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DAVIS CUP - NETHERLANDS vs USA


April 6, 1997


Tom Gullikson


NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Q Gully, I asked this question of Stanley when Fleming and McEnroe -- when Tony Trabert was the captain. First thing they said to Trabe was, "We don't want you to coach us."

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Right.

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Q But you have to give suggestions out there. So what kind of freedom do you have with the guys to offer the advice, the sage advice, that you have for them?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, I think, you know, really the way to approach it is to -- I like to talk to them during the week, during the buildup and obviously, you know, in Davis Cup, you are keying in on playing two guys in singles. And most of these players, you know, certainly Courier and Agassi have been around long enough to play quite a few of these guys a number of times and, basically, you just go on their past experiences, what has worked well and what hasn't worked well. So, we do talk a little bit about tactics and we also talk about adjusting their game if something in their game -- like today, Andre was getting jammed a little bit on the second serve. Siemerink was going at the forehand body on the second serve a lot. And, I tried to get him to change his positioning a little bit so he could get away from the ball and shorten up his swing and accelerate through, so he didn't get caught jammed on the forehand. So we try to talk a little bit of tactics. Kept reminding Andre to hit topspin lobs today which, he didn't do too often - only twice in the whole match - because Jan does tend to get a bit close to the net. But you have to be a little bit careful, I think, in the advice you give because these guys are all great players, certainly in Jim's and Andre's case. They have both been No. 1 and I think they feel a tremendous amount of confidence in their game and if they are playing their game well, it is going to prevail most of the time. So, you don't want to try to suggest anything that is really out of their comfort zone. Like I said, Jim is probably a little bit more comfortable at the net than Andre. So, Jim, in his match against Siemerink, certainly the last three sets, was coming in on Siemerink's backhands a lot more and making him pass. And, Andre isn't quite as comfortable at the net so he really didn't come in that much.

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Q Everyone has been talking about Andre raising the level of his game. That is what Siemerink said. And, that sort of distinguishes the elite champion from other top players. Could you talk about that quality and how Jim did it Friday and how Andre did it today?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, I think they were very similar matches obviously. I think Andre got in trouble in the first couple of sets because he didn't serve particularly well. And, I don't know what his percentage was. I haven't seen the stats yet. But, he was giving Siemerink too many second serves. It was almost identical. I mean, Siemerink is serve and volleying first and second serves and he is taking your second serve and coming in on it, so you never get to hit any balls unless you get a first serve in. And it is very difficult to hit returns and passing shots with any consistency if you haven't hit any balls, so by them questioning their first serve in; by Andre getting his first serve in more and being able to rally some on his serve, gave him a little bit more rhythm on his groundstrokes. And, when the passing shot opportunities did come against Siemerink's serve, he was able to dial them in a little bit better.

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Q That was similar to Jim's match?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Identical. Absolutely carbon copies, really.

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Q And then mentally, is there the experience factor? Must be tremendous when you have got a former No. 1, multiple Grand Slam champion out there?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Yeah, there was no panic against -- with Andre. I think once he got that first break in the third set, I think he felt like he was going to start to get on a roll and he did. He started really breaking down the guy's serve. I think Jan's second serve broke down a little bit more today, actually, than it did against Jim. And, I was extremely impressed. I mean, the guy was hitting his second serve extremely hard, you know, jamming Andre into the forehand side, swinging him wide; really mixed up his serve very well. And, Andre wasn't getting a great read on it. Because he has got kind of a quick toss, similar to what Roscoe Tanner used to have, so you don't get a chance to look at the ball that long, so it is hard to read it.

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Q If I read the record book correctly, you are undefeated at home as a Davis Cup Captain. Do you think there is anything we can do to talk to the ITF to get the rest of our matches at home?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Yeah, I would prefer more home Ties. I kind of like it. The only hassle is tickets. People start calling for tickets. But, other than that, yeah, I think this was my 11th Tie and 7 of the 11 have been at home and it is always a bit more difficult without the friendly crowd behind you.

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Q Was anything said to Andre, Jim, or the doubles guys about the next Tie yet?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, after this Tie was over we did, you know, briefly discuss playing Australia, trying to get a few different opinions as to what best would suit us in terms of surface and venue and whatever. So, it is a bit premature really to say what would work best against the Australians. Some people suggested clay, possibly. Other people said slow hard court. So we have got some time to examine it now, really.

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Q You didn't talk to them about whether they were going to play the next Tie?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I didn't want to jump on them right away. I will give them today, the rest of today to celebrate and then we have got some time before this next Tie that we can kind of regroup and I think all the guys can feel proud of their accomplishment this week. They all -- they prepared very well. They worked hard and they stepped up at the big moments of the matches. They really stepped up when they needed to. And, certainly, really can't say enough about Andre winning two matches here after being in, certainly, a slump; for him to come into Davis Cup without a lot of confidence and kind of help find his game. And, I think the emotion of Davis Cup is the key comaraderie and the team spirit that we have got going this week between the guys was terrific. Jim and Andre get along very well and Richey and Jonathan are great team players. And, we really had a lot of fun together as a group. And, that can certainly help a guy. And, I think that in a team-type format like Davis Cup, when you take an individual sport like tennis and put it into a team format, I think it helped lift Andre up a little bit to have his buddies cheering for him - no question about it.

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Q As a close observer, do you think this will help Andre as we get into the clay court and Grand Slam season?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, after Andre won his first match against Schalken, I said "Great job." I said, you know, "This is a start of some very good things for you this year." And I really believe that. Just talking to him and looking him in the eye, I really see that he is committed to really working hard and getting back to maybe where he was or at least he is going to make an attempt to do that.

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Q Do you think tennis needs Andre Agassi at the top of his game --

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I think so. Certainly a very determined, a very focused Andre Agassi has proven time and time again his best tennis is as good as anyone's. With him it is just a question of really, you know, sustaining it and staying focused because he has a lot of distractions being a, quote unquote, superstar really that supersedes just tennis. He has got a lot of distractions that maybe the other tennis players don't have. And, for him to keep his focus and keep his intensity and, you know, I think he is great for the sport. He is an exciting guy.

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Q The Australian just came off a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic. What do you think of their team and what do you think it is going to take to beat them?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: As you get deeper in the competition, they are in the semis for one reason: They have won two matches and they are feeling pretty good about their team. They have got the big guns, Philippoussis and Rafter, the big servers, big hitters. Then the world classiest doubles team, the Woodies are without question the best doubles team in the world. So we are going to need our best four players to go after these guys, no question.

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Q Has Pete already said to you that he would play if we get to the semifinals?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: He has indicated that. He told me he would be available for the semis onward.

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Q What are the pluses and minuses of play?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: I think the pluses are you have got a guy like a Jim Courier two-time French Open champion; certainly a player who is very committed to the Davis Cup. We have got Sampras, Agassi has been a two-time finalist at the French. Sampras has been a semifinalist, and a quarterfinalist on several occasions. He proved in Russia how well he could play on the clay in Davis Cup situation. I think certainly throwing a match against indoors would -- indoors is known as server's paradise, not surfer's paradise, and, you know, Philippoussis is known for that big serve, so I don't know if he would want to play him indoors or not and give him those ideal serving conditions; throw there a little sun and wind and slow the court down somehow either by putting it on dirt or putting it on slow hard court, you know, to make him hit a few more balls.

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Q How about could we possibly rent some of the Dutch fans for the next Tie, do you think that will help?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: Well, I was impressed by the fans, but I am sure if we went to local colleges around the country we could find equally impressive American college students. Probably more -- just as impressive. But, I was impressed by their etiquette, in terms of when they cut it off, and they were great fans. They really were. They add a lot of color to the Tie.

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Q Does it bother you at all that the Australians seem to know who their team is who is playing and right now our team is a little up in the air?

CAPTAIN GULLIKSON: No, not at all. Every Tie is a unique situation. So the fact that they know their team, you know, means that maybe they don't have as many options as we do, which is okay with me. I mean, obviously their players are playing very well. They are all great players, but we have many, many players who play well and you want to pick the team that is suited for the conditions and the specific situation regarding each Tie.

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End of FastScripts....

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