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February 12, 2006
LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA
TIM CURRY: Questions, please.
Q. James, obviously, the tie was over so you could have passed on playing a dead rubber. Why did you want to play?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I think it's a precedence set early on from when I started with Patrick. He knows these matches don't count really for the whole team outcome, but it helps your confidence. It helps you to feel the same atmosphere and everything. So it's still a good opportunity to get more match practice in, in a Davis Cup environment.
I mean, it's still fun. I mean, I love playing tennis so it's not like it's a tough choice to get out there. It's just as easy to do that as it is to get out on the practice court for two hours.
So get out, play, have some fun, act appropriately, as I try to always do for, I mean, representing your country. That's just a good example, I think. And Patrick has always stressed that we go out and play the dead rubbers if we're healthy. I'm healthy and having fun and playing well, so might as well go out there and try to represent the country as well as possible.
Q. Do you ever use intimidation at all? You're fairly physically imposing. When you hit good shots, sometimes you stare the shot down.
JAMES BLAKE: No, no, it's not intentional. Usually looking, sometimes I might be surprised that I actually made the shot. But sometimes it's just kind of happy to have made the shot and looking over at that.
But I wouldn't try to use gamesmanship or anything to get in anyone's head, especially not in a dead rubber where we're in a competition that's supposed to promote good sportsmanship between countries. I'm not trying to do that. I'm aware that other people do things like that at times, but that's not really my game. I've always been someone that tries to win it with my racquet as opposed to any sort of other tactics.
Q. Patrick, can you look ahead to the quarterfinals now against Chile.
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, obviously, they have a couple of great players. Gonzalez particularly has played really well in the last year or so on different surfaces. I mean, he's won a tournament indoors, played well at Wimbledon on grass. Massu has struggled a little bit in the last year, but he's still obviously a dangerous player as we saw at the Olympics.
So obviously I'll go over -- I'll sit back and talk to the guys and see what our options are as far as sites and surfaces and, you know, plan accordingly.
But certainly real happy with the way the guys looked here. James has really taken his game up another level, I think. You know, the Bryans are as solid as ever. As I said before, you know, I'll take Andy Roddick on my team any time.
Q. Patrick, is grass or indoors a pretty obvious choice?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: I think those are our two pretty strong options, yeah. Grass court or, you know, pretty quick, maybe low-bouncing sort of indoor court.
So, as I said, we'll see what the options on the table are. You know, if all the guys definitively tell me they prefer one thing over another, then I have to try to use my pull to make that happen. But, you know, we'll think about it for a little bit, and probably within the next week or so we should be able to come up with a decision.
Q. Do you think Andy's strategy to play conservative helped him?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: I really think I just wanted him to relax, and not just emotionally play and not get too hyped up. I think sometimes he gets so excited in Davis Cup that maybe he expends too much energy early in the match, sort of what happened on Friday.
But, look, obviously, Sabau was in a tough situation. So as long as Andy took care of his serve and really just played relatively conservatively, it really wasn't about how Andy was going to play each and every point. I just wanted to see him sort of calm out there and just trust his game and trust what he's been doing, and, you know, that was good enough today to get the win.
Q. James, Andy was in here earlier and was pretty adamant about his preference for grass. Can you give your thoughts on that and maybe how you match up against the Chileans?
JAMES BLAKE: Sure. I think with Andy and the Bryans wanting grass so adamantly, I think it makes sense for our choice. I'm sure we'll talk about it. We're all, you know, flying to San Jose, we'll probably talk about it a little bit on the plane and see what we think.
Andy has obviously proven to be the second-best grass court player in the world. Roger, unfortunately, has gotten him a couple times in Wimbledon finals. But Andy, I take Andy against anyone in the world on grass and feel pretty good about it.
Bryans, I'll take them on any surface, but on grass I think they can negate Massu and Gonzalez standing back and ripping forehands a lot more on grass.
For me, I think my serve's improved a lot, and so I can be pretty effective on grass. I'm comfortable coming in and volleying, and my returns have improved as well so I think those are some of the most important things on grass. I feel pretty comfortable against Gonzalez and Massu on grass, who don't generally play as well on grass, although Gonzalez did have a great Wimbledon last year. I think he has a huge serve. But once, if I could get into the points, I like my chances.
But that's still a long way away, and we have other great grass court players in America with Taylor Dent, Robby Ginepri. So I just need to worry about winning a bunch of matches on these hard courts coming up and then see if I can compete on the grass as well. Like I said, I like my chances, but I also would feel just as comfortable - not just as comfortable - I'd feel comfortable supporting Taylor Dent or Robby Ginepri with their grass court abilities.
Q. You've had a lot of success early against Gonzalez. I think you won the first three matches. The last few times on hard court he's gotten you. Has there been a change in your game since then, or has he adjusted?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, the first one was in Auckland last year when it was, I believe, my second tournament back. I'm not sure I was playing exactly up to my potential at that point. The next one was only a month later in Indian Wells on a pretty windy day when he just, you know -- it came down to who was gonna play a little more solid at the end, and his serve kind of got him through. That was also another time where I didn't have a whole lot of confidence in my game. I wasn't winning a lot of matches at that time against anyone, much less a top 20 player like him.
But, otherwise, I think it's a matchup that's not as bad for me. I'm still up 3-2 in the series, and I think that's pretty accurate, because I think my game is one where -- he hits a ton of winners, but if I can use my speed to negate a few of those and then I can impose my forehand on him, he's not used to guys kind of taking it to him as Roger has done extremely effective to him.
So I like my chances against him, and I think I still can have a lot of success against him. But just like any top 20 player, he's extremely dangerous.
Q. Patrick, Andy came in here earlier and basically took a humble stance that he was not necessarily the team leader, it's a team and he's one of the guys. Also at this point in time he feels that it's no more essential, obviously, as this weekend proved, that he wins both singles in terms of that leadership role. Would you like to say he is still the leader, or what is your feeling on that?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, he is a leader and he's been around long enough and he's won a lot of big matches for us. You know, I love his effort, and I love his intensity, you know, when he comes to play, no matter where it is. I think the other guys see that. And, you know, we saw what happened on Friday when he was, you know, vomiting on the court and he was still able to, you know, somehow miraculously almost pull it out in the fifth set. I think that sort of set the tone for us for the year, to be honest, his type of effort. It's nice for him to know that, you know, we've got someone like James now who's stepped up his game so much, and it does take a little pressure off Andy.
And, again, that was the thing I wanted for him to go out there with today, don't put so much pressure on yourself, go out there, have fun, be relaxed, play your game. And, you know, you're going to lose some matches, but you're going to win a lot more.
So I feel strongly about that for the rest of Davis Cup, for his career, and certainly for this year that, you know, he's got some other guys now that can step in. I think if he takes a little pressure off himself, I think he'll play better all the time, you know. He works hard and he's got a lot of weapons in his game, so just let them come out.
Q. Patrick, Andy's first game today lasted nine minutes. It was quite a long game. Were you at all concerned that this is going to become a marathon match for him and that it might contribute to further problems with his stomach?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: No, I wasn't concerned. I mean, we had a great effort by our staff to get him back yesterday, did everything we could. Andy did everything he could as far as getting in fluids and getting an ice bath and eating as much as he could to get himself ready. I wasn't really -- Andy is very fit, you know. That's one of his strengths. As I said, I was just stressing with Andy to just be relaxed out there, you know, take your shots, swing, go for your shots, be conservative when you want to do that, and just rely on that.
So, no, I wasn't. Look, most of those long games are on his opponent's serve, so that's a lot tougher. That's the other thing sometimes Andy doesn't see that clearly, that he is making his opponents work a lot harder than he thinks or he realizes. And I think that's something he can learn from this, and realize that if you're putting a lot of pressure on your opponent's serve two, three times in a row and you don't break, probably that's still going to pay off for you in the long run, particularly when you serve the way Andy serves. So hopefully he'll get a little more aware of that in coming matches.
Q. Were you at all surprised that the Romanians put Razvan against Andy rather than the young fella?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, the young fella showed some firepower, but he showed a lot of inconsistency. So I think Sabau has got a little more experience and, you know, he can make balls, he can make shots. He's played a lot more at the tour level. So Tecau has obviously got some talent and he's got some firepower, but he's pretty raw. He's pretty rough around the edges. It's one thing to go out in a dead rubber and lose a first set and then, you know, throw in two, three aces a game; it's another thing to do that when a lot more's on the line, you know, we're 5-All in the second set.
I think that was the only call he could make there.
Q. If Andre gets his game together in the next few weeks, is he part of the mix of this year?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, he's Andre Agassi, so he's always part of the mix. In saying that, we've got a lot of very good options, you know, particularly with James, who has sort of solidified himself as a guy you've got to think of first and foremost based on his play in the last six months and stepping up here and winning a huge match for us.
But obviously, as James himself mentioned, you know, Robby has had a great year. He certainly has played well enough to deserve a chance. If we do play on grass, certainly Taylor Dent has had a lot of good results on grass.
But obviously, you could never overlook Andre Agassi, you could never overlook if he wants to play and how well he's playing. I spoke to him obviously before this match, and, you know, he agreed with me that he wasn't probably as prepared as he would like for this one, and he knows how well these guys have been playing as well. So I don't think Andre is going to, you know, look to play if he realizes that there's maybe some other options out there that might give us a better chance to win. He's a straight-up, straightforward enough guy that, you know, when we have that discussion, I think it will be pretty clear for both of us if we think that way. But at the same time, yeah, certainly Andre is in the mix, yeah.
Q. James, on a personal note, how good does it feel, you come here a year later, you're playing great, you need to be looked at "first and foremost" as the No. 2 spot. Big change from last year?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it's a very big change. It's something that's again, like I said, been kind of a roller coaster the last few years. It's exciting to see where things are going to go, but you never know what's going to happen in the future. All I can do is be as prepared as possible. That's what I'm looking forward to right now, and the whole spirit of just being in the moment. It's so great to be able to go back to this team room in a minute and celebrate with guys who are my friends and guys who have picked me up in the past and who hopefully I'll have the chance to pick them up as well, often times. And, yeah, to be a member of this team, it's such a great feeling. Hopefully, this is the first step for this year, that we can conquer a lot of our goals.
Q. Patrick, as you go about setting the lineup, how much of it has to do with the surface, and how much with how a guy is playing at that particular time?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: That's all it has to do with. It has to do with what happens the next few months, and what the surface is. Obviously, taking into account sort of matchups against the Chilean guys. You know, they only have two guys, basically. I mean, they have another player, Garcia, I think, but, you know, basically their two guys are their two guys. Who's their third guy, James?
JAMES BLAKE: Adrian Garcia.
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: They have two guys they're going to go with singles and doubles, so that gives us an advantage to take advantage of matchups. Certainly, if one guy gets extremely hot and wins in Indian Wells or in Miami, yeah, that's going to make a big difference. James playing well in Australia and winning Sydney was certainly a key factor for him playing this match. So, you know, the guys are close, and as we've said, there's a few options.
But, you know, in my mind right now, James is a frontrunner for that spot, you know, based on his play and how well he played here, you know. Every time you come out and you're down 1-0, there's a lot of pressure. James handled it extremely well and I just love the way he's playing. I think he's just going to get better and better this year. I'm excited to see how well he does in the next couple tournaments.
Q. Patrick, what were your impressions of La Jolla Beach?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: It was awesome. The guys had a great week. We were treated extremely well. I mean, you couldn't ask for a better site and location, and the organization was fantastic. The crowd was great. You know, we've packed every day. We probably could have doubled the crowd, but we like to keep it intimate in Davis Cup. And, you know, when you walk out there each day and there's not a seat to be had, you know, that gets the guys fired up and that's what Davis Cup is all about.
So we thank everybody here. We thank Bill Kellogg and his team and everyone that did a great job. It's hard to put an event like this together so quickly because you don't have a lot of time, and, you know, everybody did a great job here. So we feel great about the week.
Q. Patrick, fortunately Andy was able to play today. Had he not, you would have had to substitute one of the boys which begs the question, you're fairly fortunate since you named them to the team not to have to put them into a regular spot. But had you asked them to practice some singles on the side just in case?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: I mean, if we had to do that, it would be Bob. Bob has played more singles. Look, obviously, if we get in that situation, we're in trouble. I mean, you know, Bob would be the first one; we all agree on that. But at the same time, you know that going in. You know, sometimes we bring a third guy and we have somebody on call if need be. I mean, obviously I know that if I needed someone during the week, if someone got hurt, I could call on Andre or Robby. Those guys would step in. Obviously, if someone gets hurt during a match, we're in trouble. I mean, that's just the way it is.
But I believe that because of what they bring to the table in the doubles, that that outweighs that risk that we take.
Q. Would you want to see Bob play singles? He qualified for Wimbledon twice. Once in a while, just try to play singles?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, he's going to play Las Vegas, I believe. He's going to play singles there.
Certainly, on grass, you know, he could be dangerous there with his serve and his forehand. So, you know, that's something that, you know, mentally you're prepared for. But, I mean, I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that those guys play a lot of singles during the week. It doesn't really happen.
But, you know, the good news is that our guys are strong and, you know, part of my decision, to be honest, when I pick the singles players, is picking guys that I don't have real questions about their fitness. Andy, obviously, got sick, but, you know, when you're picking guys to play best-of-five sets, you don't want to go in with any questions about fitness. You know, if that happens, if one of the guys goes down, then, like I said, I mean, that happens with any team. I mean, even if you've got, you know, three singles players, you still lose that point.
But in my mind, you know, I mean, I think you know our record - Bud will know it better than anyone - when the U.S. wins the doubles point, we've got a pretty strong record. So I feel that that, you know, is a risk worth taking.
Q. Nobody expects you to play Mardy Fish, but do you expect him to return to his form?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: I think he will. I mean, I think he looked very good in practice this week, had a good week out here, played some good sets with the boys. I think the fact that he's seeing James - particularly James who's one of his best friends - do so well and overcome all he's overcome in the last year to come back, I think that's motivated Mardy. He's certainly got plenty of game. We know what kind of talent he has. Todd Martin was here helping him out for four or five days, and we think that's going well. I expect Mardy to have a very good year, but I, quite honestly, don't expect him to be ready to step into this spot, certainly not in April. But I certainly am expecting him to have a real good year and work his way back up and get his ranking back up where it belongs.
Q. Andy on Friday was running around, very active, very emotional. Today, was part of the strategy, part of the plan just being conservative?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, it definitely was. I feel like, you know, Andy is sort of that fine line of being emotional and being intense, but not expending too much energy. And maybe in retrospect looking back, maybe he did too much of that on Friday.
And, you know, I think he maybe saw today that you can play in a relaxed sort of way and save a little energy, conserve some energy, and have enough. So, yes, that was part of the strategy, emotionally, to keep him calm and just to play his game and trust his game and let it fly and be into it, but don't, you know, fight yourself, I think, is the key. Don't amp yourself up when you're worried about your own game. Andy is working on a lot of things in his game. When you get into a match, you don't really want to think about that stuff. You want to think about the guy on the other side of the net and how to beat him, that's all that matters.
Q. Lot of slice backhands today. Do you think that's something he's going to look to do?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Depends on the opponents. We knew Sabau didn't like the ball up real high or down real low, so, you know, that's something that he's used a lot at different times, and it's nice to have that variety. I thought he hit the backhand slice really well today. That can help set up his forehand, which is his bigger shot. So it's a nice piece of the puzzle to be able to go to.
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