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September 10, 2002

Merv Heller

Patrick McEnroe

DAVID NEWMAN: Good morning to folks on the West Coast, good afternoon to folks on the East Coast, good evening to our friends in France. Thank you for joining us for today's media conference call regarding next weekend's September 20th through 22nd Davis Cup tie between the US and France at Roland Garros. It marks the first time in 70 years that the US will play France at Roland Garros. Everybody is most excited about next weekend's action. On the line with us this morning is USTA president and chairman of the board Merv Heller, USTA chief operating officer and executive director Rick Ferman, USTA chief executive of professional tennis Arlen Kantarian, and USTA first vice president and recently nominated for president Alan Schwartz, and of course us Davis Cup Captain, Patrick McEnroe. Before we throw it over to Patrick to discuss next weekend's Davis Cup tie against France, the USTA on the heels of the most watched US Open in its history, has some exciting Davis Cup news to share. I will throw it over to USTA president and chairman of the board, Merv Heller.

MERV HELLER: Thank you, David. I think you're all aware that under Patrick we have had a great run the last two years, have won the last three consecutive ties. I think there has been a great foundation created for the future of the Davis Cup team in the United States. It is primarily due to the fine leadership and efforts of Patrick. With that, today the USTA is pleased to announce that Patrick McEnroe will be our US Davis Cup captain for the next two years. This announcement bridges my presidency for the past two years, and that of my successor, who will be president in the years 2003, 2004, and that is Alan Schwartz. The president of the USTA chooses the captain. Alan Schwartz has enthusiastically agreed and concurred with this decision. He also agrees and concurs to make this decision at this time. I am very pleased to share this decision with him because we believe it's important to let everyone know, especially our fine young American players, that we have confidence in Patrick and his captaincy. Because we work as a team, I would also like to thank very much the fine efforts in getting this done and getting it moving forward, our executive director Rick Ferman and our chief executive of professional tennis, Arlen Kantarian. As a team, we have been able to get this together with Patrick, and we can move forward for the next two years and hopefully even more successful Davis Cup efforts in our quest to bring back the cup to the United States. With that, I would like to turn it over to Patrick, who is going to make the announcement as to the team.

PATRICK McENROE: Thanks, Merv. Quickly I want to thank Merv, Alan, Arlen and Rick for making this possible. I'm obviously extremely excited to come back. I'm looking forward obviously to the rest of this year, hopefully two more matches, and the next two years. Obviously the goal is to win the cup. We've got a pretty good shot to do it this year and onward for the next couple years. I thank those gentlemen for helping make this happen. It is a team effort. Certainly I've been there, but we all know it's the players that do it on the court, that win or lose the matches. Jim Courier, who is the coach, deserves a lot of credit as well. He's been a big part of our team and will be a big part of what we try to do in Paris. In moving forward now and looking ahead towards the match with France, which we're all looking forward to, our four-man team for the semifinal will be Andy Roddick, James Blake, Todd Martin and Mardy Fish. Alex Kim will be one of the practice players with the possibility that we may add one more practice player going forward as we get ready to go over to France in a couple of days. That's our team. We're excited. We've got obviously the youth movement and the old war horse in Todd Martin, who has always been there, is looking forward to taking the doubles court and, who knows, singles if necessary. We're certainly excited about going over to Paris and accepting this challenge. I will open it up to any questions.

Q. What happened with Pete?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I think I had a very, very good discussion finally with Pete last night. Obviously he's exhausted and sky high in some ways after what he did in thrilling all of us at the US Open, what both he and Andre did. I think Pete needs some time to digest what happened, think about what he wants to do, whether that means not play the rest of this year, whether that means maybe not even play again. I think he's just worn out. I certainly understand that. As I've said from the start when I took this job, I've said it in regards to Pete, to Andre, to whomever, I really want the guys who want to be there. I think Pete is just worn out. You know, he needs to rest now. Obviously I feel we need guys there that are going to bring a lot of energy to the table. With James and Andy especially, as we look ahead to the singles, being our two singles players, that's who we have, and that's what I want to have. I would never be one to want to put these guys up against a wall and say, "You have to be there," et cetera, et cetera. That's not the way I see the Davis Cup. That's not the way I see building the right chemistry and morale on the team. Pete deserves I think right now to digest it all. Let's face it, if the Davis Cup were held at a different time, if it wasn't right after the US Open, he might play. But with the schedule being as it is, quite honestly I can't really blame him.

Q. With the Americans doing so well at the US Open, what kind of incentive do you feel there will be on your team to go out there and continue the momentum that has built up at the US Open?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I think that's a great question. Let me just say what a great US Open it was. I think obviously the players, as they do in Davis Cup, deserve the credit. But I think Arlen and his team, everybody at the USTA, deserve a huge amount of credit for putting on just an incredible event. It was one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, US Opens I've ever been a part of, and I've been a part of a lot of them. I think James and Andy especially brought a lot of energy to the table, and great play. James, with his match with Hewitt, was one of the best matches of the tournament. Andy played so well; he just ran into a steamroller when he played Pete. To me this is sort of an interesting shift because we saw in Sampras and Agassi these two guys giving us this one great run. Quite honestly, it might be the last for both of them in one big tournament like that. It is time for the younger guys to sort of take the baton and run with it. This is another step in that process, and a big step. We're relying on them. This is a big stage. It's at Roland Garros. It's a semifinal. I think they're ready to take another step. I'm really excited about it because I think they obviously I think will feed off the energy that they all had at the US Open the last couple days. It was a great experience for them. I think Andy has learned a lot from what happened to him in the last couple of US Opens. To me it's really a giant step forward, the opportunity to take for these young guys to go out there. We're the team now. This is our team. We loved having Pete the first couple rounds this year. He brought a lot to the table with who he is, what he's done, what we've just seen him do. But, you know what, it's time for the young guys to step up. I think they're excited about it. I know I am.

Q. Any consideration to the Bryan brothers on this selection?

PATRICK McENROE: A lot of consideration. It was a very difficult decision on my part because they have played exceptionally well lately. They're great guys. I think they would be great Davis Cup players. I think they're going to get an opportunity to play at some point. But the reality is, you know, it's hard to go with a doubles team in this match especially because I do have to consider Andy's foot, which is better, but it's certainly a concern of mine that Andy is a hundred percent healthy. The opportunity to have another singles player or two there I think was crucial. But it was difficult. It really was a difficult decision. Mardy has played Davis Cup. He played very well earlier this year. He's also playing very well recently in singles. He's played before with both James and Todd in doubles. Obviously, Todd and James won Cincinnati and in my mind are the best team we could put out there in doubles. Some of it will depend on how James is feeling, what kind of match he has on the first day. It gives us a lot of options. It gives us quite a few options on the doubles court. Going into a match like this, I think that's what we need.

Q. Would it be accurate to say that you tried to persuade Pete to play?

PATRICK McENROE: I had a conversation with Pete that was very honest and very straightforward. You know what, it depends what your definition of "persuade" is. When he told me he's exhausted, that he's having a lot of emotions, wondering what he should do, you know, to me that was the answer in and of itself. I'm not going to say, "Pete, you've got to play." That's not the way I do business. That's not the way I'm ever going to do business. I don't believe in that. I believe in having however good you are, whatever you've done. I've seen too many situations in Davis Cup where the so-called best player's there and they didn't really want to be there for whatever reason. That doesn't work. It never works. What works is having -- obviously you want to have your best players, we all know that. But you want to have them with the right frame of mind and mentality. Let's be honest, as great as Pete is, it's not a lock to have Pete play on clay. James and Andy have both had great results on clay and can play well. They'll have fresh legs. You know, to me that's the key. So, no, I didn't put Pete up against the wall and say, "You've got to come." I don't feel that's the right way to do business.

Q. Did you go back to Andre?

PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I did. I spoke with his manager, Perry. I think Andre was devastated after his loss. The same way I can understand Pete, I understand that. Andre said all along that, you know, he's not going to play Davis Cup. I think there was a small chance that maybe he would change his mind, but I never was counting on that. I never was expecting that he would. Obviously I'm going to give him another opportunity to do that, but I certainly wasn't surprised that he declined.

Q. Can you talk about the way James has improved so much in one year?

PATRICK McENROE: It's remarkable. From a year and a half ago when he was a practice player for us against Switzerland, the way he's improved has been phenomenal. I think he's going to continue to improve. I mean, that's what's so exciting about James. We've seen the type of tennis he can play in beating Andre in Washington, the match he played with Lleyton at the US Open. There's a lot of stuff that can get better in his game. He can improve his serve. He can get to net a little bit more. He can play with a little more consistency. I believe he will because he's a great athlete. He's got a great attitude. He's working hard. He's exciting. I think there's no telling how far he can go.

Q. He's kind of a late-bloomer.

PATRICK McENROE: Two years in college, went to Harvard two years. It was a little of an adjustment for him coming to the pros. It took him some time to make that adjustment. What is he, 22, 23? That's the good news. I think he's going to hit his prime in a couple years. He's also got the type of game that is an attacking type of game. He can get to net more. Quite often that takes a little more time. You know, he brings singles and doubles play to the Davis Cup, which has been crucial for us. He can do both. Can he play with different partners, as he's shown in Todd and Mardy. He's a great team guy. All the guys that are on this team have a great camaraderie with each other, respect for each other. They all come in with the same attitude: we want to win this match. It's not: I want to do this, I want to do that. It's all about the team. That's really important.

Q. Can you talk about the US team's chances? Clay in France.

PATRICK McENROE: I think our chances are excellent. I felt that from the beginning. I think France obviously has a great camaraderie on their team, very good players. Grosjean has played very well on clay. He's played well essentially on every surface. Quite honestly, for the rest of their team, clay is not their best surface. They're picking clay because they think it's our worst surface. In saying that, I believe that Andy and James have games that are very transferrable to clay courts. I think they both have proven that this year. James hasn't played as much on clay, but he made the quarters in Rome. He had a couple good wins there. He's got a very well-built game that can transfer well to clay surface. Andy making the semifinals at Rome, winning in Houston on clay. I feel like we have a very, very good chance. Obviously playing in Paris it's going to be difficult. We know that. But we're looking forward to it. From the time we beat Spain in the quarterfinals, which seems like eons ago, by the way, another one of the Davis Cup problems, the guys really wanted to play at Roland Garros. "Captain, have you heard anything? Are we going to play at Roland Garros?" They're really excited. As I said, I feel like we have a very, very good chance to win this match. We know it's going to be tough. We're going to relish the challenge. As I said, I think it's another one of the steps for these guys to take in their progress as young players and hopefully becoming champion players, it's another big event, another big match where the pressure is going to be on them. I think they'll perform well.

Q. You mentioned doubles. I was surprised that you let, not a pejorative, Todd and James play in Washington without playing together, then again at the US Open. It seems to me a captain might say, "You guys are my favorites to play doubles in this big match, how about playing doubles?"

PATRICK McENROE: Did you follow the event in Cincinnati?

Q. Yes.

PATRICK McENROE: They won that.

Q. They won that. Certainly a couple more tournaments together wouldn't hurt, right?

PATRICK McENROE: Not necessarily, no. Coming into the US Open, I disagree with you. James, first of all, would like to play with his brother, which I can certainly understand. Quite honestly, playing with his brother, who is not quite as good a player as Todd is in doubles, James is not thinking he's probably going to go deep into the tournament in doubles. He wants to play with his brother, get a couple matches in. If he played with Todd, they'd be one of the favorites to win the tournament. Obviously, the top singles players are concerned at the US Open in doing well in singles, which I totally understand. I would never tell my players to play doubles in a Grand Slam because it's not really, quite honestly, the best thing for them to do for their singles. For Todd, the same thing. For him to have a decent run at the US Open, which he didn't have this year, but he certainly had the last couple years, he needs to rest on his days off. He doesn't need the grind of having a five-set singles match, coming back and playing doubles. In playing as well as they did against Spain, I watched them play every match they played in Cincinnati, I watched them beat four of the Top 5 doubles teams in the world in that one week. That was enough for me to see. I think they've played enough. As I said, Mardy and James have played together. The key thing is they all get along very well. They know each other very well. They know each other's games. They practice with each other all the time. It's really not as important that they play week in and week out on the doubles tour.

Q. Regarding Agassi, there was question regarding whether Pete Sampras would come after having won the US Open. People in France were saying since he won, he's definitely not going to come to a Davis Cup match to play doubles. People were thinking about Andre Agassi. Apparently last week there were thoughts he might be coming finally. Do you think had he won the US Open he would be coming on Saturday to Paris?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I cannot answer that question definitively, but I think there probably is a better chance. Whether or not he would have wanted to, I just don't know. But I think there was a better chance. In saying that, I was never counting on him to come because I know where his head has been at most of the year. All the players on our team would have opened their arms and loved to see him come back and play based on who he is and based on how much he's given to the Davis Cup in his career. That's just the way it is. I mean, that's the decision that he made. The same thing that I feel about Pete. Andre is exhausted. He's extremely disappointed I'm sure about losing in the final. He wants to rest and relax. He's probably thinking about how much he wants to play the rest of the year. He's probably already thinking about the Australian Open, et cetera. I understand where he's coming from. We certainly would have loved to have him back. If he had won, maybe there would have been a better chance, but maybe not.

Q. Is it possible that the four players you mentioned that on Saturday you come with different players? Could this still change?

PATRICK McENROE: I don't think so. I mean, I'm knocking on my wood desk now, everyone will be healthy. Assuming that everybody is, that's going to be the team we show up with.

Q. You leave Saturday. If Andy's foot wasn't better by then, do you have a plan B?

PATRICK McENROE: I always have a plan B. I always have a plan C. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Certainly there are other options there. Andy was going to hit a few balls this morning. I'll be speaking to him when he's done. We'll see how he feels. But there are other options. I'm not going to get into what they are now because I don't think they're going to be necessary. If they are, we'll explore them.

DAVID NEWMAN: The US and France have met 13 times. The United States leads the series 7-6. The Davis Cup tie will be played at Roland Garros. It is sold out. ESPN will televise nine and a half hours back to the United States with both live and taped coverage next weekend starting Friday.

Q. Is it fair to say that you plan to play those two in doubles?


Q. James and Todd.

PATRICK McENROE: I cannot make that statement just yet. I think if James -- let's just throw out the possibility if he plays his match the first day, if he has a relatively easy match, if he plays great, I think that would be where I would be leaning. A lot can change. As the week goes on, the practice week, we try different combinations. I think Mardy is more than capable of going out and playing great doubles. He's got a big game. He's got a big serve. He'd be very comfortable with Todd or James in doubles. One of the reasons I have these four guys is to have these options, to have these options available. As the week goes on, Jim Courier and I will look at everything. Certainly I think looking at it right now, that's where he would be leaning, but that doesn't mean where it's going to come down.

Q. You called Pete last night?

PATRICK McENROE: That's when we finally spoke. He flew back home right after his match at The Open. He got home to LA in the middle of the night.

Q. You spoke to him yesterday?

PATRICK McENROE: I spoke to him last night.

Q. When did you speak to Perry?

PATRICK McENROE: Yesterday maybe midday-ish.

DAVID NEWMAN: We thank everybody for joining us for today's conference call. Next weekend, Friday September 20th, through Sunday September 22nd, United States versus France in Davis Cup semifinal action. Thanks for joining us everyone.

End of FastScripts….

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