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February 3, 2000

Byron Black


Q. Byron, could you talk about having the Davis Cup tie and the US Team here in Zimbabwe, what that does for the sports spirit of this country in general?

BYRON BLACK: I think it's going to be a great lift to the whole country. I think if you've read in the papers, Zimbabwe is going through a bit of a rough time right now, and I think this is a bit of a breath of fresh air. We've been working towards this tie for a long time. I remember starting on the team in '87, the year after in Group 2s, and slowing working our way up to this level. I think it's our third year in the World Group now, so I think we're maintaining it quite well. But it's going to mean a lot to people. There's been a lot of hype and a lot of talk about it. I think everyone's just looking forward to it, and we can't wait to get on the court.

Q. Considering the putting out of Pete Sampras and Todd Martin, how would you rate your chances to win this tie?

BYRON BLACK: I still think we're obviously the underdogs. Andre is playing the best tennis of anyone on the planet right now. He's won three of the last four Grand Slams. We're going to give it a shot against Andre. We're not counting anything out. But obviously the guy we're aiming to beat is the No. 2 player, Chris Woodruff. Hopefully, the doubles could be the crucial decider. So, you know, I know Wayne is going to go out there first tomorrow. He always seems to be first out of the block, so I think he'll feel comfortable with that and I think he'll give Andre a bit of a surprise, I think. The altitude is a little different here. The ball flies around a lot more than it does at sea level. So I think Wayne will like it. I think he'll really go for it and be aggressive.

Q. Wayne, your thoughts on playing against Andre? You had a very good run against Pete Sampras in Australia. Your thoughts on playing Agassi tomorrow?

WAYNE BLACK: As Byron said, I'm fairly used to going out there, first match. So, you know, I'm going to go for it against Andre. Obviously, nothing to lose. He's the No. 1 player in the world, so I have to take the necessary risks. You know, I'm just going to give everything. I'm sure that the Zimbabwean public asks that of me. That's all I ask of myself, to give 100 percent. So I'm hoping to do that.

Q. Are you guys happy with the draw? Would you have liked to play Woodruff first and possibly get a good result?

BYRON BLACK: Yeah, I would have liked to try and gotten our team a 1-Love lead, but that's the draw. There's nothing you can really do about it now. As I said, Wayne's always gone out first, so, you know, I think we just have to live with that. And even if he loses, I'm going to try to make it 1-All. It's just the luck of the draw.

Q. For those of us who it's our first experience of tennis here, can you give us an idea of what the atmosphere is going to be like?

WAYNE BLACK: Electric. (Laughter.)

BYRON BLACK: A lot of drums. You'll see tomorrow. I think a lot of guys won't expect the noise, a lot of players. Actually, when I leave Zimbabwe after having played a home tie and I go and play regular tournaments, it's such a difference. It's tough to get excited because there's no noise, you know, there's no support, and I feel a bit lost out there for the first couple weeks. Yeah, every point we win, obviously, the crowd goes nuts and they're behind us. They're a fair crowd. They're not going to be clapping bad mistakes. I think they want to see good tennis, and they'll clap for good shots. Obviously, they'll be more on our side and I think it will be very loud, especially with the drums.

Q. Do you think it's unnerved people in the past?

BYRON BLACK: I think it's just home advantage. Anywhere you go - I think we've played ties in Morocco where we've been a little unnerved. It's just part of Davis Cup. That's why it makes it so unique and so special. Playing at home, anything can happen. And there's been so many upsets in the past. That's a part of why it causes it.

Q. Do you feel that you might change the doubles team if Wayne has a tough, very tough match against Andre?

CAPTAIN GAVIN SINEY: Well, I can't confirm it. The option's there. What we would do, I've nominated the two players that I'd like to play, and if Wayne happened to have a tough match, say like four, five hours tomorrow, the option is there. If Byron's match isn't as difficult, he can stay. Both I think Byron and Kevin play the same side of the court, so that would make it a bit more difficult. But Byron's -- professionally, he has played left court. I'm sure he would be able to step into that. But as it stands, that's probably what I'll go with.

Q. Wayne, you've got a few matches under your belt in doubles in Australia. Obviously you're pretty sharp. The difference between doubles and singles, of course, is obvious. Can you take anything from the fact that you've had that run of matches in Australia into the match on Friday?

WAYNE BLACK: For the singles?

Q. Yes. Just feeling match sharp.

WAYNE BLACK: Definitely. It's a different game. I'm going to be serve-and-volleying out there. That's what my doubles helped me with. I've been serving great the last couple weeks in the doubles matches, so that's going to help my singles hopefully. I am feeling sharp. I had a lot of practice out there with the days off with the doubles in Aussie. My confidence is high in singles and doubles.

Q. You played Leach in the Finals there as well, so you're quick to know what his strengths and weaknesses are.

WAYNE BLACK: Yeah. After that match, we know our games inside and out, so it will be interesting there.

Q. Byron, what we've seen with tennis players in other countries where there hasn't been a whole lot of international success, I guess the Swedes with Borg and Becker in Germany, the level of the sport comes up when a couple of players have success on the Pro Tour. Do you feel that yours and Wayne's success is creating something here in Zimbabwe?

BYRON BLACK: Without doubt. I remember talking to Paul Chingoka a couple years ago before we were in the World Group. He was wondering if we could bring players like McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi out to Zimbabwe for exhibitions. I was thinking, "Well, this could be a bit expensive." I said, "Maybe you should wait for the Davis Cup. We'll get them for free." That's what's happened. It's pretty exciting what Davis Cup has done. It's a unique event, and I think it's been great for Zimbabwe. Without Davis Cup, we wouldn't have any people playing tennis. I think with Wayne and myself and now with Genius and Kevin coming through, I think we're becoming role models in Zimbabwe and people see what it's all about. They see what Davis Cup is all about, and it just gets them on the courts.

Q. Do you also look at yourselves as, perhaps, bringing up the tennis in Africa, the whole continent?

BYRON BLACK: Yeah, we don't really think about that too much. We just try and do our part in Zimbabwe as best we can. But, yeah, I mean it's pretty surprising that we're the only country in the World Group right now. I would expect Morocco and South Africa to be up there, and I'm sure they will join us. We're leading the way, which is a little surprising to me.

Q. How exciting is it for a captain to have to put his wits against John McEnroe in these circumstances?

CAPTAIN GAVIN SINEY: It's very exciting. He's a character. And I've grown up admiring him throughout his whole career. I think he's really talented. I've been a captain, this is my ninth year. I just basically concentrate on my job and just do the best for my team.

Q. What are the pitfalls? What are the problems that he's going to have to confront in his term? You've had nine years doing it, as you said, what are the major pitfalls he has in the captaincy?

CAPTAIN GAVIN SINEY: I think his biggest pitfall is going to be trying to get the players to play. I think he did a good job getting Agassi, Sampras, Martin, the top three players in America at the moment. I think trying to get his players to be committed and play the Davis Cup throughout the whole year. America, with the players that they've got, should win the Davis Cup every year for the next few years. I think that will be the biggest pitfall, just to get them to play.

Q. You've never had that problem?

CAPTAIN GAVIN SINEY: These guys have turned out every match for eight years, so it's been good.

Q. Question for Genius. What have you learned in these past few ties where you've been with the team, travelling with the team and playing at home? What is this doing for your future in tennis?

GENIUS CHIDZIKWE: Well, definitely it's very inspiring for me to be with these guys. They're seasoned pros, and I'm still in college working my way up to go pro. Spending time with them and just seeing how dedicated they are to the sport, especially for Davis Cup, they never turned down a tie and they've always come out and fought every single tie I've been with them. That's just so inspiring for me. To see tennis grow through them, I'm hoping I can join them in a year. Hopefully a year, I'll be graduating in a year so I'll hope to go pro.

Q. It doesn't matter to you that you're on the bench?

GENIUS CHIDZIKWE: A lot of people ask me if it bothers me. Not at all. I'm very comfortable sitting on the bench because I think this is my time to be learning. My time will come where I'll have to step up on the court and do the job for Zimbabwe. But right now I'm comfortable with learning.

Q. Genius, what position are you playing?

GENIUS CHIDZIKWE: I'm playing number three.

End of FastScripts….

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