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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 27, 2008
TIM CURRY: The U.S. Davis Cup team continues its title defense April 11 through 13 against France in the quarterfinals at Winston-Salem's Joel Coliseum.
Patrick has named Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Bob and Mike Bryan to represent the U.S. for a record tenth consecutive time.
In addition, Mardy Fish will be on hand as a reserve player, and will practice with the team. Fish is the third-ranked American after reaching the final of Indian Wells, including the win over No. 1, Roger Federer. Reigning U.S. Boys' 18s champion Michael McClune will also be a hitting partner.
Tickets are still available in all price categories and currently being sold as three-day packages and are available by calling the U.S. Davis Cup hotline at 888-484-8782. Single-day tickets will go on sale starting on Sunday.
Before play begins on Friday, the U.S. Davis Cup team will be recognized for winning its record 32nd title last December during a special ceremony. The USTA commissioned customized 14-karat gold rings for Captain McEnroe, Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Bob and Mike Bryan.
Patrick is joining us from Baltimore where he will test the premiere hard court surface used for the match in Winston-Salem immediately after the call.
We'll now open the call for questions for Patrick.
Q. Can you just talk about the fact that you have this same lineup, and it seems almost anticlimactic having these guys there, year after year, and what a relief that is as a captain?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think I'm pretty lucky. I think, you know, having an anticlimactic announcement call is the best one to have for me as a captain. It's not always great for you guys that are writing about it, but, you know, I think, again, I just think I said it before but it's worth saying again, that these guys have been amazing in their commitment to playing for their country and playing Davis Cup.
I give them all the credit in the world for coming back. I mean, we had to go to Austria, six, seven weeks after winning the Davis Cup, and winning a real tough match over there. So I'm just thrilled that they're back on. I'm also thrilled that we're going to be able to play a match at home as a champion. That was something I was really hoping we'd be able to do this year.
Obviously I'm hoping we can win it again, but I really wanted the guys to be able to come out in the home tie as a Davis Cup champ, so going back to Winston-Salem is perfect.
We had a great, great event there last year at this time against Spain, and we're looking forward to another great one against a very tough French team.
Q. I guess this is more along the lines of what you have just been addressing, but could you speak specifically to whether it has been a surprise for you, the desire of your players to come back? Of course, after reaching this goal that they worked for for so long, given the shortness of their careers and other goals they've got going on. It seems to me if you check the Davis Cup off your list, you might be turning elsewhere. So if you could at all speak to their motivation, and maybe even your own in that same regard?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think it speaks to myself, but obviously the players are what it's all about. It speaks to the fact that it's not just about winning and losing, and I think that's really a key for the way we've been a team.
We've really -- it's a cliche, but it's true. We really enjoy the process. We enjoy the weeks together. The guys are a real team. You know, winning it accomplishes a huge goal. But that doesn't take away from, I think, what makes it really special for the guys, which is being around their buddies. You know, playing in an atmosphere that is electric.
Yes, they all have to make smart decisions overall about their career, and, you know, I think they put Davis Cup ahead of a lot of other things. So that's a credit to them and a credit to, I think, the way they interact with each other. Because they really do enjoy those weeks that we're practicing and training together.
That was a thing I really tried to focus on when I came in as captain a long time ago, was that you want players that want to be there, that want to be part of the process. That you don't feel like as a captain you have to twist their arm to be there. I think that's really the key with these guys is that.
So, no, I'm not surprised that they want to come back, because I realize how much it's meant to them over the years. Again, the process is what it's all about for us.
Q. You get the best singles players and the best doubles players. Even though the doubles players are maybe not at their best it's a big risk. You feel pretty safe doing that?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think it's always a risk. I think ideally if you had a (doubles) team like Clement and Llodra, that can also step in and play singles, that is the best of all worlds. But the Bryan Brothers, I don't need to tell you how good their record has been in Davis Cup.
I feel that the positives far outweigh the negatives. You know, all the guys physically really take care of themselves well, so that's always very important in a Davis Cup tie because you've got to be able to play best-of-five sets. So the guys really take seriously the preparation and getting themselves physically ready.
You know, one of the reasons obviously to have someone like a Mardy Fish there during the week, obviously, he's showing his support for the team. But he's also somebody that can step in if somebody got injured during the week and play singles or doubles.
So I've always tried, if possible, to have somebody like that available for some of these matches.
But, yeah, if somebody gets hurt on day one, there is no doubt that we're in trouble.
Q. How long do you see this core group staying together, and how will you deal with people like Fish and some up-and-comers when they're playing well?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I've had that issue before in years past, whether it was Fish or Ginepri, where we were relatively close with James for that second spot. Obviously, the last couple of years James has solidified himself as a Top 5 and a Top 10 player, so it's been pretty clear cut.
But I would love to see Mardy Fish have another week like he had at Indian Wells. I'd love to see Robby Ginepri continue to play well. I'd love to see Sam Querrey, and Donald Young, and John Isner make my life more difficult as a captain down the road.
So having more options is always better. But I've always been very optimistic with all the guys about what the options are, so I think that's been a key component of us being able to get people on board. I mean, to have Fish and Ginepri be there at the final, to have Donald Young, and Isner, and Querrey's been there a couple of times as a back-up guy.
So I really try to include the guys. I think for the most part the players really support each other. So if Mardy Fish all of a sudden won Miami and he's ranked 10 in the world, James Blake would be the first one to say, you know what, if Mardy's playing better, he should play.
I don't think we're at that point just yet. But I would certainly love to have those difficult positions. Have more players playing and playing well.
Q. I wanted to ask you, of all the guys on the French of team - and obviously Gasquet had the great win over Roddick last year - who do you feel is the most dangerous? And also the doubles team has beaten the Bryans in the last year.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think they're all dangerous. I mean, I think it's a great match-up. I think each match individually could be a Grand Slam semifinal kind of match. So I'm excited from that standpoint. I think each match, each side, could make an argument they could win each match.
So I don't think there's one particular player that we're worried about. We're worried about all of them. We have a lot of respect for them. We also played at home, and as I'm just about to test the surface that we're going to play on, I'm expecting that it will be quite fast.
If it's not, they'll do it again to make sure it is fast. But hopefully that will be an advantage for us. But at the same time, like you said, both their singles players can play on fast courts as well, and their doubles team won Wimbledon.
So we're going with the surface that we feel suits our games and that will help us play our best. Hopefully, that will be enough. But we're certainly expecting a real tough match.
Q. How much stock do you put in Blake beating Gasquet at Indian Wells and Roddick could play Tsonga in Miami this week or next week? Because you had a similar thing last year with Spain. You had Miami before playing Spain. How much stock do you put into these immediate matches right before the weeks before the tie?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think it's very big for James to beat Gasquet. He lost to him a couple of times, so I think to beat him on a slower, more high-bouncing surface was a great win for James. Because Gasquet likes the ball up high on a slower hard court it's probably a little more comfortable than James.
So for James to beat him there, I thought that was huge. Obviously, he's playing well and played a great match with Nadal. Andy has had a great week in Dubai, and hopefully he can get back on track down there in Miami.
So I think it's important. I think, obviously, Davis Cup is different. The atmosphere's different. I mean, our guys have played against these guys in a couple of different situations. But certainly going in, having a win against them is a lot better than having a loss.
Q. Do you allow yourself to look at the Germany-Spain tie, and Haas saying he's not going to play, Nadal said he probably will play. What are your thoughts on that one since you play the winner?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, we always sort of follow the scores during the weekend, and we're interested in how the other matches are going.
For the most part, we want the team to win that would allow us to play the next match at home. But in this scenario, that's not going to happen. Even if we do beat France, we'll be going away for the next match, and, obviously, playing on clay. Obviously, Spain on clay, you would think would be a bit tougher than Germany.
But Germany has certainly got, especially with Kohlschreiber, guys that can play on clay. We really have to take care of the French, because both James and Andy played the last match we played against them at Roland Garros, which was a great atmosphere, and a tough loss for us in the semifinals.
So we'd like to get them back for that one and get a chance to play Spain or Germany. But we always follow - we're always scoreboard watching during the weekend and keep up to date on what's going down.
Q. The announcement of the practice players was kind of garbled and I didn't get it. So who?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Michael McClune will be there for sure, who won Kalamazoo last year, and Mardy Fish will be there. I wouldn't term him a practice player. He'll be there as our fifth guy. And we may add one more practice player, you know, in the next week or so, depending on a scenario or two.
But Michael McClune for sure will be our first practice guy.
Q. Touching again on Mardy after reaching the Indian Wells final, knocking off Federer, what more does he need to do to really, you know, make you think twice with these nominations?
CAPTAIN McENROE: It would be nice if he did it again in Miami. But, you know, look, I couldn't be happier for Mardy and, you know, James is one of his best buddies, so is Andy. So we're all happy to see him get back on track.
But the rankings, as you know, don't lie, and the rankings still say that James Blake is, if he's not in the top 10, he's very close. I don't know where he is this week. (NOTE: Blake is No. 9 this week.)
So clearly we've got a great one-two punch at the moment. As I said earlier, if Mardy has another great week, and, you know, comes in and has a great week of practice, obviously, anything's possible. But I'm certainly not going in expecting that anybody other than James and Andy will be playing the singles.
Q. Being best friends, could you see a scenario where James might approach you and say, you know what, Mardy should maybe get a shot at some point?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I don't think they're that -- I think they're too competitive. But we've had cases before where, you know, when Mardy was beating James in practice in Slovakia a couple of years ago and James thought he was going to play, and I put Mardy in.
So, no, it's really my decision. I wouldn't leave it in their hands. I think that's unfair to them. So it's up to me to make those kind of decisions. But at the moment I don't think we're at that point because, you know, the difference in the rankings.
But, as I said, the better Mardy does, and the more options it gives us, it makes all of us happy. Certainly we've been lucky that the guys have been healthy. But, you know, someone's nicked up a little bit, and not feeling a hundred percent, knowing we have Mardy there makes all of us feel better.
Q. Now France might be the most talented, well-rounded opponents that you face as captain. Is there a particular matchup that you're most concerned about? Obviously, the doubles pairs had some success.
CAPTAIN McENROE: You obviously came on the call late, Jason. So I'll quickly reprise what I said earlier, because someone asked the same question. I think all the matches are difficult. They're all potential for the Grand Slam semis or finals type of matchups, and I think it will make it an exciting tie.
There's really not one particular match where I could look to and say, Hey, if we win this one we're in good shape. Because I think either team knows that they could win any match. They're all real tough matchups.
So from that standpoint, it's about our guys being as well prepared and taking advantage of a court that we're real comfortable on with a home crowd and playing well.
Q. You and the guys are excited to receive your Davis Cup championship rings and see the trophy again?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, one of my real desires for this year, other than trying to repeat and win it all, was that we'd at least get one match at home as a champion. I think being able to do it in Winston is great. They were so good to us last year, so it's sort of fitting to go back there and celebrate as the Davis Cup champions and try to use that to spur us on, and take another step this year.
Q. This is slightly off topic. I'm wondering if you have any insight into Andy's decision not to compete in the Beijing Olympics and focus presumably instead on the US Open? If you could just talk about that.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I'm not going to speak for him, but I certainly understand his decision. It's in the middle of the summer. It's obviously the big U.S. circuit and the Open coming up. You know, look, I've always felt that the Olympics and tennis or tennis in the Olympics is great that it's happened.
I've always been wanting a few things that tennis and the Olympics should be more of a team situation. I feel like the individual nature of the event, meaning it's just set up like any other tournament, I think it doesn't make the Olympics stand out as much as it could. So that's just my opinion. It has nothing to do with why Andy decided not to play.
We were there together in Athens. It was a great experience. To walk in the opening ceremony was awesome, and, you know, to be there at the Olympics was fantastic.
But as far as the event of tennis, I think tennis would be better served having 16, 32 teams that were real teams and that were playing as a team for medals. Because tennis has its Grand Slam, and that's where people can sort of get individual glory. I think in the Olympics to me it would be nice if it were more about the team.
Q. Do you know what Blake is planning or thinking?
CAPTAIN McENROE: As far as I know he's planning on going, but that's as far as I know. But, again, I don't make these decisions for them.
Q. I know.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Nor do they consult me on these decisions, necessarily.
Q. Maybe this is self-evident, but given the importance of the U.S. hard court circuit leading into the Open, plus their commitment to Davis Cup, it just seems like almost an impossibility to then fit in the Olympics.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, it's a lot. It's no doubt it's a lot. Someone asked earlier in this call about sometimes having to make some sacrifices. I think we and I as a captain and Davis Cup fans in this country have been lucky that the guys continue to show up and play. And so, you know, it's asking a lot. It's asking a lot.
Plus, I think he wants to see you in Washington in the tournament there.
Q. I'm going to be in Beijing.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Oh, there you go.
Q. If you had to rank the most dangerous team for you, where would you put France compared to Russia, to Spain, to other teams?
CAPTAIN McENROE: On a fast surface, I would say France is pretty close to the top of the list. Obviously, Russia was tough as well. But I think France would be right up there. I mean, they certainly -- maybe Ljubicic and Ancic a couple of years ago when they were both playing at the top of their game.
But I would have to put France right there. Spain, I think, is a little uncomfortable on real fast courts. Obviously if a guy named Federer decided to play for Switzerland, that would be pretty tough. But I think that's part of the great quality of the French team is that they can play on any surface.
Then, obviously, if we were playing in France they would play us on clay, and they would certainly be the favorite. As I said, I really had to pick a surface that was best suited for us. And I think this is one that's probably a little faster than even the surface the guys played on the last few weeks, and we hope that gives the French guys some trouble.
But we're certainly aware, you just look at their results, Tsonga down in Australia, Wimbledon doubles, Gasquet at Wimbledon. I think they're at the top of the list.
Q. The players talked in Vienna about the pressure being off, having won last year after they had wanted to win it so bad for so long. Can you talk about the dynamic of being the defending champion, and how that has changed things?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think in some ways the pressure is off. It was obviously a huge goal for us as a team to win it all. At the same time, as was evidenced by the way the guys battled and fought in Austria, you know, the desire is still there.
In a way, that might make us even more dangerous and sort of, you know, it's almost like you're playing with house money a little bit. The desire to win it again is still there.
I think there is a pride in having won it, and there is also, you know, having known we've won some huge matches. Andy winning a couple of huge matches on the road last year. James winning an incredibly big match in the final. That builds your confidence.
I also think what it does is that when you get into tight situations you don't really panic. Not that they panicked before, but you just sort of realize, Hey, just stay the course.
James was down to 7-5 in two in Austria, and it was like, Okay, we're down a set and a break, but just keep playing. Keep going for your shots and this thing could turn around. So I'm not sure we'd have been able to do that three, four years ago in a road match.
Obviously expecting a tough match against France, we might have to deal with some adversity during the matches as well and try to overcome it. So I think it helps in that respect.
Q. There is talk about you want it in December, and then go right back into action again a couple of months later. Have you been able to fully enjoy this to the hilt?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think we certainly enjoyed it in Portland. I really think that Winston's a great place for us to go back to, because it sort of kick-started us last year to beat Spain in the convincing way that we did. So that's why I said I really wanted the guys to get a match at home, because I think we'll really be able to enjoy going out there as the champions. I think the crowd will respond to that. I think the guys will be really excited about getting their rings and doing all that.
So I think as much as this match will be certainly about us wanting to win and move on, in some ways it will also be about sort of enjoying what we've done already. And I think that could help us win this match as well.
Q. Tsonga's made some comments and Andy's commented on those comments and everything. What was your reaction to all of that?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think it's great. I love Tsonga as a player. I love his attitude. You know, to say that they're confident, why not? At the same time, I like that Andy got right back and said, Hey, we're the champions. You know what, this is what Davis Cup is about.
You have two teams that are real good from top to bottom. There is really no bottom. I think it should make for a heck of a match. It's going to be great tennis. It's going to be a great environment.
You've got young, particularly young players from the French on the singles side. You've got our guys who the last time they played in France were very young and very raw, now they're more veteran players but they still play with that passion.
So I think it could be an incredibly exciting weekend of tennis.
TIM CURRY: Thank you everyone for joining us.
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