plays great on clay. But we played well and I think we learned from that. We're not clay court specialists by any stretch. But Andy Roddick has had success on clay. He's won some tournaments. He hasn't played great at the French. The Bryan brothers have won the French doubles. You know, I feel like those moments count when you get to a big match down the road. I mean, having been through that together, you know, I feel like obviously tennis is individual, it's not a team sport like basketball or football, et cetera, but I think in Davis Cup those little things really add up over the course of years. So we learned that I think we can play on this stuff, even though we lost that one. We also played in a very tough environment. So we're going to have that experience. We're still going to have to go out and play our butts off to have a chance to win this one. But certainly having the experience and the memories of that I think will help us in sort of dealing with the outside stuff that goes on, you know, playing away, playing in a big match on the road. So those things I think will help. But bottom line is we've got to play well, we've got to execute our games and try to take it to them, which obviously on clay is more difficult. But we think we can do it.

Q. What's it going to take for James Blake to be back on the team? He put a great effort in France.

PATRICK McENROE: I'm just hoping James gets back on the tour, that's number one. I'm obviously extremely close with James and just concerned about his health and him getting back and being out there. He came to Charleston with us in South Carolina for our last Davis Cup match. He's been a big part of what we've tried to do the last couple years. James is a very versatile guy. He can play singles, he can play doubles, including doubles in France, he won that match after having lost a real tough match in singles. He came back the next day and really led the charge in that doubles match. James has played great in Davis Cup. But my number one concern is him getting healthy and getting back out on the tour and we'll take it from there.

Q. You started this whole run at the Mohegan Sun. If you win it, is that going to be your lucky spot?

PATRICK McENROE: We had a good time up there. It was a little chilly up there in February. Maybe we can come back there when it's a little warmer.

Q. Patrick, regarding Spadea, what led you to select him and when did you make the decision? Is he considered an alternate or will he have a chance to play for that second singles spot?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, as I spoke with you last week, I spoke to Vince a couple of times. I spoke to Ginepri about where he was. At the end of the day, I decided that having Vince there was the option to go with. I had a good couple long conversations with him, got him on the page that I feel he needs to be on to come over there and play well. I'll tell you exactly what I told Vince. I'm leaning towards Mardy playing, but that's not a lock. Vince is coming over there, I told him to come over there with the idea that he can play. Last year in Slovakia, I was leaning towards James Blake playing the singles match and Mardy ended up playing. So that will be my decision. That will be the decision that will come the day or two before the match. But as I said, Mardy's had the experience, so I would lean towards him. But Vince is coming over in my mind as a guy that can potentially play.

Q. The other guys on the team, did you discuss it with them? How do they feel about Vince?

PATRICK McENROE: Everybody feels very, very good about it. I had a couple very good conversations with the guys. Andy's extremely excited about it. In fact, the first thing he said to me, "Can you get me Vince's number? I want to call him and tell him how excited we are to have him come." That to me sums up Andy Roddick. He's sort of taken on a leadership role on the team, that he's reaching out to Vince. If he's called him or not yet, I don't know. Obviously, he's pretty busy down here. But that was his first reaction. Vince is going to be welcomed onto the team. He came to the Olympics with us. We're looking forward to him. He was very positive to me when he spoke. He said, "I'm in the gym, I'm getting myself ready. Whatever you need me there to do, whether it's be ready to play or be a practice guy." So I was extremely happy with his attitude. After the sort of thing we went through last week, you know, to me that's completely behind us and I'm very happy to have him there as part of the team with the attitude that he has. That's all important and that counts towards what we're trying to do.

Q. Cliff, you know you're a big proponent of the Shot Spot technology. What do you think it's going to take for instant replay or Shot Spot to be used in officiating eventually? Are we nearing that point where it's going to happen sooner rather than later?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: It will happen by the US Open next year. You can go to the bank on that one, take that one to the bank. By the US Open, it will be a line-calling technology that will be used. I'm hoping that with my certainty on that subject that I can convince or we can convince the Australians that they should be the first. It could happen as soon as Australia and at the latest it will happen at the US Open. I'm thrilled about it because tennis needs it for a variety of reasons, one of which, the main one being the viewing public, the second to that the live audience, and thirdly just because we don't need more repetitions of what we've seen over the past year with people getting hooked out of matches.

Q. Have you been speaking with Arlen Kantarian about that? How do you know with certainty?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: I'm speculating. I'm speculating.

PATRICK McENROE: He's speculating with certainty.

CLIFF DRYSDALE: I'm speculating. But I have to be firm in my statements to you guys, so I'm making that firm prediction. I don't know for a fact, but this is my prediction because of what happened at the US Open. I think the US Open is more subject to change than any of the other Slams, because I think they understand the public. I think they understand the game better than any other Slam. That's why I'm convinced it's going to happen there.

Q. You have a future as a Supreme Court justice.

PATRICK McENROE: He's never missed a US Davis Cup match on ESPN. That's a pretty amazing record.

Q. I know Patrick you're a good buddy and broadcast partner. Take yourself away from that for a second and analyze the tie. What exactly did the US players have to do to win Davis Cup? As a follow-up, does Roger Federer really have a realistic shot of winning the Slam next year?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: I like both of those questions. Doesn't have anything to do with my friendship with Patrick for me to be able to analyze what I think. The way to win it is simple. Roddick has to win both of his singles matches and the Bryan brothers have got to win the doubles. All of those things are within reach. Ferrero has not had a good year. I think my money would definitely be on Roddick to beat him. Against Moya, it's more problematic. But I would make that close to a 50/50 call between the two, notwithstanding that it's on clay. I don't care about Spain because Roddick has been there before with the audience against him. So to me that's not a factor. This guy, he is hugely single-minded and focused when he plays, regardless of where he plays. And the doubles boys are a great team. I don't expect Mardy Fish to be able to win either one of his second matches or indeed Vince if he gets to play. So I think it's 3-2 -- I think it's a potential 3-2 for the US.

Q. Federer, can he win the Grand Slam next year?

CLIFF DRYSDALE: Yeah. I've said this a few times; I'll say it again: he's the best I've ever seen, including Rod Laver, who I saw close up and personal. I think he can win the Slam. I think his toughest assignment will be to stay healthy and to win the French. I'm only saying he can win the Slam. Obviously to do it is another thing.

Q. Patrick, do you have comments on Roger?

PATRICK McENROE: It's funny because one of the things we talked about, about him winning the French earlier this week in one of our broadcasts. One of the things that came up was Roger had said when people asked him about what he wants to improve. At Wimbledon he said he wants to improve his volley. Then he said on clay he wants to be able to hit that dropshot. I mean, he's hit a bunch of dropshots already here. I've never seen him hit that, when he gets a short ball on the forehand, hit a dropshot. I've already seen him do it a couple times here. That leads me to say he's already thinking about the French Open and what he can do to win that. Obviously, it's not going to be easy, that's unquestioned, for him to win the Slam. But in my mind he could dominate at the Australian. I think the surface there is perfect for him, it's relatively slow with the way the ball bounces there. It goes right into his strike zone. So I see him being able to dominate there almost the way he can dominate at Wimbledon. When you think about that, then you think about the French, he's won Hamburg, he's won big tournaments on clay. He destroyed Coria in the final in Hamburg after having lost a set, then he just drilled him in three straight. That was the best clay courter in the word. He beat Gaudio in that tournament as well. There's no doubt he can do it. I think he got a little bit of a wake-up call at the end of this year when he got that injury. I think that made him sort of step back a little bit and say, "Whoa, I thought I was indestructible." Luckily it wasn't that serious as initially we were led to believe, so he's able to play here and looks great. But that's something that he's going to have to be concerned about because, as we know, it's extremely grueling physically to do what he's doing and to play that many matches. There's no doubt he's the guy that can do it.

THE MODERATOR: We have come to the end of our list. I know our folks have to get going and do some TV this afternoon. We thank everybody for your interest and your time. Looking forward to a great weekend in Houston and a couple weekends from now in Spain. Thank you, all, and have a great day.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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