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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 15, 2007
TIM CURRY: Thanks for joining us on the conference call today with James Blake to preview the 2007 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas final which will be held in Portland's sold-out Memorial Coliseum on December 2nd. Versus will air live coverage daily and the Tennis Channel will continue its tradition of its Davis Cup prime time coverage at 8 p.m. eastern each night.
This is the first time in 15 years that the U.S. will be hosting the Davis Cup final, and the U.S. will be attempting to win its first title since defeating Russia in Moscow on clay in 1995.
We'll now open the call to questions.
Q. Do you have any particular memories of the last U.S. Davis Cup victory, where you were, was it something that held your interest, what did you think?
JAMES BLAKE: To be honest, I've only seen it in retrospect. '95, I didn't watch it live. As much as I loved tennis, I loved going to the US Open, I didn't follow it as much on TV. I loved going out and playing tennis at that point still, but I wasn't like a huge follower of the sport as most kids are today now. So I didn't watch it live. I don't have those kind of memories, like Andy when he went to watch the finals in Austin.
When I've seen clips of it, all the highlights and everything, it's pretty inspirational what those guys did, what Pete Sampras did over there especially.
Q. Can you talk about how it's different playing on a team versus playing for yourself. I know you had that opportunity at Harvard also. Seems like it's a different sort of tennis, different kinds of pressure when other teammates are counting on you, but also more enjoyable because you have support.
JAMES BLAKE: Like you said, it's definitely a different kind of pressure. I really enjoy it, to be honest. Especially this team, I'm very proud to be a part of this team. These guys have been great to me. I really feel like we've done something together. We've really accomplished some of the things we set out to do. I think we kind of overachieve partly because we enjoy it so much. We're counting on each other so much.
But it's something where you feel so high when you're doing well, and it can be at times disappointing when you lose because you feel like you're letting team down. That's a terrible feeling. I still remember when I played in France and lost my first big kind of Davis Cup match against Grosjean. I came off the court and said in the press conference that it's the hardest thing, worst thing I ever of had on a tennis court. All the guys, they saw that or heard about that. They told me the next day, Don't ever be ashamed of it. If you did your best, we're all proud of you. We're all in this together. We're a team. That means a lot to me to know you're not out there alone, you have teammates to pick you up. I'm really proud that these guys feel the same way about me and the way I feel about them.
Q. I called your matches in London against Mahut and Gasquet. Looked like you were hitting the ball well. What do you take from your tennis this last month going into the Davis Cup?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I feel good. I wish I was in Shanghai right now. The only thing for me to do is look at the positives. Now I got more time at home. I did get a little bit of a break after that Gasquet match. Now I've been training since then. It gives me an opportunity just to get back on the practice court. Any things I was not so happy about there I can be sure to fine tune now. Going in, I'll be rested. I won't have so many matches in me that I'll feel like I'm not as fresh. I'll be excited to play again.
I think a lot of times that's when I play my best tennis. I played well at the beginning of the year after long breaks. I think this is a little bit of a break and it should be good to get me back out there. Not that I need any other artificial way to get excited about a Davis Cup final. But to be fresh as well, know that I've got plenty in my tanks play two five-set matches if need be. It's going to be a good feeling going into that week.
Q. What kind of stuff will you be working on in the next few weeks? Any parts of your game you're looking to improve or fine tune, develop?
JAMES BLAKE: Playing indoors, your first serve is very important. How big guys are serving nowadays, you can get a lot of free points indoors on your first serves. I'm hoping to make sure that that can get me plenty of free points as well. I'm going to be hitting plenty of serves the next few weeks. Don't expect me to come out and serve like my teammate Andy but I'll do the best with what I've got to work with.
Q. Do you expect Davydenko will play for Russia in this tie?
JAMES BLAKE: I do expect him to play. He's top five in the world, one of the best players. Got a pretty tough record against myself and Andy. He's still top five in the world, meaning he can beat any player on any given day, especially when he's playing his best. Even though the matchups may be difficult for him, I really do expect him to be their No. 1 and their leader.
Q. The reason I ask that question is I've heard people say that Davydenko is depressed because of some of the accusations that have been made against him, that perhaps he couldn't play his best because of the scandal he's involved in.
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I mean, I think that could weigh on his mind. I really don't know. I don't know him as well as some of the other guys on tour might know him.
We're athletes. People see us on the TV or at a match for a few hours a day. But there are other real-life situations going on with all of us, which sometimes people don't know about. They don't know if someone is depressed or happy or going through problems with their girlfriend, with their family, with anything. That might be something he's going through. So I don't know.
It's amazing how much those things can affect your play. If he is depressed, he could have some shaky results. He still qualified for Shanghai. He's there playing with the best players in the world. I consider him very dangerous whether he's happy or depressed. He's a very dangerous player that could give us a lot of problems and could very easily, without too much of a surprise, go in there and win two matches. He did it last year and hoisted the Cup for Russia. He's going to be dangerous.
The only thing we can control is what we're doing and how well we're playing. Andy and I are going to go in this as of right now healthy and happy and ready and very excited about our chances at a Davis Cup title.
Q. Who else would you expect will be playing singles for Russia?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I know Safin made himself unavailable. I think possibly Tursunov and Youzhny are the next two guys in the rankings that are players that have experience playing in Davis Cup. Both have beaten top players. I know both of them are able to do that. Andreev is someone that's also very dangerous, but I don't think he's as fond of playing on the kind of fast court we're going to play on.
Q. You didn't play in the 2004 final. Now you're a solid member of the team. When we think about your relationship with Patrick, you were sort of on the bubble for a while, trying to please him to get on the team. How has your relationship with Patrick evolved and how does that relationship work? He walks a fine line.
JAMES BLAKE: I think his commentary job, Davis Cup captain, could put him in a difficult situation being as he needs to try to do his best to be honest and go out there an kind of say opinions, also kind of get people talking. It's part of a commentator's job to make interesting comments whether or not he believes them and have people talking about them and interested in the game.
He criticized me. He criticized Andy. We're kind of the guys who have been a part of his team. But luckily Andy and I are pretty thick-skinned. We know it's part of his job. We know we're public figures, so we're open for criticism.
Q. How do you deal with it if you feel you've been unfairly criticized by him?
JAMES BLAKE: We tell him (laughter), then we go out and prove ourselves in Davis Cup or do our best to prove ourselves in Davis Cup. I think at times when he deals with us criticizing him in this way, he's got thick skin, too. He realizes it. He's happy to watch us go out there and prove ourselves.
I think he's done a good job of that in a tough situation. I think Andy and I have matured enough over the years of dealing with public criticism, dealing with any sort of situations like that. I think we both know how to handle it. It's not like he's doing anything in terms of reverse psychology just to get us fired up. It's not like he's really getting under our skin, digging at us, making us angry. He's just doing his job. Then when we get there and we're a team, we just worry about what's going to be best for the team and how we can do that. That's turned into a winning formula this year for sure. We've all enjoyed it.
I don't know how the Davis Cup captain was in years past, but nowadays we all travel with our own coaches. We also have that sense of familiarity when we go there. Brian Barker is going to be there the whole week with me. I know Andy always has John with him.
Q. Deals with your coaches as well as you.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, he deals with them. It ends up being one big happy team.
Q. What do you know about Tarpischev? He's a wily character.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I really don't know too much about him. We played them last year. He's been very friendly, likable guy, smiling a lot. I guess he should have been smiling quite a bit last year with his team. He's got a lot to smile about so far this year as well. Seems to be a really nice guy. Didn't have any long conversations or anything.
Q. Do you think he moves the player shells around well, makes it hard to guess what he's going to do?
JAMES BLAKE: He does. He has a lot of versatility there with his team. I think a lot of captains probably look at him with a little bit of jealousy. He's got guys that can play singles and doubles. He's got guys that can play on any surface. He's got guys that can be really dominant on clay especially. So he's got a great stable of guys to work with. With the exception of Safin this time, they've all seemed to be willing and able to make themselves available and play.
Q. Andy said from Shanghai no matter how his year has gone, that winning the Davis Cup would really erase anything and make a success out of the year. Could you look back on your year and what that would mean to you?
JAMES BLAKE: Definitely I echo Andy's sentiments exactly. If we can win the Davis Cup, whatever else happened on the court, it's a good year for me. I really believe if we can win the Davis Cup, that would be probably the most memorable thing I've had in my career. I haven't had it to compare it to a Grand Slam final like Andy has or anything like that.
But to win something with the team that I care about, with guys that have worked hard together, that have supported each other throughout the year, whether it's at Davis Cup or at normal tournaments, guys that want to get this title, we've put ourselves in a position, and now we want to take it one step further. It's something we would really be proud of as a team. For me just to be called a teammate with these guys is something I'm proud of. To then accomplish the fact that we're going to go on and take a title, that would definitely make it a great year.
To be honest for me, it might be the shining moment in my career, to win a Davis Cup title. I know a lot of veterans who have already retired look back and say those are some of their fondest memories. I think when I'm done, I'll share that same sentiment. I'll be looking back on these weeks, on these ties, how happy I was, how proud I was with my team.
Q. You're not with your teammates right now. Do you think overall you'd characterize yourself as feeling pretty loose about it or is there some pressure there, too?
JAMES BLAKE: There's always pressure. Any match we play, there's pressure. The only thing to do is deal with pressure the best way he knows now. Dealing with pressure for me is honestly looking at it as a positive thing. If you don't feel pressure, you're not doing something that is of as much value. When you have a lot of pressure, it means it's something people are looking to, there's a big opportunity. For me I really just equate it with an opportunity.
Right now the pressure is definitely higher in a Davis Cup final. It means the opportunity is greater, the opportunity to do something more worthwhile and to do something more special that will be very memorable. I look at pressure as a positive thing. There's definitely pressure there. But all of us have found ways to deal with pressure and all of us have handled it very well.
Q. I read a report from yesterday stating that Davydenko, Youzhny, Andreev and Tursunov would lead the team. Obviously that can change in the days to come. Your record and Andy's record against the field, you're 11-1 and Andy is 10-5 against that field. Tarpischev says it's true they have the best doubles team, but I don't think their singles players, Roddick and Blake, are any better than our guys. Obviously they're defending champions. What are your thoughts on that quote?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, he's entitled to his opinion and he's got to back up his teammates. I think if he said anything other than that, his teammates would hang him. He's got to believe in his players. He does have Davydenko who is a top five player, and Youzhny who defeated me last year on clay in Moscow. He's got to get them fired up some way. He has to show he believes in them.
Obviously we have a different opinion. We think our singles players are pretty impressive. Maybe a little biased by me, but I think we've got a very strong team and a team that is capable of winning this Davis Cup. The way Andy has led us, the way he's performed in all his matches where he's needed to clinch, the way he's performed away and at home, especially at home, we feel comfortable. Even he admitted the Bryans are the best doubles team. We feel comfortable having the best doubles team in the world to step up on Saturday and take a little bit of pressure off Andy and myself to feel like we're going into a tie up 1-0. I know that puts a lot of pressure on them, but they're the best doubles team in the world and they've dealt with a lot of pressure so far.
I'm sure he believes what he says, but we obviously have a different opinion and that's why it's going to be fun going out there and playing those matches.
Q. Andy is undefeated this year in Davis Cup. He's playing well in Shanghai this week. What do you see when you evaluate his game as to why he's playing so well in these big matches nowadays?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I think over the years he's realized what he needs to do in his game and he's matured. I'm so proud of the way he's matured in front of the public spotlight and dealt with any sort of criticism, any expectations. He's proven himself as one of the best players in the world every single year. It's not like he had one year where it was just a fluke. He's done it for about five years running now.
So for him to be stepping up in big matches is not a surprise to me. I hope it's not a surprise to sportswriters or to anyone at this point any more. I've had him on my team now for the last three years or so. Every time I go into each big match expecting him to step up. He just doesn't let me down. That's huge to have a teammate like that. Even if he ever were to falter in a big match, he's succeeded so many times that it will pale in comparison.
Michael Jordan had a commercial where he talked about how many game-winning shots he missed, but he keeps going after it, he keeps performing, and you remember the ones he made because he's the one that's willing to make that shot. Andy has always had the personality and confidence to take that upon himself, put it on his shoulders, carried a team. He's carried us this year. He's done great in the Masters Cup. He's succeeded on big stages many times in his career. I expect that to continue as long as he stays healthy and keeps having the desire he's had so far.
Q. Davis Cup in general, the American public. In the earlier rounds maybe the average American fringe fan isn't paying attention. People seem to get pretty patriotic for the Olympics or the women's World Cup, any event where they can root for the USA. Do you anticipate people around the country, outside of Portland, will be following and the hype will build up as next week gets closer?
JAMES BLAKE: I really hope so. I was excited to hear how quickly the stadium sold out in Portland, to hear they're putting up big screens to make it free for other people to watch. I think the rest of the country will notice. I really hope they do. I hope it's all over SportsCenter, all over the news. It needs to be done in terms of PR around it.
I think people, like you said, get excited about an opportunity to cheer for America, whether it's the women's World Cup when they had so much success years ago. Even the men's World Cup last year. It's excited to cheer and get patriotic like that. I think Davis Cup is a perfect opportunity. Unfortunately there are times when it's hard to follow with the schedule, whether it's first round or second round. But this being the final, they know the winner's going to be holding up that trophy. There's no more next week or it's going to be in a month from now when this team plays again. They know if we win, we're holding the trophy and we accomplished something that hasn't been done in about 12 years.
I do hope the rest of the public - not just the diehard tennis fans - realize how important this is to us and to the USTA.
Q. This is probably an opportunity, because it's in the U.S. you'll get more publicity than you might overseas, maybe it's a chance to introduce the average American sportsfans to Davis Cup, let them know how it works, what it's about, so maybe the next time around they'll be a little more interested? Do you take this as an opportunity not just to win but to do something for Davis Cup as an event?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. Andy has dealt with the whole expectations of American tennis for many years. I'm a little more new to it with not having the same kind of success at an early age like he did. He's done a great job with that. We all know, I think people seeing Sampras' performance in '95 is something that helped the spirits of American fans. We have that opportunity to do that again this time. We have Andy, myself, the Bryans, some people that are pretty recognizable in terms of our names, our games. We are excited to do that. Maybe next year it will be much more highly publicized. We do hope this is going to be something that a positive effect on American tennis. If there are some kids out there, like Andy was watching the Davis Cup final in Austin, that are inspired to play Davis Cup, we're proud of that. That's something we all realize about our careers. It's something that when we're done with our careers, we'll take a step back and look and be proud of what we accomplished.
Also I can see for the guys that are directly on the team, Andy, Bob, Mike, myself, we all try to do it the right way. We do it with hard work. We do it with good sportsmanship. We're proud of that. We all really got together as a team. So I think kids can see that and hopefully parents as well can see that and be proud that there are actual role models on the team that the kids can look up.
Q. I notice the USTA is billing this as the biggest U.S./Russia matchup since Rocky and Drago. They mentioned the Miracle on Ice. We're past the Cold War, but we also have the goofy story about Tommy Haas. Do you guys as player feel this spy versus spy thing or U.S. versus the Russians?
JAMES BLAKE: I think in terms of our team, I'm sure we all remember Rocky IV. The Cold War, when that was going on, we were probably a little young to be so politically involved at that point. It wasn't something that all of us thought as much about, I'm sure. I'm friendly with most of the Russians.
Q. This sort of Cold War thing is over. Americans sometimes love the idea of beating the bad guys out this. Maybe Russia is still the bad guys. Do you still feel that at all?
JAMES BLAKE: I am friendly with the players. We don't feel like it's a simple good versus evil type story. We don't need any of that extra motivation to get fired up for a Davis Cup final. We could be playing just about anyone and we'd be excited in a Davis Cup final. We could be home. We could be away. It's definitely more exciting at home. But we're going to have enough excitement with how much we've cared about the Davis Cup, how much we've accomplished in the last few years, how much we've all grown together.
It's not necessarily the extra added motivation of beating any sort of evil guys. Like I said, I am friendly with some of the Russian guys. I've never had any problems with any of them on the court or anything. I don't feel like there's as much of a tension as there may have been in terms of a Rocky IV or in terms of the Cold War days. I don't feel it's the same environment any more.
Q. I don't know if I'm entirely serious, whether you're going to have a food taster before the matches. What do you think of the goofy accusations with the Haas situation?
JAMES BLAKE: I read the articles about it. I haven't seen anything since then. I really don't think that the something that would happen. I really don't know what happened. Obviously I wasn't there. To think of that seems a little silly. I'm hoping and I really do believe that Tommy must have just gotten sick. There might have been something in his food, not poison, but he got some sort of food poisoning, got some sort of bug that happens.
I think our whole team at some point during our Davis Cup semi got a little flu bug as well where we were getting sick and throwing up a little bit. Maybe it's pressure. Maybe it's nerves. I don't know what it is. We definitely never once considered we were poisoned. I wouldn't think anything of it and I definitely wouldn't take it seriously.
We're going to go in and prepare the same way we always do prepare, which is as professional as possible. I'm sure we'll go out to restaurants. I'm sure we'll order in at the hotel quite a bit. I don't think we'll have a taster with us. We'll just keep an eye on the kitchen maybe.
Q. Back to the question of Davis Cup an relevancy. Where are you on the format? If you could change the format, would you and how would you see it done?
JAMES BLAKE: I think possibly making it so it's at one time instead of spreading it out over the year. Maybe somehow shorten the schedule and make it so there's three weeks or two weeks at the end of a year. If it's every year or every other year, maybe just to make it more exciting for the fans having it every other year. Just carve out one place where it is every few years.
Q. Pretty different than what it is today?
JAMES BLAKE: Completely different, yeah. And make it so the fans have a much easier time of following that.
Q. Ultimately do you think the far-flung calendar format it is in now can be a winner with fans?
JAMES BLAKE: The way it is right now?
JAMES BLAKE: I think it's difficult. I think the Europeans follow it. They maybe follow tennis a little more closely than some of the American fans or some of the Aussie fans or anything. I think it's tough, I really do. I have friends that follow my career that are buddies from high school that are sportsfans that read espn.com, always reading the sports page. Their name for Davis Cup is the rocket science of the fourth world. They try to figure out who plays who, when you're playing, all that kind of stuff.
As tennis players, we see the Ryder Cup. We see the excitement in the air, the patriotism, the television coverage, how excited everyone gets over that. To be honest, I'm a little jealous. I think if we had that kind of excitement, where we could say it's 2007 now, in 2009 it's going to be in Spain from November 1st to November 20th, there's going to be 16 teams, we're going to play four matches in those three weeks, and that's when it's going to be. You can follow us every three or four days where you're playing these matches, I think that would generate a whole lot more excitement than this spread-out situation where fans can get really excited for three days and then they don't hear about it again for three or four months. I just don't see the continuity. I don't think fans can feel that continuity as much as if it was in one place at one time.
Q. Looking bag on the journey you have been on dating back did 2006, was there a turning point for you where you said that this might turn into something, a magical year?
JAMES BLAKE: I think when we were first going to Ostrava, we knew it was a pretty difficult task right away. Going there and playing on clay, not our favorite surface, I didn't actually get there until Wednesday because I was playing in the finals of a tournament here in the States in Delray Beach. We went in there and Andy played great on the first day, had a tough one with Berdych. Then the Bryans actually had a tough match against guys that made it all the way to the finals of the French Open.
For us to get through that, then Andy played a huge match against Tomas Berdych. Right from the start, to go into a difficult environment where we went ahead and won that match, I think that showed us that we can win an away tie on clay and our guys can step up when we really need them to. That was really exciting for us. It felt like that was the start of something important.
I know we've had that feeling before. And we haven't quite made it to this point. But this time it definitely felt really good to start out in a tough situation and overcome that. I think it's similar to a lot of basketball teams, football teams, baseball teams that have a tough test early in the season or early in the playoffs and they get through it. It makes them feel like they're on the path for something good.
Q. You mentioned Andy and the Bryans. Andy has performed well in Davis Cup competition. The Bryans are nearly unbeatable. Do you look at yourself coming up for the final like you're the wildcard on the team, that it could go either way depending on how you perform?
JAMES BLAKE: I think that's a possibility. But I'm also very confident in the fact that, like you said, Andy performs well, the Bryans are nearly unbeatable. I feel like they take the pressure off me, and I hope they feel the same where I take the pressure off them. I've never been in a situation of a live fifth rubber. Patrick McEnroe's entire tenure, there hasn't been a live fifth rubber. I would like to think of Andy, going into Sunday, 2-1 up, he's got the pressure to close it out. If he doesn't, he knows he's got a No. 2 that is willing to deal with that pressure and wants to be the one to clinch it.
I want to have that chance if I get there. I want to be the one that our team is counting on. I think it helps them a little bit to know that it's not just some other player back there, it's someone that can win a big match. I hope they believe that and they perform great with the pressure that is on them. I feel like I performed when needed. But I've never really been put in the position to be tested in that fifth match. Andy has been the best closer of all time for American tennis. I think he's like 9-0 in those matches where he can clinch it.
I hope I help. If I get put in that situation, they know I'm going to be there and I'm going to play my best.
Q. What are you doing to stay sharp since you've been home in Tampa and plans to relax over the holidays?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I definitely took a little bit of time off after Paris. Since then I've come back to Tampa, like you said, and I've been training at Saddlebrook. Today I was practicing with Mardy Fish. I'll be out this tomorrow hitting with him. We're lucky enough to have him coming to Portland to join us. He's a great guy to practice with. Really can't ask for much better practice than that. Then I'm going home to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. My coach is going to be there.
In terms of taking time off for Thanksgiving, I don't have that luxury. I'm going to be working probably on Thanksgiving Day and every day up until then because I know how important these matches coming up are going to be. I think somewhat luckily I know the feeling of not having a full Thanksgiving because most juniors in America will remember that the national indoors were always right over Thanksgiving. There were many times as a junior we had to celebrate Thanksgiving a week early as a family or a little bit later because tennis would disrupt those plans. This is another year where it will disrupt the plans, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
A think a lot of tennis players have made it in the past. I'm still not allowed to complain about my job. If it takes a little bit of time away from my Thanksgiving, maybe take it a little easier on the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing, I can deal with that as a sacrifice to hold up the Davis Cup trophy.
Q. I notice everyone on the Davis Cup team has an older brother who is somewhat of a motivator. Could you touch on the role of having an older sibling, how that has helped you as players, in your case with Thomas.
JAMES BLAKE: For me it was something where I followed my brother to Harvard. I learned so much from him. He obviously didn't have the same success as me on the tennis court. Up until a certain point, I was really following in his footsteps, really just learning from him. Firsthand experience is the best thing you can get for learning any situation. If you don't have firsthand experience, I think the next best thing is having an older brother that you're very close to go that the same thing.
When he went through college tennis, the college recruiting process, turning pro, then starting up of future tennis, challenger tennis, I was learning from him. I felt like I had a leg up on the competition in just learning from his experiences, seeing him, watching him, seeing what worked, what didn't work, learning from his mistakes and learning from the things he did right.
I think Andy followed John. He followed him to a tennis academy. He definitely wanted to beat him. Also it's motivation. I don't know exactly how Andy and John's relationship was, but for me Thomas was always much better, much bigger, much stronger, much faster than I was. I wasn't even in the same league. As I got closer and closer, it was to me just almost surreal to think I was even on the same court as him and even practicing with him when I got to college, that I was considered the same level. Then to surpass him in some of my tennis results was something I was definitely shocked but also it was motivating because I realized how much I'd improved in that amount of time.
I think having an older brother to set that bar high already and to go through all those things with, also for me it makes a huge difference to have someone to share with that. As much as it was motivating to somewhat surpass him at one point, I know there's no one that's more proud of me than Thomas. To have him in the standing cheering for me, to have him telling his friends how proud he is of me, it makes such a big difference, it really just puts a smile on my face to know that he cares.
I think Andy feels the same way, having John in the stands, hearing him get excited. There is also the fact that older brother knows what you went through. They know the sacrifices you made. I just talked about Thanksgiving is probably going to be a bit of a sacrifice this year, it has been many years. A lot of my friends just wouldn't know. A lot of people wouldn't care or know about. Your older brother is there in each one of those situations, knows the little sacrifice you make, the time you're not going to go out with your friends because you need to be home to rest. It's important to have someone like that, that understands everything you've done to get to the place where you are.
Q. Do you think that helps your whole team dynamic? Wayne told me yesterday how Bob and Mike know John Roddick.
JAMES BLAKE: I think it does help. We might all have a similar mentality in that regard. Andy and myself have been committed to this team. The Bryans have been committed to this team. I think we're somewhat similar in many ways. It's kind of like a little bit of a family where, for instance, my brother and I are very similar most people will say. Between the two of us, we can spot pretty big differences as well. I think we're the same with Andy and myself. I think the public would look at Andy and myself and see we're very different. If they got closer, they'd realize we're similar in a lot of ways, too.
We have like what's a little bit of a family there. Patrick, I don't know if you'd call him the dad or the older brother, whatever, but he's kind of got his reign over us and we're like a little family.
Q. I wanted to ask you about coaching. What are your thoughts when you see a guy like Andy Murray splitting with Brad Gilbert and other players on the tour going through a coach every couple of years?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I can't really relate to it since it's never happened to me. I've had one coach for the last 16 years.
I think of it has tennis is a very individual sport. What works for one individual definitely doesn't work for another individual. If Pete Sampras were to have trained the way Jim Courier did, he probably wouldn't have been the same Pete Sampras. If Jim Courier trained the way Pete Sampras did, probably wouldn't be the same Jim Courier. There are coaches that belong with certain players, that fit the best with them.
For me I feel the best thing for us is how comfortable I am with Brian, how much he helps me, not to mention I believe he's one of the best tennis minds in the game. But I don't know exactly how players deal with going through coach after coach after coach because for me I think the most important thing is having that comfort level where you really trust what they're saying to you. I don't know if I would have that same trust if I just hired someone tomorrow and they're with me at a big tournament.
For me, I couldn't imagine it. I really couldn't imagine playing on the tour without Brian. Even if he wasn't with me, just being able to call him and give him my thoughts, find out his thoughts. I'm proud he's been with me so long. He's helped me as a player and as a man. I don't know how many player/coach relationships are anything like ours. I'm really happy and I know how lucky I am to have a coach like Brian.
Q. Have there been times when there's been external pressure, that it might be good for you to switch?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I've definitely heard that. It's pretty much in one ear and out the other because those people see me for such a small amount of my life and they see my tennis. Even the people who followed my career since the beginning, that's seven years of my career. That doesn't account for the nine years before that that I was working with Brian. They have no idea how far I've come. They didn't see me at 14, 15, 16 years old, how much I improved, how hard I've worked to get where I am, how much Brian has influenced that situation. Whether or not they think my potential is higher, they think anything like that, to me it's almost laughable. If any one person, sports journalist, writer, columnist, anyone had seen me at 16 years old and said that I would be top 10 in the world, they probably would have been laughed out of the building, out of the newspaper, wherever they work.
I'm proud of where I've gotten to. I know that Brian is a large part of what's gotten me there.
Q. You spoke about the pressure and privilege of possibly being that fifth and deciding match. How much confidence do you derive from that five-set win over Santoro at the Open?
JAMES BLAKE: I really think it was valuable for me to get that in, to know that I can win those. I never really doubted myself. I didn't think it was something that wasn't going to happen. I felt like it was one of those unfortunate coincidences, statistical anomaly type things where you just happen to have lost some with tough circumstances. I lost to pretty darn good players. Agassi, two points could have changed that. Lleyton Hewitt in a tough five-setter where it was one break. Another tough five-setter where I ended up throwing up on the court, got heat exhaustion when I was younger. There were some tough losses, but none I really needed to hang my head in shame about.
It wasn't something that I thought was an issue, especially since I won a lot of three-set matches, where it comes down to the deciding set. I knew I won a lot of those. I knew it wasn't something mental. I didn't really believe it was something physical except for the ones earlier in my career where I may not have been strong enough at that point. But now I feel like there's nothing physical that's going to hold me back. I'm ready to win five-setters.
Q. As wonderful as Roger has played all year, we look at Justine, how impressed are you with her resilience and her game?
JAMES BLAKE: It's great what she's done. Finished the year No. 1 in the world is impressive. I definitely don't know the feeling to compare to it. She seems very nice. She's trained here at Saddlebrook quite a few times. Always been pleasant to be around. Watching her play is something that's impressive.
She is now starting to be compared to Federer. I think what Federer has done for so long is really in a class by itself. What Justine did this year is very impressive. It's going to set the bar very high for the girls to reach anywhere near it next year.
Q. Your overall Davis Cup record, your 12-8 in singles, do you feel like your game elevates when it comes Davis Cup time?
JAMES BLAKE: I'd like to think so. I've had a lot of fun. I think being on a team where you really care helps you to overachieve. I'm proud to be a part of this team. But also I think I've done better definitely at home on the hard courts. I think my record just in general on those is pretty good. I feel like I go into playing my game, I was definitely very nervous the first time I ever played Davis Cup, but since then I try to look at it as it's just another match and I've had success in that. I hope I have some more success here right in the finals. I've never been in this situation. I don't know how I'll react. I feel like I've been through enough so far in my tennis career and my life to not get too nervous, to just go out there and play tennis, which is what I've been practicing for all my life.
Q. In Davis Cup you're 7-0 on hard court, 9-5 indoors. Is this the best possible surface for your game?
JAMES BLAKE: Definitely. I think this is going to play into our hands, which is the reason you have the home-court advantage, so we can make it perfect for our games. I think for Andy and myself it's a great situation. We love playing on indoor hard. We've had some of our best results there. I think the Bryans could play on Pluto and still be the favorites. We could put it on just about anything and I like their chances. We're feeling really good. We know we're going to have a raucous crowd on our side. I think this is the perfect situation for me to play some of my best tennis.
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us and James for this Davis Cup media conference call. That concludes the call.
End of FastScripts