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September 5, 2006
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us. We have U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe who is going to announce his roster for the semifinals to be played in Moscow in two weeks.
PATRICK McENROE: Very surprising to all of you, I'm sure, that our team to Moscow will be James Blake, Andy Roddick, Bob and Mike Bryan. And our two practice players will be Ryan Sweeting and Nikita Kryvonos.
Q. Who was the last one?
PATRICK McENROE: Kryvonos. Tim will get you the correct spelling, I'm sure. Actually, he's from here, he's from Queens. Local kid.
Q. How old is he?
PATRICK McENROE: 19, I think.
TIM CURRY: He was one of the four American semifinalists at the Orange Bowl two years ago, Timothy Neilly won with Donald Young and Greg Ouellette, who is at Florida.
Questions for Patrick.
Q. Talk a little bit about the clay.
PATRICK McENROE: Well, we hear it's going to be nice and slow, nice and heavy. That's the way it's been when they've had some matches there in the past at the Olympic stadium. We've been there before. We were there last year against the Belgians, in Spain a couple years ago. As soon as this tournament is over, we'll get the guys on the clay as quickly as they can after taking a few days off, depending on how they do here the rest of the way.
Get over to Moscow, probably leave here Friday night. Get there Saturday. So we'll have just about a week over there to get ready.
Q. Can you talk about how Andy is playing this week.
PATRICK McENROE: Well, he's playing well. He finally seems to be doing what we all hoped he would do in the last couple years, which is play more aggressively and, you know, take the ball earlier. Sort of really impose his game a little more.
So I think, obviously, Jimmy has had a great influence on him. He's listened to him. That's a great sign. He's got some confidence back. You know, just the way he's stepping into the court and being aggressive with the return is a lot more positive. Just coming to net. And even if he gets passed sometimes, he continues to come in.
I think a year ago he would have, you know, come in a few times, and if he got passed, he'd stop doing it. I think now he realizes that over the course of a match, that will pay off.
You know, going to the clay, I think it's just obviously playing with a little more patience, but still with our same mentality, which will be aggressive. It will be indoors, so helpfully that will help us build a serve a little bigger there.
The Russians are obviously extremely tough, and doing well here, as well. But I wouldn't say that clay is their best surface, you know. I'd say it's a surface that they certainly had better results on it than we've had, but I think they've picked a surface more against us rather than for themselves.
So, you know, James had some very good matches on clay this year, and Andy, not this year, but in the past. So I think with his renewed confidence. And obviously, the Bryans can play on anything. We feel pretty good about our chances.
Q. On the Connors Roddick relationship, do you have a sense of whether Connors is giving him new advice or new observations that he's not heard, or whether it's more a matter of Andy deciding to listen to familiar advice through the mouth of Jimmy Connors?
PATRICK McENROE: You know, without being there, without being there obviously day in and day out with them and listening to what is happening, I would say it's probably a little more the second than the first. That's just my guess. I think the source has made a big impact on Andy.
I think the fact that when Andy called Jimmy, and Jimmy has been out of tennis so long sort of as far as the public eye in tennis and was genuinely interested, I think that really got Andy excited. He'd been taking a lot of heat from you and me and us in the press. I think that he found someone who's, you know, Jimmy Connors, who had confidence in him.
So whether or not there are little differences he's telling him, I'll find out more probably when we go to Davis Cup and I'll spend more time sort of with Andy on the practice court. All I can judge is what I've seen on the court in his matches, and, you know, covering all of his matches in Cincinnati and then here, it's obvious that he's playing more aggressively, he's stepping in more. So whatever it is, it's working. So I'm not really that concerned with how it's happened.
Q. Are you at all surprised that Jimmy came back to tennis after being away for so long and showing such disdain for it? Why do you think he did?
PATRICK McENROE: I think I'm not that surprised, no. I don't know if he ever showed disdain for it. I wouldn't put it in those terms.
But I think that, you know, he was waiting for the right situation that he felt was something that he wanted to do. I mean, look, obviously, the guy has done what he's done in tennis. You know, speaks for itself. Then playing on the Senior Tour and spending a lot of time not just playing but marketing the tour and being a part of it. I think he just really wanted a break from that.
He took that. He was dabbling, done some commentary at Wimbledon the last few years. He was sort of dipping his feet back in the water. I think when Andy called him, it sparked his interest a little bit. They had those couple of days after Wimbledon when they got together and Jimmy saw what I've seen for years, that Andy is a very hard worker. Andy is not afraid to put the time in and to bust his gut to be the best he can be. He's done that ever since I've known him.
So I think when Jimmy saw that, he said, Hey, this is a guy who I could help, and I'm interested in it. So, I mean, it's great to have Jimmy Connors back in the sport. It's awesome to see him up there in the crowd and to see him out there on the practice court with Andy. I think what he's saying to him and his presence has obviously made a big impact.
Q. Can you talk more about the Bryan brothers and the importance of having them in Davis Cup.
PATRICK McENROE: They're huge. Since I was able to put them on the team, or since I decided to put them on the team in, I guess it was 2002 when we played in Slovakia, they've been, obviously not only what they do on the court as far as wins and losses obviously, that's key, but what they bring to the week, what they bring to the whole team environment, it's really rewarding to see their kind of dedication and their team spirit the way they just get the other guys involved, the way they go about their practice every day.
You know, they love to put the pressure on themselves. I mean, they'll literally go out and say, This is the biggest match of our lives. It's the Slams and Davis Cup. They always say about Davis Cup, this is like a Grand Slam final.
So they sort of relish the pressure of it. They relish the fact that this is one match. It's all on the line for them in this one match.
Obviously, for me as a captain, it's taken a lot of the guesswork out of the team, as opposed to having, you know, mix and match with singles players, which a lot of countries do because of the complications if someone gets injured. That's always a chance that we take. But I think it's a risk well worth taking considering how good they've been.
It also makes our singles guys, I think, feel a lot more comfortable and confident about what they need to do, you know, in practice and the weekend and the matches.
Q. Talk about the concept of the team. You could probably look back to Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith when there was actually a team and not like a grouping of individuals.
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, it's been pretty
Q. Did you luck out?
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I did, I did just luck out. The guys are great. They genuinely look forward to the Davis Cup weeks. I mean, they really look forward to getting together with each other and practicing with each other. You know, they obviously support each other throughout the year. They spend practice weeks with each other. You know, having Sam Querrey spend a week with Andy down in Austin after he's been a Davis Cup practice partner a couple of times, all those things just mean something.
I think it really helps our guys, not just in Davis Cup, but throughout the year. They really pull for each other and support each other. It makes my job really pleasant, really easy. They've just been tremendous. I mean, there's never been one time where I've had to say to any one of these guys, Are you available. It's a given that they're going to play.
So in fact, I called I texted Andy this morning. I said, I just want you to know I'm just about to announce the team officially. He texted me back, Did I make the team?
We have a lot of fun. The guys are great. I've been very lucky, yeah.
Q. Can you just break down each one. Maybe Andy is the joker, or this one is the you know.
PATRICK McENROE: They all sort of do that. Andy is definitely the jokester. He likes to pull my pants down often times, so I have to make sure I tie my string real tight on my sweat pants.
But James is, you know, the Harvard guy, so he likes to be the smart one. Remind Andy that he barely graduated high school.
The Bryans are, you know, they're the Bryans. They're the twins. They're like we call them, one in the same, the two of them together.
But, as I said, they're all just fun to be around. As I said, they don't dread the week of Davis Cup. They look forward to it. They really get into it. So, you know, they have a good time with each other.
Q. Do you take part in the poker games?
PATRICK McENROE: I usually try to stay out of those. You know, I let the boys be the boys. We used to have to have a ping pong table. We grew out of that.
TIM CURRY: Ran out of paddles.
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, we ran out of paddles. We ruined a lot of tables. We used to have some nasty ping pong matches.
Q. During the fact that this team is so tight, is that going to present a problem if somebody else plays their way into consideration?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, the guys are not they're smart, so they realize that they're excited about the possibility of other guys, you know, getting better. I mean, it's pretty clear right now that we have two top players, two top 10 players. They're also really excited about Sam Querrey and how well he's done, and he's been part of the team as a practice player.
We've had others. We've had Mardy Fish play. I played Mardy Fish over James Blake a couple years ago. You know, Robby Ginepri has played a couple of times. So the short answer is no, because actually they're all buddies. They all get along. It's not like it's just these four guys. Those other guys have also been part of the teams in the past. It just so happens that these two guys now have sort of elevated themselves from the rest of the field at least for the moment.
Q. What's been the key to James Blake's improvement to this point, and what do you think he needs to do to take the next step?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I think to this point it's just been a maturity of obviously his mind and all that's happened to him. I think he really beat himself up on the court a lot in matches. I think he's become more aware of, Don't go crazy when you miss some shots, first of all. He's obviously improved technically in his game. His backhand has gotten a lot better. It used to be a weakness. Then it became a shot that could keep him in a neutral position. Now it's a shot he can actually hurt people with. When he's playing well, he can hit a backhand down the line for a winner. His serve has gotten better. His defense has gotten better. His point construction, shot selection is better.
Then for him to keep getting better, his serve has still got to get better. His serve has still let him down in some big matches. Sometimes when he misses his first serve, he starts to keep going for big first serves. I think what he's done is what he has to keep doing, just little things to improve whether it's his serve, his backhand, his transition game.
James has worked extremely hard. I mean, people don't realize how hard he's worked in really the last four or five years. Even when he was struggling, even before he got injured. A lot of people forget before all his injuries he was sort of struggling for a little while there. He had sort of plateaued a bit. But he continued to work hard. He continued to do all the off court stuff. So he's gotten a little stronger, which has helped him a lot. He's put on about 10 pounds. I think that's helped him and enabled him to play, win tournaments, because he can play day in, day out.
I think all those things that I've talked about he worked on, he still needs to work on to get he doesn't have an Andy Roddick serve. So his margin is a little smaller. Andy can play poorly against someone, but still hold serve 90% of the time. James can't really afford to do that. It's a little bit like Agassi and Sampras. Obviously, those guys are better. But Agassi has always had that less margin because he couldn't rely on just that one big shot, the one big serve. So in some way his mentality had to be a little more tunnel vision, a little more secure.
I think James has to do a little bit more of that, too.
Q. Has he sought advice, or have you offered any, and if not, what would you for his record in five set matches?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, you don't want to say, Hey, your record stinks in five set matches, come on. But, look, it's definitely something that's there. He's aware of it. But, no, it's not something that you talk about. You try to get fitter; you try to do those things that you can control. When you get in a situation when you're in a fifth set, you have to just believe. You have to believe in yourself.
So, you know, a big part of my job is talking to Brian, to his coach who's with him all the time. He really knows the way James' mentality works. So as a captain, over the years I've learned that that's sometimes more important for me, is to make sure I've opened communication with the coaches so that I'm not telling him something that might be different from what they're saying. That's always been a big part of my job. With James, it still is.
Q. With Courier, Chang and Sampras retiring, now Agassi, do you think we're seeing the demise of Americans being the powerhouse in tennis. Agassi talked about passing the torch to Andy and Blake. How do they feel about that?
PATRICK McENROE: I think they're excited about it. I heard Andy just earlier today say, you know, Andre has always been there as a crutch for us. I think the guys are mature enough. They've been around long enough. Let's just put one thing out there that I think you all know: The era that just ended is probably the greatest era in the history of tennis for a group of players at the same time. So nobody can expect that's going to happen again. Sampras and Agassi are arguably the two greatest players of the Open era. Certainly Number 1, and the other one is in the top 5. Then you have Courier who won four majors. You have Chang who was consistently in the top 5. To expect that that's going to happen again is expecting too much. It's not going to happen again.
But to say there's a demise of American tennis is also going the other direction too far because we've got two players in the top 10.
Tennis has become more and more global, which is a great thing for tennis. Tennis has been way beyond sports, like basketball and baseball which are now catching up and which Americans are now realizing we're not going to dominate, because other countries are playing sports that we dominated for so long.
I think, yes, they're ready to carry the torch. I think they're ready to do it, and expecting them to do what those guys did to me is sort of irrelevant. It's an easy thing to look at and say, Hey, let's compare them. But we've got two players in the top 10, which is better than a lot of countries.
Q. Can you talk about Ryan Sweeting, what impresses you about him, what you think he still needs.
PATRICK McENROE: I've only seen him play very little, so I wouldn't be able to talk too much about him other than I've listened to what the guys told me. Obviously, saw him win some matches. Beat Spadea. I think he won another round in New Haven. You know, obviously Coria got injured here. I was talking to Olivier Rochus in the locker room who, of course, I have a tremendous respect for if any of you were there or saw the match in Belgium. He beat Sweeting in five sets he told me that the kid's got a lot of talent and a lot of game. He said he was very lucky to win the match. Sweeting started cramping in the fourth set. I had gone out to watch the match. When I got there, Sweeting was cramping already. He's got a big serve, he's got a big forehand, and he's a lot a lot of people are very high on him.
I can tell you more of what I think of him when I see him for the week in Moscow.
Q. Are you taking him on the basis of sort of a nod to Kalamazoo?
PATRICK McENROE: Nod to Kalamazoo? He didn't even play Kalamazoo.
Q. The success he's had.
PATRICK McENROE: Part of the practice players is always me talking to Eliot Teltscher, Rodney Harmon, people who work for the USTA program, our players, what do you think of this guy. Guys that have done something or we think can do something and will appreciate the experience and take a lot out of the experience.
We've had some guys that take a lot out of it, and, you know, quite honestly other guys that maybe could have taken a little more out of it than we would have liked. So you try to find the ones you hope will really benefit from the experience, like Sam Querrey is a pretty good example.
Q. What do you think about the other tie between Australia and Argentina? In case you get to the final, what do you expect?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, if we're lucky enough to win in Russia, I think we'll go to Argentina. I think they're the clear favorite on clay. Argentina is a huge advantage for them. Obviously from listening to Lleyton Hewitt, he may not even go. If he does go, clay is not his best surface. So we would be making our plan to Buenos Aires. We would very much look forward to that challenge because Argentina has tremendous players now. They've never won the Davis Cup. When you look at all the players they have now, it would be a great challenge for us.
We have a great one ahead of us, and we're not, in no way, overlooking this one. I think we're the slight underdog right now in our match.
Q. In the aftermath of Andre's performance here, I think a lot of people are wondering about the prudence of the series of injections he had to go through to perform, and still worried about the long term implications. I'm wondering, do you see any role for any governing body in tennis, whether the ATP or whatever, in either regulating those kind of measures or supervising or monitoring?
PATRICK McENROE: I think that's happening. Without no, no, without it being sort of written in stone, I mean, spoke to Dr. Dimes, who is a doctor here who is also our Davis Cup doctor, and he told me that, you know, it wouldn't I said, Is he going to get another cortisone shot, sort of after the Baghdatis match. He said that wouldn't be prudent. That's not a good thing for him to do for him, for his tissues, for his long term health.
As you all know, me knowing Andre, I don't think he's going to do anything without thinking about all the ramifications. So I'm sure he did everything he, you know, could to manage the situation, to look at, you know, what the potential costs are, etc.; he wanted to do what he wanted to do, and he did it. I don't think he would have done it if he thought he was really jeopardizing his long term health.
I think what you're suggesting already to a large degree happens, that you can't just go into the locker room and say, Hey, give me a cortisone shot. That's not the way it works.
Q. Right, right. It sounds like in this case it struck a proper balance because of Andre's good common sense.
PATRICK McENROE: It has to come down to the player. Certainly there may be players that don't have the same sort of common sense. You know, players
Q. Is that something that should be legislated?
PATRICK McENROE: I don't
Q. Or is it laissez faire
PATRICK McENROE: I wouldn't say it's laissez faire. First of all, we abide by the doping rules, you know. As we've seen in tennis, there have been some players that have gotten caught. Whether they didn't know what they were doing or whatever happened, we'll never know. But they've suffered some severe penalties I mean, severe penalties, unlike most sports in this country, guys that have got caught. I don't need to tell our friends from Argentina about a couple of examples of guys that have got, you know for whatever reason, it happens.
So I think it is being sort of regulated. Do I think there should be written about how many no, I don't. I just don't see how it's possible.
Q. The Russians are pretty deep these days between Safin, Tursunov, Davydenko, Youzhny. Talk about what you might be facing.
PATRICK McENROE: I think clearly Davydenko will play in singles. I think Safin is looking more and more likely that he would play based on how he's done here and how good he's looking now.
Tursunov has certainly been very solid year this year, you know, better on fast courts. But he played well at the French. Had a couple good matches at the French.
Youzhny is always a tough player. He's won some big matches, in the quarters here. They have a lot of options. I think that they would probably see how it goes the rest of the tournament here and see how they do in practice.
I certainly would expect to see Davydenko on the first day, and if I had to bet, I would probably say Safin. But I think that could change. I think they have they come in with more question marks than we do, which can be positive and can be negative.
The doubles I think is sort of I would probably guess Safin Tursunov. But they all can play a little doubles, too. I think that's a mix and match situation.
I'm glad that I don't have that problem right now. I've dealt with that before.
Q. Did you have any concerns or chats with Ryan about taking him? He obviously had a bit of a run in with the law at school and problems at UF.
PATRICK McENROE: We hope that the past is the past, and we look at these opportunities for the kids as an opportunity to do something positive and to learn from the guys that are there and to move on, you know. So it seems like he has. As I said, I don't know him well yet. I don't know him well enough. I obviously know what problems he's had. But he's young and he deserves this opportunity.
Q. With Andre's emotional departure, it was obviously clear that he's been embraced by tennis fans in this country. It seems like Andy isn't quite at that point yet. I wondered if you could comment on
PATRICK McENROE: Well, do you remember when Andre played Connors here, what they said to Andre? You're a punk, he's a legend. So, you know...
Q. It takes time?
PATRICK McENROE: It takes a little time, particularly in New York (smiling). I wouldn't worry about Andy; he'll be fine.
Q. What do you think of Andy Murray?
PATRICK McENROE: I love his game. I saw a lot of his matches this summer. I was very impressed. I think Brad has had an immediate influence with him. He's playing with a little more fire. He's not as I called him "Mopey Murray" back at the French and Wimbledon. Just whining and moping. Now he whines, but he's sort of more positive about it.
No, I really like his game. I think his potential is huge. I mean, he's showing it here.
Q. Is there anything you can pinpoint that makes, like, a great coach like Brad?
PATRICK McENROE: I think the number one is just connecting with the player and motivating them. Obviously, understanding the game. You have to understand that. That's a given.
But, you know, coaching in tennis is a tough job because it's so one on one. I think that's why people don't really understand, Hey, how come this guy's had so many different coaches, you know, because in tennis, unlike any other sport, team sport, you're with your coach 24/7. If you don't get along with your coach on the basketball court or maybe in a football game or baseball, whatever it is, you have your teammates, you have the assistant coaches, you have this guy, that guy.
In tennis, it's really almost like a marriage. So if one thing sort of ticks you off about your coach or your player, it's hard to get through that. It's a really sort of a nimble situation to direct.
You know, Brad, I mean, look, Brad has dealt with some different personalties. Obviously, he's got great talents which is part of it. But Andre, Andy and Andy are all different, you know, personalties. He clearly knows how to, like, connect with them as people and certainly as a coach. Obviously, he knows what he's talking about.
Q. Does that make Brian's and James's relationship so special?
PATRICK McENROE: I think it has. I think it's awesome. Brian has taken heat over the years from when James was struggling and maybe not making all the progress that we thought he should be making. I give both of them so much credit because they really stayed the course. And, as I said, really talking to Brian over the years has really helped me understand James, and understand how to deal with James as his captain and someone that wants to see him do well.
But understanding James's mentality, Brian has been there through it all. They both supported each other. They both lost their dad in the last, you know, year and a half. Brian lost his earlier this year and didn't make the trip with James over to Europe.
It is, it's amazing. It really is amazing that they've stayed together and that James is still making progress.
Q. You've talked about a couple of guys who have hand picked the players that they've coached. If you could pick one guy...
PATRICK McENROE: I don't know about "hand picked."
Q. Jimmy, Brad, relationships that have formed. If you could pick one guy on the ATP Tour that you could coach personally, who would it be?
PATRICK McENROE: John McEnroe. He's still on the ATP Tour. He won San Jose doubles. He's going he's in touch around the net (laughter).
No, I have no interest in being a full time coach. I'm very happy with what I'm doing.
Q. How essential do you think it is that a coach for that high a level player has experience having been
PATRICK McENROE: Well, it's not essential at all. It's not essential at all. It can be a real bonus. Look at some of the great look at Brian. I played against him in the Juniors. He's got a terrible forehand, believe me. Mine's not good either, so we have fun about that.
But, you know, Larry Stefanki is a great coach. He coached me for a little bit. He obviously coached Rios, Kafelnikov, now he's doing a great job with GonzĂˇlez. He was not a great player. Solid player. So it varies.
I mean, generally speaking, I think most of the great coaches were not great players. Jimmy is not a full time coach, but he's certainly having a huge impact already with Andy. He's not going to be a guy you're going to see move on from Andy Roddick and coach the next, you know, young American; I don't think that's going to happen.
So most coaches are guys, you know...
Brad was an excellent player, but not a top, top player. But he had a great career.
So I think it's like in tennis, like in a lot of other sports, usually the best coaches are the guys that have been around the game for a long time but maybe didn't have all the natural talent in the world, you know, because it didn't come that easy for them.
Q. What does the game lose with Andre being gone? Is that a hole that's never going to be exactly filled?
PATRICK McENROE: That's there, you know. We all remember that. So it's not this idea that it's gone, you know. Andre gave us so much. As opposed to looking at it from that perspective, I choose to look at it from the perspective I'm sounding like Andre now (smiling) I choose to look at it, seriously, from the perspective of how much he gave, you know.
I mean, he said it himself. He feels like he's leaving the game in very good hands. Look at the way Nadal handled Wimbledon, you know, when he beat Andre, and then got to the final. Look at the way Baghdatis handled the night the other night. I mean, these are two of our young stars and great charisma and great personality. So I think and I think we can thank Andre for a lot of that. I think he's been an unbelievable example for those young guys coming up.
You know, I was really impressed with Gasquet last night. A guy who's had trouble in some big moments, and showing some guts. He showed a lot of guts last night. So I was really proud of his effort in a great match. He could barely he looked like Baghdatis, and he was hitting unbelievable shots.
I think the game's in good hands.
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