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August 25, 2016

John McEnroe

James Blake

New Haven, Connecticut

THE MODERATOR: Questions for John and James.

Q. John, talk about coming back to New Haven this year.
JOHN McENROE: Well, I think this last time was fun, last year. It's sort of a no-brainer. It's so close to New York. People are getting excited about the Open. I know that Anne and even the state, because someone talked to me about this, so I have a little bit more understanding of this, but put some real money into trying to update and upgrade the facilities, try to make this the best tournament it can be for the week before the Open, which is tricky.

But it's better for women, because the women don't play best-of-five. That's a huge difference potentially for players. Someone like Kvitova, playing now, struggling a bit, maybe not that confident, that could maybe boost her, where guys would be more wary to play the week before, the top guys, because they have to come out and play best-of-five. Being this close to New York, I think there's positives.

We've been doing this PowerShares Series for a number of years. The years I've been doing Jim's things, he's been trying to keep it going. James, Andy, Mardy, the younger guys have to carry the torch. I'm at about the end of my rope. This could be the final walk off the plank.

JAMES BLAKE: We've heard that before (laughter).

JOHN McENROE: I'm like 'The Who' of the tennis world, but I haven't actually retired. I haven't even retired from the main tour. You can't say that I keep retiring.

The cliché 'one match at a time' gets to be more relevant when you get to be my age.

Q. What is it about this? Competitive juices still flowing for you to come out here and try to compete at age 55, 56?
JOHN McENROE: That sounds good. 57, but who's counting (smiling).

First of all, I think any athlete that you speak to, I don't think the competitive juices ever leave. I think in tennis, we're more fortunate, now it's more physical than ever, so there's rarely a player that didn't have at least a couple surgeries. In other sports, American sports, team sports, it's tougher to get people together. Their bodies are in wrecks for the most part. I'm lucky I'm still in one piece.

This type of format gives me hope that under the right sort of circumstances, playing a set, eight games, this is one set of tennis. There's at least, in my mind, when I go home at night, I think there's a possibility I can last for an hour or less, and play reasonably well.

Q. John, with all the ways people can spend their entertainment dollars these days, tournaments like this, with you coming in to help out tournaments like this, do you think there's more opportunities for that? Does tennis need to do something a little different at these tournaments?
JOHN McENROE: I think yes and yes. They haven't taken advantage of the veterans, the guys and girls, like other sports, like golf does, bringing players around. I think that's something that the tournament directors and the powers that be are starting to understand.

I just did something yesterday in New York where they started this thing called the Laver Cup. The idea is sort of to be like a Ryder Cup, European players versus the rest of the world. To me that's thinking outside the box, trying to do different things that are going to attract attention and difference. It's shorter, three days, where potentially everybody could get together. We'll see how it works out. It's a year from now.

I know there's an opportunity I believe where you can mix. I think some of these events, the ones that Jim and John try to put together, are ones that should be in cities that maybe don't have tournament tennis, then others should be combined with situations like this event, a women's event. I think there should be a bigger thing at the US Open. There's a four-man seniors doubles, I think four-man senior women's, I believe. That's it.

To me, getting guys like James, if they wanted to, it obviously depends on them, but when I first came on tour, they had a 35-and-over event at Wimbledon where there was prize money. People played it. There was interest, I thought. So now to me, we've got to really start to look at ways to bring people in instead of the old-school methods.

Q. Are you more or less apt to argue a call in front of James' hometown crowd?
JOHN McENROE: Is there a challenge system?

Q. Yes.
JOHN McENROE: This has sort of taken away that aspect of arguing. There's a positive and a minus to having challenges and not. Like John, what happened? You didn't question a call. Well, there's a challenge system.

The serious part is I would have loved to have had it, even though maybe I wouldn't be sitting here now. But still to feel that security that you get to take a second look on potentially a match point, breakpoint, huge point in a match, I think any player would want that. That's good.

I guess I'll have to come up with something. What were those guys called?


JOHN McENROE: We may have to yell at them.

JAMES BLAKE: They'll yell back.

JOHN McENROE: I suspect they will, based on what I saw in the past.

Q. James, how exciting is it for you to play John in basically your backyard?
JAMES BLAKE: It's exciting to play John anywhere. For me it's kind of twofold. It's exciting for me to play at home basically in front of the J Block, what's left of them. They did all grow up and get real jobs, get married, have kids and stuff. Now it depends on if they can get a sitter. It used to be how much they could drink, how much they could yell and scream.

Then to play John, one of the absolute legends of the game, a ton of fun to be around. I definitely don't believe him when he says this could be the last one because he still plays just as well as anyone half his age. It's a lot of fun to play against him and see sort of a different way to play the game, which is incredible.

I think there's so much talk about the way the game has changed, the strings, the technology. You see some of the legends of the game that could kind of rise above that, no matter what the technology is, no matter what. His game is still effective and would be effective now, which is incredible to see.

You talk about a lot of people that play the same way. John definitely plays a unique style. It's fun to play against because I never got that opportunity when he was on tour, when I was on tour. So to get to see it now, I feel pretty lucky.

Q. James, is this the first time you played John?
JAMES BLAKE: No, we played a few times.

JOHN McENROE: We've actually played probably, what, eight times. Maybe 6-1, 7-2. I'm not going to say in whose favor.

JAMES BLAKE: We've played a few times. Every time it's fun.

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