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DAVIS CUP - RUSSIA vs USA


April 5, 1998


Tom Gullikson


ATLANTA, GEORGIA

PAGE CROSLAND: Let's go ahead. We can begin.

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Q. Tom, were you surprised to see the doubles team they put out there or were you kind of expecting that?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I was expecting it. Kafelnikov told me at the Lipton that they were going to play. There were no big surprises, that's for sure.

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Q. Would you like to see this rule amended, maybe more to the referee's discretion about whether or not you continue to play?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, I think the intent of this 30-game rule was going from singles into doubles; it wasn't going from doubles into singles. I don't think the doubles that was played today was unbelievably wearing on anyone. Certainly after an appropriate rest, you know, they should be able to play singles. They were certainly within the rules. They're just playing by the rules. I think the rule needs to be examined.

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Q. If you were in their shoes, you would probably --

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I'd play tomorrow as well, absolutely.

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Q. For the players, aside from the tie's implication, was it nice to know that you snapped this five-in-a-row string for the US under Tom's guidance?

TODD MARTIN: Together, we were only a part of three of them. It wasn't just our streak.

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Q. Must feel good?

TODD MARTIN: Every time you go into a Davis Cup tie and win a match, it's super. To do it with somebody you enjoy playing with, that makes it all the better. Also when it really counts. Today I thought the doubles - it's always a pivotal point - but it could have really hurt us to have lost this match today.

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Q. I assume you were contemplating Safin to be the problem on the court? He made a lot of errors.

RICHEY RENEBERG: I knew that he serves obviously very well. Off the ground, he hits the ball well. I mean, I thought he played well against Andre last night. But we knew that we might be able to win some points with him at the net. So that kind of became our strategy fairly early on, try to go at him quite a bit, even off Yevgeny's serves, put a little pressure on him. He got discouraged, it seemed like. I think it worked.

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Q. Richey, I wanted to ask you to talk about how this must feel for you, given that a year ago you lost in the first round, didn't play very well, then you had some injuries, looked like you might not get another chance to play Davis Cup again?

RICHEY RENEBERG: It feels great. I mean, I wasn't real happy with the way I played last year in Brazil. I didn't think I'd get another shot, to be honest. I also felt it would be nice if some of the younger guys would kind of establish themselves as teams and play well together. That hasn't really happened. You know, as long as that hasn't happened, I'm happy to play. I always look forward to it. I was very excited to play this match today. You know, from the time that Tom told me at the Lipton, I don't know, I really felt like I was ready to go. I wasn't nervous at all today. I was very excited to play. I think that that actually helps sometimes, you get a little nervous in Davis Cup, you don't play as well. Today I was very relaxed, I was very eager.

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Q. If you go on, do you expect you'll stay with this combination this year? Are you going to keep experimenting?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: If they don't kill each other. That's why I'm sitting in the middle, separate these guys (laughter). You know, Richey and Todd are a quality team. The more they play together, the more they'll get to know each other's moves. They stepped up today and won a very important match. Certainly don't foresee them not playing in the future.

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Q. Will the two of you try to play together more at other tournaments, like Indian Wells?

RICHEY RENEBERG: Yeah, I think we should. I think it's nice when you're used to playing with the same partner. You know, we had only played one tournament prior to today. It was nice, though, doing well at Indian Wells. I think that gave us some confidence. But, yeah, I think if we're going to be considered for the future matches, I think we should try to play a little bit together, and we'll have to talk about it.

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Q. Do y'all ever fool around with any Australian formations? Y'all didn't change that at all today? Have y'all done that?

TODD MARTIN: The Australians lost this weekend.

RICHEY RENEBERG: Yeah. That was really funny (high fiving). I don't know if we did that at all at Indian Wells. Against Yevgeny, going out there, I was thinking we might have to do that. He returns serve as well as anyone. Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of things can you do in doubles. The one thing that Tom talked about today was having us both stay back, which I thought was good. I think Yevgeny volleys better when he has a target. The other guy, not having a target, I don't think helped him at all. You know, you can do all kinds of things. Playing the Australian I formation is one of them.

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Q. How do you feel, Tom, about breaking the streak? A lot has been made about your leadership, what used to be the strength of the American team and Davis Cup, sort of fallen on hard times. How do you feel about it?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: It's sort of a monkey off everyone's back. Obviously, wining this match makes us all feel very good. It makes tomorrow seem like a much better chance for us with Agassi going first, then Courier backing him up. It gives us that all-important 2-1 lead. Hopefully, we'll clinch it tomorrow.

PAGE CROSLAND: Any other questions?

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Q. Mr. Kafelnikov was delighted to have the singles matches put off until Monday. How does this affect your singles players, Tom? Does it hurt momentum? Because of the fact you're up now 2-1, does that sort of make it okay that they have to wait?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I think, you know, they were ready to go today. They were prepared to play today. They're out practicing right now. They'll be ready to go tomorrow. I think they're ready to clinch this thing for us, both Andre and Jim. They were very professional about the way they approached today. They came out and gave the boys some good support from the sidelines. You know, they'll be ready to go.

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Q. Did you always sort of have the feeling, knowing who they were using for their doubles team, that, "We're going to be here Monday"?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Yeah, I thought so. I knew if they got to 30 games, they wouldn't. Kafelnikov certainly had a rough match with Courier yesterday. It was almost four hours. He had to be a little bit stiff today. Looked like he was getting a little bit tired even at the end of the doubles match. I'm sure they were quite happy to get to 30 games.

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Q. Did y'all almost feel like that was their strategy? Seemed like they reacted to it, just to get to 30 games, to get to tomorrow. Did y'all feel like they weren't necessarily trying to win this match; it was more just to stretch it out?

TODD MARTIN: I don't think so at all. I mean, the first set could have gone either way, especially once you get to a tiebreaker, start the tiebreaker off the way we did -- the way I did. I think once we won the second set really easily, really developed some momentum, we both finally caught on to our returns a little bit, I think their intentions solely were to get to 30 games and at least give themselves the best chance for tomorrow.

PAGE CROSLAND: Any other questions?

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Q. With Safin, they've made a lot about how nervous he's been, not playing very well. Obviously very difficult for an 18-year-old playing his first Davis Cup. Does that give you a little more confidence tomorrow, that even if Andre can't come through, you have to face this kid again who has not shown so much so far?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I kind of agree with Richey. I don't think he played all that badly yesterday. I think he just ran into a very hot Agassi. Agassi's playing very well. The kid obviously is inexperienced, gets a little down on himself. You know, he's dangerous. Our guys are going to respect everyone. Certainly with two great Davis Cup players like Agassi and Courier, I certainly like our chances tomorrow, certainly like Jim's chances in the fifth match, if it goes down to that. The kid's not doing badly. Hopefully, he'll learn from this experience.

TODD MARTIN: Tuesday.

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Q. If it does go to four, who would you play in the fifth? Would you have an option?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: We would have an option. Any dead rubber, new rules this year, I know we're talking about rules, you can play anybody you want in the dead rubber match.

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Q. And you probably would?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Possibly.

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Q. Would that be something to give somebody like Jan-Michael a shot?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: He's not on the team. Can't put a practice partner in. Has to be one of the four team members. I'd like to see the local boy get a chance.

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Q. Is that something you should change?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: We'll worry about that when we get there.

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Q. Is that something you think they should change?

TODD MARTIN: Yes.

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Yes, I think so. Very good, Todd.

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Q. You could be playing to a really small crowd tomorrow. Do you think that's going to impact the momentum of either team, taking the crowd out?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Hopefully, we'll have a larger crowd than expected. That's not going to change our intensity level. You know, we came here with the mission of getting three points and winning the match. Whether there's people around to see it or not, I think there's going to be some great tennis tomorrow. I'd certainly encourage as many people who can get off work to come on out and cheer us on. But if they're not here, they're going to be missing some good stuff.

PAGE CROSLAND: Thank you, very much.

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End of FastScripts....

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