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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 22, 2011
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today on our conference call with U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier. Jim will make his debut as captain next week in Chile in Santiago. Last week Jim named five players that he will be taking down with to Santiago; Andy Roddick, Sam Querrey, John Isner, and the doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan. Today we officially submitted four names per ITF regulations of Roddick, Isner and the Bryans as our lineup. Jim can change up to two of those players if he so chooses up to one hour before the draw ceremony next Friday.
That's basically it. We're here to talk about his roster and his lineup and the upcoming tie.
Q. I wondered with the extra person that you're taking whether then you'll have a practice partner with the team or not at this time?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Yeah, we will have a practice partner with us. Jay Berger is pulling that together for us as coach of the team.
Q. So you haven't decided that yet?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I'll have to get back to you on that one.
Q. Do you expect to make any changes to the roster as of now?
CAPTAIN COURIER: That's hard to say. I think we have the luxury of having so many good players available for us and they all want to be a part of it, so we're going to get down there, and the intent certainly is to bring the best team forward, and at the moment that's what we've nominated.
Sam as you may have read is suffering a little bit with some shoulder issues and he's getting that looked at. We'll know a little bit more about that soon. And hopefully Andy is going to get healthy. He's got a little bit of the flu. But these guys are tough and we're not excuse makers. We'll be ready to play and ready to battle when we get down there.
Q. If not for Sam's shoulder, is that the main reason right now that he's not on the roster?
CAPTAIN COURIER: No, no, that's not the reason at all. As Tim pointed out, the roster is a nomination that has to be done for Davis Cup regulations, and we have a lot of flexibility within those rules right up until match time.
Q. Could you maybe talk about Chile's team a little bit and what you expect out of them and maybe how some of the players will match up against your corps?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I know three players. I haven't seen who they've nominated as a fourth player just yet. Tim may have that information, but I haven't seen it because it's due today. But Nicolas Massu, Paul Capdeville and Jorge Aguilar are the three players that I'm aware of that have been active for them most recently, and of course Fernando Gonzalez who has been their stalwart is out at the moment as far as I know. He had hip surgery, and I don't believe he's going to be able to play, which is disappointing because you want to take on their best.
But they'll still be tough. Nicolas Massu as you would know is a veteran player, a lot of experience, a lot of high level experience, particularly in the Olympics, and he's going to be a tough out. He hasn't been playing his best tennis recently, but I think we all recognize that players certainly will rise to occasions, and this is one of the big ones when you're playing at home. So we certainly expect him to play tough, play hard.
Paul Capdeville is a streaky kind of a slapshot player. He's a guy who takes some risks, and he's pretty thin but he can still get some pop on the ball.
Jorge Aguilar I don't know much about. That will be our role once we get down there is to do a little scouting on these guys and see what they're bringing.
And then the fourth player, again, I just don't know at this stage.
Q. The fourth player that was nominated was Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz, who's a 21 year old currently ranked No. 353 in the world.
CAPTAIN COURIER: All right, I'll be looking him up on ATP.com here before you know it.
Q. As a follow-up, I was wondering if you got a chance to watch that tie a few years ago that was here at Rancho Mirage and just kind of your thought about the Chilean fans that brought a lot of energy to that tie.
CAPTAIN COURIER: Yeah, I did get a chance to watch that on TV. I wasn't there in person. But I have experience playing in Chile. I've playing down there a few times in my career and I've played Davis Cup in Brazil, and I'm pretty familiar with the kind of energy and excitement that their fans will bring, and we'll be ready for that.
That's one of the best things about playing Davis Cup is getting a chance to go into an away tie situation and face all of the elements and face that enthusiasm and energy and their passion and try and use that as energy for yourself and come away with a win. It's going to be -- there's no doubt it's going to be loud. There's no doubt it's going to be boisterous, and we expect it, and we're looking forward to it.
Q. I just spent a few days with Andy in Memphis, and he seemed very, very excited. He said he missed not having it, so how is he looking coming back? Do you think that he has the hunger that he had before with the hiatus that he took, now he's coming back with you?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I think that Andy is definitely excited about Davis Cup. I think Andy has always been passionate about it, and he was very straightforward with Patrick last year that it just wasn't going to work based on how he was feeling and what he was looking to achieve. But I think Davis Cup was something that he wasn't ruling out long-term, it was just something that he looks at it on a year-by-year basis. And the second that I was named captain and called him, he said I'm in, period, and let's go to battle. And that's exactly what you want to hear as captain.
He's been the alpha of the team for the better part of the last decade, and to have his leadership from within will be exceptional and certainly something I'll lean on.
Q. You were just in Memphis yourself with the three singles players. What's the morale like down there, and are they all excited about playing for you on Davis Cup?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I mean, I think Davis Cup is something -- whoever the captain is, they're going to be excited about it. I'll take advantage of the fact that they're excited about it, and I'm certainly pleased because there were times in my Davis Cup career where not all players were on the same page as far as committing to it and sacrificing for it. And let's be honest, the way that Davis Cup is scheduled, it is a sacrifice for the players, and I think we have to recognize that, and I certainly get it as captain.
It was great to be down in Memphis with the three guys, the three singles guys that we named today as well as Mardy Fish, who's going to be a big part of our team going forward. I have to say it's disappointing that Mardy is suffering from this thyroid issue and is just physically not at a place where we're comfortable having him play a five-set match in singles at this stage, and that's a real shame, because if you look at what Mardy achieved on behalf of the team in keeping us in the World Group last year in Colombia, he loves it and he deserves to be a part of it, and he will be. But he's got to take the long view and we have to take the long view with him, as well, and hopefully we can get through the first one and he'll be healthy and available going forward.
But at the beginning of this journey with the Davis Cup guys, I established very early with them that I wanted us to look at this year as a six-man team, and Mardy is very much a part of that, so I don't want to leave him out of this conversation today.
I had a great time last week being down in Memphis for a couple of days and getting to watch all the guy play and spend time with them and their coaches and just become a little closer to what makes them tick in competition. So it was definitely a good week to be there.
Q. I'm wondering, less than a week until you leave for Chile to captain your first tie. Is there any apprehension? Are you nervous about it? What are you looking forward to the most?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I'm certainly anxious and excited. You know, anything worth doing is going to give you a little bit of tension and a little bit of nerves, and you're going to wonder how you're going to do and how you're going to deal with it. I've never done this before as captain, so it's not many chances to do things for the first time within the tennis world for me. I've been around the game a long time, but this is one of them, and this is new and it's exciting.
Q. You said you were in Memphis. You had to be encouraged by Andy Roddick, tremendous shots to win the final. Of course he just dropped out of Del Rey. You alluded to it earlier. Is that a concern of yours or do you think he'll be fine by next week?
CAPTAIN COURIER: No, I've been talking to Andy quite a lot, and certainly he's not feeling as well as he would like to, but it seemed to be flu symptoms, which shouldn't be too severe. He should be back on the court here probably by midweek and get some kind of buildup for the Davis Cup. I think he was smart to not push his body given what he put it through on Sunday.
I don't know how many of you got to watch the match. I watched it on TV, and it was clear to me in the beginning he just wasn't able to engage in any long, physical rallies, and that's what we're likely to encounter down in Santiago. So for him to get rested and ready to go, I think that makes sense. But his confidence should be very high.
Q. In terms of your schedule, when are you going to leave for Santiago and the rest of the guys? What's your prep for it?
CAPTAIN COURIER: So John and Andy and I will certainly be leaving on Saturday night. Sam is still playing in Del Rey, and Bob and Mike are down in Acapulco. So the plan is if the guys aren't playing on Sunday they'll be heading down Saturday night to arrive on Sunday morning.
Q. You're now in the midst of the hard court season. How difficult is it to go from the hard courts to the clay and then back again, and how do you approach that?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Look, our guys are pros. They simply strap on the clay court shoes and will go down there and try and get the job done. Is it ideal in the context of the scheduling of the season? Of course not. But is it something that our guys want to do and they're prepared to do? Absolutely.
Q. I just wanted to get your thoughts, can you talk about the transition for the players coming back and playing at Indian Wells, going from clay to that hard court?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Sure, I think that the one benefit of how this -- the first round is scheduled is that the players don't have to go straight into competition immediately after the weekend is over. You know, it's a slow ramp-up to the beginning of the tournament in the desert, particularly for the seeded players. So our guys, the American team specifically, will have the opportunity to at least get three days off I would think, if not more, and that will give them a chance to kind of decompress and also ramp back up for the hard courts and be ready for that tournament.
Q. It's going to be ten years since an American man or woman has won this tournament. Do you have any thoughts on why Americans kind of struggle at Indian Wells?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, it wouldn't be a conference call if we didn't have that question in some way, shape or form, so I'm glad we're getting it out of the way just in a real silent situation here. Look, the game is deep and the game is tough, and on the men's side you're talking about an era of Roger Federer, and he's been pretty dominant, and there have been some other players that have played pretty well there, as well. And Andy came awfully close last year, didn't he, to winning it. So it's not like America has had a ten-year drought in winning tournaments, it's just your particular tournament that you look at most closely we haven't seen one on the men's side.
And then the women's side it's been the era of the Williams sisters, and for an unfortunate reason they haven't been out there. So I think it's a pretty easy article to write.
Q. When you were in Memphis with the guys you started trying to get even a better sense of what makes them tick. What were a couple things you learned, even though you probably knew them pretty well before that, but sort of watching them in a new way?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, as I've started this process I went to visit all the players in their home environments in their off-season to get to spend a little time with them in a non-pressurized scenario, and that was great. But then I was also in Australia and I was in the locker room with them and their coaches and watching matches next to their coaches and did the same thing in Memphis.
It's a very delicate environment to be sitting on a court with a player and having a chance to influence them, and you have to be very, I think, sensitive to how they normally operate, which is what I'm trying to find out through their coaches and what their tendencies are. It's something I'm sure after we get the first couple matches under our belts with all the players, everyone will feel relaxed and comfortable and at ease and natural. But I think the first couple of times my tendency is to want to have more information than less and to make sure that I'm as prepared as I can be to not disturb them out there. I'm there to help them if I can, but in the absence of helping them, I'd rather do nothing than hurt them, so that's what I'm trying to gather that information and be prepared for.
Q. Do you remember back in your days as a Davis Cup player any examples that made you realize that or even just things about your style that, yeah, you didn't want kind of messed up as far as your rhythms out there?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I've spoken to Patrick, I've spoken to Tom Gullikson and Tom Gorman, who were captains that I played for, about how they approached it to try and glean that information from them as to any secrets or tips, and every player is just an individual; that's what they all say. You have to treat everyone in a different way because of the way that they approach matches.
You know, for me I was very comfortable talking to my captains most of the time. Some players like Pete didn't want to talk. They just wanted to play. So you just have to know your audience, like anything in life.
Q. Even so far, what would you say of the guys you're going to be with down in Chile? Who are the guys that like to talk a little more or a little less, just the way they go?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Geez, I've known Andy probably longer than any of the other guys, so I think we'll have pretty open lines of communication. But I'm not going to really know until I get down there. Check in with me in about ten days.
Q. I wanted to ask you, big picture, how do you think the Davis Cup competition has changed? Obviously Pat McEnroe put this tremendous quality of this band of brothers sensibility together where the guys were really tight with each other in your day and before with Mac and Connors and Mike and yourself, Andre, these are huge names but more reluctant sometimes to play, but Davis Cup probably drew quite a bit more attention than it does now. Talk about the evolution of Davis Cup.
CAPTAIN COURIER: Just in general or do you want me to talk about it specifically from an American eye?
Q. American first, but it's tied in, too, because obviously top players aren't playing too much.
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I don't want to get into a history lesson on the Davis Cup because I'm sure you and everyone else on this call knows more about it than I do. But Davis Cup certainly has had more prominence in the U.S. than it currently holds, as has professional tennis, and there are a myriad of reasons for that, and we don't need to get into those.
But just speaking on Davis Cup specifically, there have been times when players have struggled to commit to it starting with Connors and even before that, even Stan Smith you can read words that -- quotes from Stan that would ring true today where players were saying that the format just doesn't fit with the pro model and schedule, and I don't think that has necessarily changed.
And the U.S. isn't the only team historically that's struggled to field its best players, so I think that's fair to say, as well. It still has a special place in our hearts as players. Those of us who have had the pleasure of holding that trophy will remember that moment forever, and that still rings true, and even more so for I think our American players right now. They really hold it in the highest esteem, as they should.
Could Davis Cup be more powerful and more popular with a slight adjustment? Of course it could. Has it been long talked about within the sport? Absolutely. Is change coming tomorrow? Absolutely not. Those are the facts.
Q. If the ITF came to Jim Courier and said, okay, you've been around for approaching three decades; what's the one thing you would change in Davis Cup, what would that be?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, that's not going to happen, but just in this hypothetical, I think it's pretty clear that the Davis Cup was created in 1900. The other majors haven't been around for much longer than that. But I think it's fair to say that the US Open and Wimbledon and the Australian Open and Roland Garros all are more powerful and more prominent than Davis Cup, and I think there's a pretty obvious way to make that not the case, which is to match up with a two-week blockbuster event in one location that you guys would be able to cover, TV could cover, the fans could understand it.
It's all -- it seems to be right in front of them, but this is not a new conversation. This is not a new suggestion. I've been in meetings since I was a player in the '90s trying to make some change, and it's not easy and I'm not the ITP so I don't know what they have to deal with; I don't know who they have to answer to. From where I sit without all the information, it seems obvious.
Obviously it can't be that simple because if it were, you would think that they'd want to make the amount of money that the US Open makes. Why wouldn't you? That's how you can help grow the sport internationally. If you have more money you can spread it out around the world and grow the sport more. That would seem fairly obvious, wouldn't it?
Q. And finally, what is your favorite Davis Cup moment presumably as a player or not, as an observer?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Well, I'm going to be very selfish and say when I was given the chance to redeem myself after losing my first singles match in the '92 finals with Switzerland, and I was put in position by my team to play fourth and clinch the tie for us, and I was able to come through with a win. That's my favorite personal Davis Cup memory.
Q. You still hear those cowbells?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I do, I do, and believe it or not, Andy Roddick with the air horn.
Q. Who did you just say is in Acapulco and are you concerned for players' safety in general down there considering the drug wars?
CAPTAIN COURIER: Bob and Mike are down there, and I did read on line that the ATP had done a check and certainly consulted with the players. So I'm certainly confident that they'll be well taken care of and looked after and protected down there. It's not the first time that players have gone into areas where there's a little bit of strife. I'm sure they'll be fine.
Q. I assume you went into perilous environments like that as a player, and how did you handle it?
CAPTAIN COURIER: You know, as a tennis player we typically live in a bubble. It's a pretty secure environment particularly, and particularly with -- I mean, Davis Cup we've played in -- being in Peru as a practice partner was my first Davis Cup experience, and we had 24-hour armed security on the floors whenever we went to the courts. We had armed guards in vehicles in front and behind us and police escorts.
So you know, it is what it is. It's a part of -- it can be a part of the job, and Bob and Mike are smart guys and they'll be safe.
End of FastScripts