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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 21, 2007
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us on this call to announce the U.S. team for the 2007 Davis Cup BNP Paribas Quarterfinals against Spain. As you may have received our press release earlier, the venue, the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem is sold out to capacity 14,453 for all three days which will be the third-largest U.S. home Davis Cup tie on record, and the largest in 15 years since crowds of 17,000-plus joined us regularly for the 1990 final.
With that being said, I will now pass the call to Patrick to give the U.S. roster.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you, Tim. Thanks everybody for being here. The team will be Andy Roddick, James Blake, Bob and Mike Bryan. Mardy Fish will also be joining us for the week. And in our practice player, we will have Donald Young there for the week. So I'm happy to take any questions.
Q. Given what happened last week at Indian Wells, first of all, are you convinced that Rafael Nadal is going to play, and secondly, are you concerned about that result?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I'm certainly hopeful that he's going to play. I think we would all like to see him play.
Obviously he's a great player and he made a statement in winning Indian Wells and certainly played extremely well. I would like to see all of the best guys play Davis Cup. We have been told that he's planning on playing, and every indication is that he will play.
So am I concerned? I'm always concerned about whoever we're playing against, whether it's going away on clay or playing a home match. He's not a one-man team, and they have got a great team all-around. They have got a good doubles team, as well.
So they present a lot of problems, a lot of challenges for us. But at the same time, I'm certainly happy with our guys.
And the fact that we're playing home in front of what's going to be such an awesome crowd to me really says a lot about the team and what they have been able to accomplish last few years as far as building interest in Davis Cup. I think the fact that the place sold out as quickly as it did, it's a testament to how committed and how hard our guys have worked in the last couple of years.
So, we're excited. I know the guys are very excited about going back to Winston-Salem. It's the first match that both Andy and James played on a team at home, and it was my first time as a captain. So we have a lot of great memories from being there and we are expecting a great environment.
Q. If I my just ask, do you have any intelligence on who their other players might be?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I'm expecting it's going to be either Ferrer or Robredo as their second singles guy. My suspicion is we probably won't know until maybe even the day before the match. And usually they put Lopez and Verdasco in doubles.
So I don't know whether they are intending four or five or six players or what their plan is. We will certainly be prepared for whatever, and the one thing we know is that Nadal is going to play two singles, he's going to be. Healthy, other than that, it's not locked in for that.
TIM CURRY: Just one note, I've been told that they are going to announce the Spanish team Monday morning in Sony Ericsson Championships in Miami.
Q. I understand that you were testing court services this week. What characteristics are you looking for as you prepare for this?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, we are looking for a court that is obviously relatively quick, although not incredibly fast, but pretty fast. Preferably one where the ball doesn't bounce particularly high. So those are the things we're looking for, and we realize that Nadal has certainly proved that he can basically play on anything. I mean, he's obviously -- we know what he's done on clay. He's been to the finals of Wimbledon on grass. He's won a Master's Series event indoors. He's won a couple on hard courts.
We know the guy can play. We are well aware of that, but we are also well aware of trying to make the court as more to our advantage as we can and that's making it relatively quick and relatively low bouncing.
So I've been working with court people on trying to get it as close as we can to that.
Q. You were talking about Indian Wells. How much importance do you put in the guys playing well down in Miami before traveling to Winston-Salem?
PATRICK McENROE: Look, I'd love to see them playing well all year, but obviously they go through patches where they are playing great and struggling a little bit. Of course I would love to see them do well there. Andy has obviously had a very good start to the year and played a lot of tennis and won a lot of matches. James started well the first couple of weeks and struggled a bit since. Definitely would like to see him get his confidence going and play well.
In saying that, we'll have a good, five, six days to prepare. The conditions should be favorable for those guys, the way they play, and you know, if they go out early and it's not a huge cause for concern -- you always want your players coming in having won a bunch of matches and feeling a little more confident. We have done it both ways, and sometimes, you know, it's not necessarily a predictor of how you're going to play in the Davis Cup matches.
Q. You said that Donald Young is going to be a practice partner, is there going to be only one, or is there another name and I missed it?
PATRICK McENROE: The other name was Mardy Fish, and he's going to be there -- I wouldn't term Mardy a practice partner, but he'll be there, so the fifth guy.
And I wanted to get Mardy back in the mix as far as being part of the team, and he's always been there as far as whenever I've asked him to play or play doubles or be a practice guy. He's obviously had a little problem with his shoulder right now. So hopefully by the time, you know, another two weeks' time, he'll be ready to serve.
I think it will be good practice for the guys, and it's also just a good chance to get him back into the team mix. And, you know, look, if something were to happen to one of the guys as far as injuries go, you know, he would be our next guy probably coming in to play a fast hard court.
Q. Can you sort of measure sort of the enthusiasm amongst the guys when they heard they were going to be playing Spain at home on their own surface as relates to sort of their experience playing them in the Davis Cup Finals a couple of years back?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, we all remember vividly those of us who were there, which is pretty much everyone on -- (line muted)
Can you hear me now?
What I was saying is that we obviously all have vivid memories of what happened in Spain, and it was a great experience. We ended up playing the final in front of 27,000-plus people. I remember vividly walking out on to the court with Andy for his first match, and he turned and as we were taking our chair there, he said, "Man," he goes, "wouldn't it be awesome if we could some day get a crowd like this at home."
I sort of told him about a few weeks ago when this thing sold out in a couple of days. I said, "We're not at 27,000, but we're for us, 14 and a half thousand is pretty darned awesome.
So, we're excited. The guys are really pumped up about it, and obviously we want to -- desperately want to win and move on. We're treated well by the Spaniards, but they certainly did everything they could to win the match. We respect that, and me trying to get the court to the liking of our players is part of us trying to do that as well.
I think the guys are really excited about it. I mean, I know they are. As I said in my opening comments, I really believe it's a testament to our guys and sort of their enthusiasm and their commitment to Davis Cup. As soon as it was obvious we were going to play Spain and the tickets went on sale, we sold 11,000-plus tickets in a few hours. So I think that tells you about the interest level in the match.
They have really helped put Davis Cup sort of back on the map and gotten fans into it. They are excited, I'm excited and you know, obviously having a great team like Spain makes it all the more intriguing of a match for everybody.
Q. Can you comment briefly as much as you're comfortable with about the current form of the guys, Blake, how you feel he's been hitting the ball Andy and has played solidly as you mentioned.
PATRICK McENROE: I've been concerned about James for the past couple weeks, but I feel like James is a confidence player. He needs to get a little confidence back, even if he doesn't have a great week in Miami, which I hope he does and I think obviously he can, you know, he's a guy that I think with a few good, hard days of practice and the conditions we're going to play in, he's going to play well in Davis Cup.
I'm excited about it. These guys have been looking forward to this kind of match-up. Obviously Bob and Mike started the year winning in Australia and playing great in Davis Cup. I certainly don't look too much into the fact that they went out in Indian Wells, particularly as Mike was, I think, sick for like five or six days during that match.
And Andy has played, as you said, solid. I think he's played more than solid. He's had some very, very better than solid matches this year. Beating Ancic in Australia; beating Safin. He's had a couple of ones where he's gotten beaten pretty good, but basically always by Federer and Nadal.
So I see a lot of great things from him this year, and he's already up to a solid three in the year. And I think he's got a chance to finish No. 2 past Nadal who made a huge statement this past week.
We've got the horses that we want, and as I said, it would be nice for them to have a good week in Miami and come in with some confidence, but it's not crucial to the outcome of this match.
Q. Can you look in your Davis Cup captain career and say that this is one of those matches that you'll look to as potentially one of the more memorable ones, and can you put these in a context, I know obviously you haven't played the match, but this certainly has the makings of one of those special ones. Obviously they are all special?
PATRICK McENROE: This has got some extra juice to it in that we're playing a team that's got a great tradition now in Spain and certainly in the last ten years has been one of the dominant countries in tennis and men's tennis. You throw that into the fact that we were in Spain for the final a few years ago and that whole crowd and that whole scene over there.
This is special. They are all special because they only come around a couple of times a year if you're lucky. And the fact that we're going to have such a great crowd there, any time you can play in front of a crowd like that, it's exciting.
As I said, we remember what happened in Spain and the final and we certainly have been looking forward to the challenge of playing them on our home court and now we've got the opportunity.
Q. Actually, I was hoping that you would elaborate a little bit more on the rivalry with Spain, and is rivalry the right word? You played them a couple of other times.
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, this is only the first -- the second time we've played Spain since I've been the captain, so this is my seventh year. So it's hard to get really the kind of rivalry you get in other sports, and because it's rare that you are going to play the same team each year, forgetting about in basketball and other sports, where you play a couple of times a year.
But in saying that, as I said, any time you play someone in the final, and that was the biggest crowd in the history of tennis except for the Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs match. So you knew what it meant to them to play us in the final on their home surface, their home court.
So it means a lot to us. It's two powerhouse countries going at it and, you know, as excited as they were about having us come over there, I think we are equally as excited. Obviously it's not a final. But it's a quarterfinal and it's a huge match.
Judging from you (John Delong, Winston-Salem Journal) being down where you are and knowing the interest up there, I think you realize that from your standpoint, it's pretty big. Any time a Davis Cup match can make that kind of noise, that says something, because unfortunately -- unfortunately because of I think the way it's set up with the schedule, it doesn't always happen that way.
So we feel excited that this time it's going to be 14 and a half thousand, and we probably could have sold more tickets if we had the chance.
Q. Do you remember the configuration (of Joel Coliseum) when you played India --
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah --
Q. And obviously every seat is going to be filled, in your mind, how different is that atmosphere going to be from the first time?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, when you can walk into a stadium that's that big and fill it and obviously for tennis being a sport that you know, you don't play in 35-, 50-, 70,000-seat stadiums because you have two players on a small surface. You get to 14 and a half thousand, you talk about the same kind of numbers you get for every tournament in the world except the US Open. That's about the number of people you get at the Australian Open, at Wimbledon, at the French, so that's huge.
Obviously in Davis Cup, we know that the crowd is going to be into it, they are going to be loud and I think we had six and a half, seven thousand last time; you double that and you have every seat occupied. I know the adrenaline is going to be flowing and for four days, they are looking forward to it, and as I said they remember what happened in Spain, and so hopefully that will be some motivation for us.
At the same time, we've got to go out and play this match, win this match. We are playing a great team, have great players that we know well, that we respect. And it's certainly not a one-sided affair from either direction even with the surface being the surface that we've chosen. It's still a very difficult match to win.
Q. I want to ask you in the past when I've spoke to you about hard court selections, you said that Roddick actually likes a more medium-paced hard court. If you opt for a faster hard court here, is that going to change the style he plays against Nadal, or do you think is it inevitable he had to change his style anyway based on what happened Saturday?
PATRICK McENROE: I think you have to suddenly change your style depending on who you're playing. I mean, I think Andy in general is looking to play a little more aggressively and sort of hit through the court a little bit more. That's where I think a faster court and one that's -- where the bounce doesn't get up as high, it would be better now anyway and particularly against the Spaniards. You know that there are plenty of Spanish guys that can play well on hard court, and we saw that from Nadal again in Palm Springs and even their other guys; Ferrer beat Roddick in Miami last year.
So they have got guys that can play. It's certainly not -- they are not used to it, but I think we are trying to maximize the bounce on the court. So maybe the bounce is not quite as high as Indian Wells where the ball was really jumping up and try to keep it a little bit lower.
Q. Roddick has often played some of his best tennis in Davis Cup. Do you think as you mentioned earlier, the crowd, the intensity, the emotion, is it enough or is it imperative that he goes to Miami and puts up a good result?
PATRICK McENROE: He's put up good results all year. He is -- whatever he is, 19-4 on the year. I realize he hasn't won a tournament, but he's played well. He's played well. I don't know if you heard earlier but he's had some great wins already this year. Where I thought he really played some of his best tennis, Rochus, Gasquet; Ljubicic in the desert was a great match for him. He's run into Federer and Nadal where they got hot and played fantastic.
So I'm not really worried at all about him, about the way he's playing. I think he's playing great. He always puts it on the line in Davis Cup. He's played better in some matches than others, but you know what you're going to get from him in Davis Cup which is 100% commitment and attitude and effort. As a coach, as a captain, you can't ask for anything more than that.
So I have no worries about that he's going to show up and be ready to play, and my job in some sense will be to try to make sure he stays -- not get too high, because I think he's going to be so pumped up and the adrenaline will be going so much with the crowd there. Obviously he's matured a lot, played a lot of big matches now in his career. I shouldn't have too much trouble being able to do that.
Q. When you talked to him during that practice week, is your approach is, that match is over, Nadal played great, just out of sight, out of mind, or do you try and learn and apply anything from that match, or is it just like, hey, it's a new day?
PATRICK McENROE: It's a new day. It's a new day if he plays him in Miami. He could play him down there again.
Nadal is playing great. The ball was jumping off the court out there. The desert air certainly was helping Nadal in that situation. But the guy can play. We know he can play on anything.
So we're going to try to go out and play our best, and if we play our best then we have the home court and the home crowd, we feel pretty good about our chances. We realize we're going to have to play well, but I think if we play well, we are feeling very good about our chances.
Q. And just last question, going back to what you were saying earlier about Blake, that he's a confidence player, do you think right now just the results he's had in Indian Wells and Vegas, is it more mental, or just he needs to put a couple good matches back-to-back, or is there anything technically you've seen that he can do?
PATRICK McENROE: I think it's more mental. I think he's getting a little bit negative when he's on the court. He's been arguing with the umpires and he's been getting a little angry. He doesn't play well when he's angry. He plays well when he's enjoying himself and getting the crowd into it and clapping for his opponent and going for his shots, but still, you know, playing smart.
I think certainly I would love to see him play well in Miami and see him play -- I mean, he played great in Australia up to winning Sydney and up to his matches with Gonzalez. He's playing the best I've seen him play. It's not like he can't get back to that.
Q. He had a great record against Nadal.
PATRICK McENROE: He's got a good record. Like the Roddick thing, you've got to go out and perform that day. And obviously it will be Blake against Nadal the opening day.
So with Blake, it doesn't really matter what happened in the past with Roddick. It doesn't really matter for Blake either. You've got to go out and play well and win. It's best-of-five sets, a lot of pressure. And as I said, if our guys play well in the conditions we like, we feel very good about our chances.
Q. You mentioned Young is going to be one of the practice partners and we've already seen a couple young guys, young Americans starting to make a difference in Tour play, one in (Ryan) Sweeting and another former practice partner in Sam Querrey, wondering if you can talk a little bit about their futures. Your four-man roster, they are all still pretty young, but one day you might want to call upon one of these guys.
PATRICK McENROE: Absolutely, and that's always part of the reason of bringing in these young kids for Davis Cup, to get them excited about it, to give them a feel for how the week works.
You know, also, just sort of the intensity of the actual match. They get a pretty good feel for it when they are sitting right there on the bench with the other guys. You know, sort of learn about how the big boys go about their business. They have a great time, Ryan Sweeting had a great line -- Jay Berger, who has been my assistant now for the last couple of years, he asked him I think after the first time he came with us, you know, what he learned about the week. And he said, "You know, the guys are just like any other guys when they are off the court, when they are playing cards, when they are sort of getting ready for practice. But as soon as they get on the practice court, it's all business."
And that's the kind of stuff that those guys need to learn, need to see, you know, when you go out there, the James and Andys and Bryans are still professional, the way they practice and get their work done and take care of their bodies and all that.
Ryan was very impressive. I know he's been struggling a little bit, especially making the transition to the Tour. He has a lot of upside, he has a lot of natural ability, and it will take him a little while to get stronger and I think he's got a great career ahead of him. Clearly has already made a huge jump, he's been moving up very quickly. He's, what, in the 60s in the rankings now. He's a kid that I think could be Top-30 by the end of the year. I mean, that's how good he is. He was great to have the two times we had him as a practice kid.
I think he really absorbed a lot and learned a lot and has formed a good friendship with Andy. You know, Andy has sort of taken him under his wing and had him on a few practice weeks away from Davis Cup, and that can only help. That goes back to Andy's relationship with Andre Agassi, and Andre took him under his wing and practiced with him a few weeks.
So it's a great opportunity for Donald. He's still very young, sort of been in the spotlight a lot, maybe a little too much for someone that's that young. But he clearly has a lot of potential and a lot of game and I think he's big enough, and he's strong enough now that he can get a good week in with our guys and get something out of it and give our guys good practice and hopefully be a sponge and learn about the things he need to do in the next few years to get himself to that level.
Q. That's so true. And of course, it's great when Mardy is around, being buddies with all four guys.
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, Mardy is great to have. As I said, he's been there for us. He's won some big matches for us. He's played singles and doubles. He's been a practice player. He's said to me, whenever you need me, I'm there.
So I think it's a good opportunity for him to sort of come back into the mix for a bit and hopefully he'll show that he'll be better by then and he'll practice and get himself ready to be ready if called upon, and also get himself ready for Houston where he's got to defend his title.
Q. I'm on the call late, so if you've addressed these things I'll get it later. Did you talk about the surface earlier?
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, we talked about it. I've been testing it out a bit this week and we're still tinkering with it. Basically it's going to be pretty fast and hopefully the bounce won't be quite as high as it was in Indian Wells.
Q. Or in Carson a couple of years ago?
PATRICK McENROE: It definitely won't be that high. It definitely won't be that slow, I can guarantee you that.
Q. Have you talked about just the Bryans, I think I was looking back at the ties the last 20 years or so, and a remarkable number of those, of the winners, in the Davis Cup finals, I don't know, if it was 18 or 20 or 17 or 20 where the doubles point is won by the winner. Can you just sort of talk about the importance of that?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, they have been -- they have been the rock for us, the Bryan brothers. We've gotten spoiled and I hope we continue to be spoiled for a while longer in that we keep winning doubles points. They have only lost one match and obviously that was a big one against Croatia a couple of years ago.
The thing about them is that they have prepared as if it's a Grand Slam final. It's like someone told them the week before, "You guys are in the final and you've got five, six days to prepare for that match." And that's sort of the way they go about their business the whole week. I mean, they really work extremely hard and extremely focused on just playing their absolute best on Saturday.
They enjoy the pressure of it. They enjoy sort of putting that pressure on themselves. I mean, they just come out and they are just so focused and play so well, and obviously take a lot of pressure off of our singles guys in that they know come Saturday, we've got their best possible team we can have out there.
And that doesn't guarantee you're going to win every match in doubles, but it's nice to know that you've done your homework and you've done everything you can do to be ready to play a match.
Q. Your brother was obviously a phenomenal doubles player. Where do the Bryans rank in terms of, would you say, of a team in Davis Cup, and then just in tennis in general for Americans, where do you place them?
PATRICK McENROE: They are moving up pretty quickly. Obviously you look at my brother in Fleming and my brother was sort of unique in that he could do both (singles and doubles), so he was sort one player that can win a few points. Flach and Seguso, Lutx and Smith, great U.S. teams, Rick Leach and Pugh, and John and Flemming had a good run for a few years. The Bryans came along at a time where we had been trying to play mix and max for eight years or so in Davis Cup, of which yours truly was part of that equation and that didn't work for many years.
So these guys have proved that they play well in the big matches. They love the big match, and you know, they are somebody that could go down at moment as one of the best U.S. doubles teams ever.
Q. You put them in with Fleming, those teams?
PATRICK McENROE: I don't have their record in front of me, so off the top of my head -- I think to put them in with my brother, Fleming, just because my brother was such a unique player, a singles player, but sort of a different mix there.
Q. Right, but I'm talking doubles.
PATRICK McENROE: Certainly you look at their record, what is it, 11-1 or something (10-1 entering the quarterifinals), it speaks for itself. As I said, they have played -- they have played some of the best matches I've ever seen them play in Davis Cup.
Q. When you're talking about Donald Young, Todd Paul, obviously is going to be around that week.
PATRICK McENROE: He's the No. 1 player in college from Wake Forest--
Q. Is there any official thing he can do for you?
PATRICK McENROE: We'll probably have him come out a day or so. I know the Wake (Forest) team has a couple matches that weekend. We've been in touch with him that week, Brian Barker, who is James Blake's coach, works with him a lot.
Q. He was hoping to hit with James some -- do you know the nuts and bolts of all that?
PATRICK McENROE: When I decide who he'll hit with, he'll know, let's put it that way. We will get him -- we will get him a little taste of Davis Cup.
Q. Can you talk about how what you saw in Andy Roddick's game in Palm Springs that you would suggest is allowing him to make these strides to sort of return to the form that took him to No. 1?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I think his poor positioning is better overall. He's leaning into his backhand a lot more, so his backhand as a lot more bite on it. I know that's something that he and Jimmy have worked on a lot, and hit a ton of balls, which is sort of transferring his weight and making sure he's sort of driving through the ball.
And in that way, you know, his game has changed a little bit from even -- I remember talking to some of you guys and Richard, and I mention the court in Carson. It used to be that Andy sort of preferred a higher-bouncing court because he hit a lot more topspin more consistently off the ground.
So a lot of times, I will be looking at a hard court that had more grip to it, that was a little bouncier. Nowadays, Andy is looking at how his career has developed and you look at the pop significance, he's looking to hit the ball through the court a little more and hit the ball a little flatter.
He still has quite a bit of topspin on the forehand. That's been a big difference for him. He's obviously borrowing better. He's not a great volleyer, he's not Stefan Edberg, but he's coming in more often at the right time.
I just think that he's much more in control of his emotions in a positive way. He's not getting negative when he comes in, he hits an ugly volley. It used to be when he did that, he used to say, okay, I can't volley; I'm not going to net.
Now he'll miss a volley and he'll sort of laugh and say -- but he knows that's the right play. He knows that coming in at certain times, it's the right play, even if it gets past.
But I think the biggest thing is his back hand has got more bite, and he's generally speaking, playing a little closer to the baseline when he gets something he can really hit.
Q. Did it surprise you at all the way he was showing a little creativity as well with the dropped shots and even hitting the ball short?
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I actually mentioned that to him after he did that in the Ljubicic match. He said he had like a thousand of those the week before, he said, which is nice, because you work on -- and by the way, the Andy Roddick of four or five years ago might have done that, but might have sort of been afraid to do it in a match; and particularly at the time he did it, I think he did a couple in the middle of the tiebreak against Ljubicic.
I think he realized you've got to keep improving and tinker with your game and just even -- not to get to -- to maximize what you have, not to get back to No. 1 or to be No. 1, but to be the best that you can be. I think if he does that, he certainly in my mind has got a chance to win some more majors.
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining the call.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you, Tim.
End of FastScripts