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DAVIS CUP - SWEDEN vs USA


November 29, 1997


Tom Gullikson


GOTEBORG, SWEDEN

Q. Mr. Gullikson, looking back now to the doubles, you still don't regret that you didn't choose a team like Stark and Leach?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Next question, please.

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Q. What consideration was there of keeping Leach and Jonathan together?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: We made a commitment to the guys we made a commitment to. I like to keep my commitments. When Brian became injured, there was a need to bring one more player on the team. Jonathan was playing so well. So I made the call to Jonathan to come and play on the team. As always in Davis Cup, there is the possibility of players getting injured in singles, so you want the highest quality singles player available as the backup singles player, like a Todd Martin, who obviously came in against this very same team, Sweden, in Las Vegas and clinched the title in a great singles match against Enqvist. That's a consideration as well.

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Q. Tom, talk a little bit about what was going on as the match progressed. The guys changed sides, I guess, at the beginning of the third set. Just the general conversation that was taking place.

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, I think, you know, we just wanted to make some things happen. You know, we had a few chances to break; didn't convert. Jonathan normally plays the ad side with Rick. He was playing the deuce side, not his normal side, although he can play the deuce side quite well. We decided to switch around and see if, you know, that would make some break opportunities, which it did. We converted some breaks. We just had a hard time holding. Those guys were returning well, making some good shots.

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Q. What makes these guys difficult to play against, Todd?

TODD MARTIN: Well, I think, first of all, the way they returned the first two sets was some of the best returning I've seen. And then on top of, that both of them served pretty well. Nicklas served particularly well today, I thought. They're solid in every facet of the game. And they're a presence when they're at the net. Also you really feel pressure to make good volleys when you're at net.

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Q. Perhaps it was difficult to prepare mentally after the injury of Pete, because it must be a disappointment on the team.

JONATHAN STARK: Yeah. I think it was very hard, you know. After Michael played the great match against Jonas, you know, unfortunately couldn't get the win there. Then, you know, hopeful -- we were hoping on Pete to step up and at least tie the score at 1-1. What can you say? He got hurt. You know, we were a little down after that. But I don't think it affected us today. I just think that Todd and I lost to a better team, on the particular day. They came up with the big shots when they needed to, big serves, big returns, and just, you know, we had a few chances to get over the hump and put the pressure on them, but we just weren't able to.

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Q. Todd, any specific points stand out from the match in your mind?

TODD MARTIN: Well, there's a handful of points that definitely gave them a boost. Some great shots that they hit. Some shots that we got a little unlucky on. I thought the biggest problem was that it's easier to make the shots and it's easier to make your own luck when you're up in a set. Jonathan and I started out each set at best even. The second and third set, we were down right away. Against a team of their caliber, it's pretty difficult to fight back and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Q. Jonathan, same question to you then.

JONATHAN STARK: Well, I think a real big situation in the match was when, in the first set, it was 4-All, I was up 40-Love on my serve. You know, we just -- we didn't finish that game off. You know, it gave them a lot of momentum. They served the set out. Then all of a sudden, you know, from 4-All, 40-Love, we're down to 6-4 in a matter of about five minutes. I think that got themselves and the crowd very fired up. You know, it's big to try to get that first set. Even if we could have gotten to a breaker, win or lose in a breaker, at least we established good holding games. I feel like, to answer your question, that was a huge game to lose.

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Q. Tom, following up on what Jonathan said a moment before. Is it fair to say at this point that you lost to a better team overall or do you put an asterisk because of Pete's injury?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, you know, you have to play with the cards you're dealt with. You can't throw the cards away. We were dealt a particular hand this weekend. Certainly the Swedish team was a better team this weekend. Hopefully the next time we play them, you know, we can be the better team. On this particular weekend, my hat is off to them, the captain, the players. Not only did they play well, they're very classy guys as well. If we have to lose to someone, you know, good for Sweden. They did a good job this weekend.

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Q. Will you look in the future for a specialist doubles team or just look in the future for good singles players?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I'd like to have both, you know. Obviously if an American doubles teams steps up and starts winning Davis Cup matches, that's kind of a no-brainer for me. I'd like that, really.

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Q. You are director of coaching with the USTA. Are you going to try to do anything to create a doubles team for next year?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Talking to the guys, you know, I'd certainly love to have a couple options. I'd love all the American players to play with other Americans. That would be my first choice. But, you know, they've got to make a living, too. Davis Cup is only -- like this year, it was four weeks this year, which was a good year. Hopefully will be four weeks again next year. You know, they have to make a living on the Tour. They have to play 30 weeks a year. It's up to them. My input would be, "Play with other Americans." But it's their decision. I can't break their arm.

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Q. Jonathan and Todd, how would you describe Bjorkman today? How was he?

TODD MARTIN: He was good.

JONATHAN STARK: Pretty good. They both played extremely well. Like we said, they came up with big serves when they needed to. Like Todd said, I felt like Kulti served extremely well the whole match. Very high percentage of first serves. Jonas obviously has had one hell of a year. He was very confident. He put a lot of pressure on our side with his return as well.

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Also when you win a singles match on the court already, like he did yesterday, when you come to play doubles, you know the court, you feel like you own the court, feeling pretty good on that court. I think that makes a difference, as well.

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Q. Todd, the same question.

TODD MARTIN: Well, I think the only aspect of Jonas' game today that let down at all was his serve. That was only for a point here and a point there. His return put a ton of pressure on us, and we felt like -- at least I felt like we needed to capitalize on every point that we had against Nicklas. As soon as we got down in the game, Love-15, 15-30, whatever, Jonas was rock solid, especially from the return side.

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Q. Since Davis Cup is played at the end of the year, does it affect your performance perhaps? You don't have the same motivation.

TODD MARTIN: I've had a grueling year. It definitely affected my performance.

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Q. Jonathan.

JONATHAN STARK: I don't think so. Davis Cup is the ultimate as far as playing for your team and your country. Whenever you're asked to come out and perform for your country, I don't think it's hard to get motivation at all.

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: The year is the same length for both teams.

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Q. Tom, was Pete's injury so severe that he could not come out and watch you guys play today?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: He had a hard time. He can't really walk or put pressure on his leg. So he's pretty much in bed, elevated, with his foot up, icing it every two hours. It's a torn muscle. So, yeah, he was in severe pain last night. I haven't seen him today because we've been here practicing and getting ready for this match.

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Q. A player like Bjorkman seems to be very explosive, finding the open spots on the court really quickly. Is that hands? Eyes? Feet? How do you defend against that kind of play?

TODD MARTIN: Well, I think first and foremost, it's his feet. He's very aggressive and he's fast. He's got good balance. All of his quickness is utilized in a forward motion. That puts him into the correct spot on the court almost every time. On top of that, he sees the ball well and he's got good hands. Even if he didn't have good hands, you know, the racquet is a lot bigger than just the sweet spot. He uses - you know, on those quick shots, he realizes that his hands are good enough, and he just gets up there and sort of starts swatting.

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Q. Yesterday you mentioned this tough schedule for the tennis professionals. Will it be difficult for next year to have your team available for all ties? Do you have to discuss it every round?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: We really go on a round-by-round basis. Haven't had time to talk to the guys that much about next year. I'll probably start tomorrow.

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Q. Tom, can you just comment from a coach's perspective, obviously the whole Swedish team have played a lot as a team. You have so many top American players. How difficult is it to have a different team every single round and to develop that?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: It's difficult. Like I said, my first choice would be to have a great team, like McEnroe and Fleming, whatever, who was basically guaranteed a point every time. If one American team can really stand out and dominate in their play throughout the year and then start winning Davis Cup matches, that would certainly be my first choice, rather than trying to change teams all the time. It puts pressure on these guys, too, "If I don't win, maybe next time Gully will try somebody else." I'm kind of a loyal guy basically. If people do well, I like to reward them. It would be nice to win matches and then keep that consistency going.

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