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December 5, 1999

Mark Philippoussis


ITF: First question, please.

Q. Newc, what do you learn today about Philippoussis, what you didn't know before today?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I think it was more what Mark learned about himself today, that he has the ability in a match under that pressure to maintain not just the level of play but the level of concentration and focus for a three-hour period under extreme pressure. The level he played was very high; there were no lows. He kept that same level the whole time. That's what the big problem was for Cedric. In the end, it was just too much for him, this constant pressure at this level. Cedric had a big high at the end of the second set, but as soon as he came off the high, just a little bit off the high, then Mark just jumped all over him and he never let him breathe again. Really, that's what happened. I think Mark has learned that about himself now. Once you've done that, then it's easy to do it the second time.

Q. What do you think this will do for Mark and the Australian public? Will he be the great hero?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: He's always been popular at home. As we know with sport, if you're winning, everybody loves you. If you're losing, then some people love you and some don't. But certainly I would imagine that Mark will look back on this in the future, in ten years' time, and say, "That's where my career actually turned the corner and I started winning Grand Slam tournaments."

Q. Like Pat?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Yeah. There's a time. It could be the same with Mark, like Pat's career turned in Davis Cup against France also. Eight months later, he had won a Grand Slam tournament. I think going through something like this, it just puts something inside you, that little bit extra.

Q. Of all the Davis Cup campaigns you've been involved in, either as captain or for many, many years before as a player, how would you categorize this particular year's campaign? Can you compare them in any way?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I think this year has to go down as one of the great years for Australia in Davis Cup history. What we went through all year, with our injuries, every time someone was asked to step up, they stepped up, and they played at their maximum. It was a fantastic effort. We had how many people play, seven? We had seven different people play for us during the year. Every time someone played, they were playing fantastic tennis. Two of the players, it was their first time, first time to play Lleyton.

Q. We heard from Mark soon after his match. Maybe we can ask the other three guys what emotions they had going through them. It was a superb occasion.

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Name somebody first.

Q. Lleyton.

LLEYTON HEWITT: I was very nervous, I suppose, in the changing rooms. I wasn't able to be out there and enjoy as it as I would have liked to be. But to see Mark play that well today under that kind of pressure, you know, in a Davis Cup final, it's a fantastic honor, I think, for me to be alongside Philippoussis and the Woodies here, winning my first Davis Cup trophy at the age of 18, in my third Davis Cup tie.

Q. Mark?

MARK WOODFORDE: I think I was a little bit more emotional yesterday, just knowing if Todd and I were able to secure the victory, you know, it would help Mark to come out and play to the form that he displayed on the first day of play. For the first set and a half, I was upstairs commentating for the local network. It was very, very difficult to sit there and actually watch it evolve in front of me. I'm sure if I'd been sitting courtside for the first little bit, it would have been worse. You know, I think being able to win on the Saturday, that just created the momentum for Mark to really go out and play, you know, just incredible tennis, to the form that we all know and I'm sure he'll continue on playing. It's just a fantastic feeling to finally get over the finishing line and hold a Davis Cup.

Q. Todd?

TODD WOODBRIDGE: For me, as about a seven, eight-year-old, I remember watching Davis Cup matches on TV. From that age, I felt like I wanted to be a tennis player. I had two dreams, and they were to play at Wimbledon and to win the Davis Cup. To achieve one of your dreams - dreams usually stay dreams, they're not achieved for most people - to achieve something that you wanted to as a seven-year-old is just amazing. It doesn't sink in just now. I think it takes a long time to really appreciate what you've done.

Q. I think you can all participate in answering this question. Obviously the focus of attention is going to Australia in a big way next year, with the Olympics. You have so many world trophies under your belts already, how do you buggers do it? Can you explain to us?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: It's where we get weaned on Australian beer when you're born (laughter). We have this complex that we have to prove ourselves because we're all set out as convicts. Just joking (laughter).

Q. John, we spoke earlier in the week about the crowd, how hard it would be for you guys. How fanatical were those Fanatics?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I think you should ask them that because they had the feeling out there. I think it played a very important part, our Fanatics. In each of our Davis Cup matches, they sort of helped -- it's part of the spirit that we've developed as a team. As for the French crowd, as each day went on, I think we gradually learned how to use that as a force. So instead of being a negative, thinking of it as a negative force against us, we were trying to think of it as theater. We were part of the play. It was just fantastic to be out there in front of this noise. It's a simple way of turning what could be a negative force into a positive force that helps you perform at your best.

Q. What does this mean for the future, do you think, with the ages of guys, apart from maybe Mark Woodforde, that he may not continue, what does it mean? Could this be the start of a really good stretch for Australian tennis, do you think, next year even?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: We should be poised really for the next 10 or 15 years. This will encourage 10- and 11-year-olds who are great athletes to take up the game of tennis and want to emulate, you know, Mark and Lleyton and Pat. We should get some great sports people taking up the game of tennis. If we do the right thing, I think we'll have a succession of great players playing for Australia over the next 15 years.

Q. John, how does this rate in your career achievements? Can you talk about your own emotions?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I think it's something I've got to sort of sit alone and get a grip with it. I don't know. Maybe I'll be a bit -- you know, start to feel that a bit at the dinner tonight when I have to talk. It's an entirely different feeling. It's something that I set out to do with Tony six years ago. We've got such a close friendship that we've sort of stuck together to try to do this. Really, I actually was already thinking two weeks ago of how to successfully defend next year, because we're just going to do one more year. I think that's what we're putting the plans into place for that already.

Q. How does it look for next year? Just looking at the seedings, a lot to happen.

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: We have quite a good draw. Play Switzerland first round. If we win that, we keep winning, our next three matches will be at home. There's the possibility of a finals against the United States, possibly Sampras and Agassi, at Melbourne Park next December. That's something that all of us would look forward to.

Q. John, the centenary of the Davis Cup this year, could you give us your thoughts on that and where you actually see it sort of going in the next hundred years?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Frankly, I won't give a shit (laughter). Seeing as I'm only 31 (laughter). This is an unbelievable competition. For something to have gone on for a hundred years, and when you look at the trophy, it just reeks of history. It's a very good question that you ask, and it's one that needs to be looked at very closely. How do we take this competition now into the next century so that in a hundred years' time, it will be bigger and stronger? I think the Davis Cup, there can be some sort of other format devised that may take us better into the next century than the one that's there right now. That is going to have to take some careful planning and thinking. But the potential is there for this competition to be way, way bigger than even it is now.

Q. Simply because of the way it is, being an individual sport, I mean, tennis players, the assumption is that they're selfish, it's an individual thing. Clearly this event brings out the very best in people. I wonder if the guys could give us a feel for the Davis Cup and what it means to them on this particular day.

MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS: Well, like I said, as an athlete, the most important thing in an athlete's life, I think, is representing their country. To be here today, especially at the start of the week, just to lead up to the Davis Cup final, our preparations, you know, I think we all felt something, not only because we're in the Davis Cup final, but that something special was going to happen. We trained hard for it. I honestly think we deserved it. After these couple of weeks, just sitting here now, after the win with this trophy, you know, our names going on the trophy, like Newc said, it will be there for history. No one can ever change that. No one can ever rub our names off; we're there. Australia's won it. An incredible feeling. It's the best match I've ever played, but it's also the best feeling of a win I've ever had in my life.

Q. John, I know it's very early in Australia. Did you have some news from Patrick Rafter or perhaps did you try to wake him up?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: No. Pat was watching the match. We rang him after Mark had won. All the boys spoke to him. We've been calling him, speaking to him each day. It must have been very tough for him sitting and watching; when, at the beginning of the year, it was his major dream to be able to win the final this year. He was very happy for us.

Q. Is it just possible if I could ask Lleyton, Mark and Todd the question that Mark answered, a bit about the Davis Cup and what it means to them?

LLEYTON HEWITT: For me, I come from a football background. It's the only time, you know, being a tennis player that you get to come together as a team. You know, that means a lot to me. I played team sports growing up. I just like, you know, being in the changing rooms, getting all the boys pumped up before the matches. You have your bad days and have you your good days, but that's been the big thing for us this year. We've all stepped up at different times. That's the biggest enjoyment I have of playing the Davis Cup. It is sort of a team atmosphere and it's that team feeling in the changing rooms.

MARK WOODFORDE: Lleyton said it right. I think a lot of us, when we were youngsters, started off playing tennis in team competition. I don't know if it's the same in every country in the world that has tennis, but Australia certainly has a very proud history of team competition. We've all seen a lot of Davis Cup victories when we were young kids, it's always been highly profiled about the success. Just to be a part of it, I think that's why I enjoy playing doubles so much is it's that team atmosphere. It's not just you out there; you're relying on your partner to give you the moral support. It's the same in the Davis Cup. You know, it's not just you. It's three other guys and the captain and the coach, the trainers, the practice guys, and also the people watching back home. Davis Cup never fails to reach the pages of the locals back home. Here's something very, very different from what we experience throughout the rest of the year. If any of us have been asked to play for your country, you know, we've been quick to step up to the plate. You know, there's just no better thrill than, you know, getting a victory.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: I think from my point of view, Davis Cup has so much tradition and history, especially in Australia. I mean, my parents are a little older. They talk about listening to Davis Cup on the radio, the finals, around Christmas every year. Australia was always in the finals in the '50s with all our champions. There was Hoad, Rosewall, Newc, Rochey, Laver, all of these unbelievable champions that played for us. If you didn't step up to the plate and play Davis Cup, you're really being disrespectful to those great players, to what they did for the game. They gave us the opportunity really to have what we have out on the Tour today, the opportunity to make so much money, to play at such great events. From the days when they played, things are a lot better. That's what Davis Cup is about, it's about tradition and the respect of that trophy and the respect of the people that played before you.

Q. John, two questions. Firstly, can you just sum up what were the elements that gave the Australian team the edge over France?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I said it before the tie started, that I thought it was our destiny to win here. A lot of that was based on what I'd seen in the ten days of preparation leading in, plus I know what we'd been through in Brisbane, in Boston, in Harare and our three previous matches. During the year, there was a spirit evolving amongst our team and our players where we felt like we couldn't be stopped; that everyone was willing to pay the price that was going to be necessary to achieve that. So going back to talking about our destiny to win, it was based on really good judgment as much as anything else.

Q. The other thing I wanted to ask you, you mentioned before about the possibility of meeting the USA in the final next year. I guess it's a particularly exciting prospect because it's McEnroe's first year as captain, and the strength of their players.

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Yeah. If their best players play, that would be a great challenge for us. It wouldn't matter who we played. Just looking at the draw, it looks as if, you know, United States is the strongest side on that half of the draw. But it would be, I think, a real challenge for us to take them on at full strength.

Q. Having McEnroe sitting in the chair opposite you, would that add some extra edge to it?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Not really, I mean. Well, John, it's good that he's got the role as captain now. He's certainly a figure over there and a spokesperson for tennis. He believes deeply in Davis Cup. He played all the time. You know, maybe he'll put himself in the doubles. That would be good.

Q. Wouldn't you campaign to have the final, if it were to happen, on grass?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: No, we're obliged to play it at Melbourne Park.

Q. Even though, wouldn't you try to agitate to get the best surface possible?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Well, no. That's not too bad for us. We wouldn't mind that. It was like people saying that clay wasn't going to suit Mark. Probably a lot of people here now that have become believers in his ability to win on clay.

Q. Switzerland might be playing without five best players in February. How will it be for you to motivate your guys just to go there one week after the Australian Open and after such a great event here?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Maybe Rochey and I will play (laughter). We'll take them all skiing after the match.

Q. John, jokes about Foster's beer aside and all that, when you think about this win and you think of other things that Australian teams have done this year, rugby and cricket, does anything come into your mind about anything that's uniquely Australian that helps them get through in these sort of situations or what?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: Well, it's a winning year for us. You know, everybody loves a winner. Everybody wants to talk to a winner. Things have just happened to click together, I think. Maybe it was a little bit of a snowball effect. I know that the boys all watched the cricket and got tremendous thrill from the World Cup semifinal against South Africa. Mark was saying the other day that he doesn't watch cricket that much, but it's one of the most exciting sporting things you've ever seen. Wasn't it?


CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: That sort of thing can start a snowball effect. The rugby guys, you know, came through all sorts of problems through the year, didn't look very good in the first half of the year, then gradually started to pick it up. Their momentum really started I guess when they won the cup at the Olympic stadium, played great football there. Before that, they weren't looking that sharp.

Q. The French public was impressed by the strength of your team.

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: The public was impressed?

Q. The strength of your team now, if Patrick Rafter would have played, which one you would have -- who was not going to play then?

CAPTAIN NEWCOMBE: I choose not to answer (laughter). I take the Fifth Amendment.

End of FastScripts….

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