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April 8, 2000

John McEnroe

Alex O'Brien

Jared Palmer

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, J. NOVAK - D. RIKL/ A. O'Brien - J. Palmer 7-5, 6-4, 6-4

USTA: Questions?

Q. How were they and you different teams from the times you beat them twice?

JARED PALMER: Well, I think they -- they played much better today than the other two times. They both served better, they returned better, they did everything better. And we didn't play as well, so that's the bottom line.

Q. What do you think the problem was with your game? What were you, as a team, having trouble doing that you wanted to do?

JARED PALMER: I don't know, we just had trouble really getting anything going. We, you know, when you play well together as a team, you, you know -- seemed like today we'd go through periods where I'd hit good shots or Alex would hit good shots and we didn't seem to get it together that well. And that's what they were doing, you know. They were, you know, returning well and the net man was hitting very good volleys. It seemed like we were moving, then they were picking us and going behind us, you know. I think that, you know, I went a couple times early and they went behind me and I -- they burned me up the line quite a few times. So... You know, I think in hindsight, we -- I guess it's easy to say -- but we just had to play better. We had to return better, get more balls in play, and just take it to them more. We just didn't do it.

Q. John, how frustrating is it for you to sit on the side and not be able to do anything up there?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: It's the difference between playing and coaching. In a sense, you want to try to make a little bit of a difference and, you know, it was disappointing to me that I wasn't able to do that for these guys. It's, you know, we're all disappointed, needless to say. But the good news is you got to win three, so, you know, it's still not over yet. I feel like we're going to come back and win this thing.

Q. John, what kind of advice were you trying to give them out there today?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: In a sense, I think that if these guys and Pete were guilty of anything, it was being surprised at the level -- that the level was high. You have to, you know, as I've said before, in Davis Cup guys can rise to another level. Sometimes they go down a level. But these guys have clearly played better. Novak has played well both days, and Rikl, I felt like, played as well as he was capable of playing pretty much. Just not to be surprised. There's a tendency, when things don't go well, to be a little bit, "Wait a minute, why is this happening," instead of digging in. And it's a fine line between doing that. And that's, you know, what I try to make these guys aware of. And it's not like they were totally unaware of it, you know, but then you have to execute. And then it's just -- it just didn't happen.

Q. Alex, what did you feel was going wrong for you as a team out there?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, it's what Jared said. It was just a frustrating day for us. Doubles can be strange like that sometimes, and it seems like sometimes everything goes your way and all the shots go your direction, and today it was one of those days. I mean, when I got broken in the -- I think it was the third set, we had, like, four points. They hit shots off the tape, shank lobs, just one of those days where they took it to us and we didn't step up and get the job done. It's very frustrating, and Davis Cup is, it's a different game and a different scenario. But, yeah, it's just one of those things where it just didn't seem like anything went our way. I tried my hardest to get it back on track, and Jared, I know, tried his hardest. It just never seemed like it wanted to go. We tried, maybe even tried too hard, tried to force it back on track. Sometimes when you try to force it, that's even worse.

Q. John, Novak seems to be playing, as you were talking about, at a different level. Can one guy steal a Davis Cup?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: It's happened. You know, I don't suspect it's going to happen tomorrow. I think he's had to work hard these two days to play at a level that he dreams about, and he's done a great job. But I think Andre's mentality is that he's going to have to work even harder. And if Andre goes, gets ready to play with the same attitude that he had the previous match -- it wasn't like Dosedel played badly, I thought Dosedel played well, and Dosedel beat Novak in the (Round of) 16s of the Open last year. So it's not as if there's a clear-cut difference. They both, you know, Novak's level has risen. But this is a different match-up for him. If Andre makes him work hard point after point, I suspect that he will not be able to finish the job. I think Andre is a better player than Novak and he's not going to give -- Novak likes targets. He's not going to get that as much tomorrow.

Q. John, this is the second day in a row you've said you've been surprised by the other team, so to speak. How does this happen to the US Team?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: It's a -- I'm not sure I'd say "surprised." I'd say that, you know, I haven't seen a great deal of, to be honest, these guys play. So, you know, I don't get -- I was surprised with Novak against Pete, and that Pete wasn't able to respond. I felt that's the key: We have to respond now. Enough of being like, "Hey, these guys are playing well." That's not good enough for me. So I'm hard on myself, I'm hard on the, you know, I feel like the guys that are there, you got to take it another level. It's not like, you know it's -- hopefully, tomorrow we'll have the attitude like even if it isn't our day, we win two matches. If it's one of those days where it doesn't seem like things are going well, we have to figure out a way to win anyway. So we'll see. I'd prefer, obviously, not to be in this position, but, you know, having said that, I still believe we're going to win these two matches.

Q. After two days, how would you compare the position of your team, compare it to the one in Zimbabwe?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: It's very similar, 1-2 down. But I suspect that, you know, like I suspected there, that if these guys rise to the occasion and play the way they're capable of, you know, I felt that way in Zimbabwe. I felt like that Chris Woodruff's opponent had played singles and doubles and that he wouldn't be able to keep up that level, and Chris was better. He proved that. I feel the same thing. I don't feel that Novak is going to be able to beat Agassi. He's worked hard two days. Andre will come out there with a lot of intensity. I suspect and hope that -- I can make sure that Pete is ready, that he realizes that he's going to have to come out and win this fifth match and that he's going to have to show more intensity.

Q. Actually, just on that one, would you consider this Pete's match to win or lose, really? And also are you kind of letting him just go off, or are you kind of trying to get him wound up like you did with Woodruff?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Not the same, you know. I mean, but I'd lean more towards saying, "Hey, listen, show the fans and show the people out there that you're into this." You know, people want to see that. So I think that I'm hopeful that that's going to happen. One step at a time. Novak's played incredibly well. Make sure that Andre's ready to go, then whoever they put in, if they play Dosedel again or if they throw Damm in, then Pete's -- Pete's -- if Pete is one of the greatest players that ever lived, he brings a lot to the table so I suspect he'll play better, you know, whether or not I'm sitting there or not. But at the same time, I'm going to do everything I can that I know how to do to try to bring out the best in him. I haven't, you know, done a particularly good job, to be honest, but it's why Davis Cup is strange things happen. It's difficult to know exactly what to do or say whether you're playing or coaching.

Q. Jared, Alex, the Czechs were so aggressive at the net today. Did you notice them making any tactical adjustments from when you played them earlier this year?

ALEX O'BRIEN: Well, I felt like they know that our second shots, that we were going to go really -- I never felt like we got in the point at all. We didn't get in any points. Before, we were making returns and then we were getting in points and working the point, we worked Rikl over. Today, they just -- they just kept us out of the match. We never even got -- I never even felt like I had any rhythm. I never felt like they had a high percentage of first serves. They totally kept us out of our game today. We didn't force them to make changes; they forced us to make changes, and that's why they beat us today.

Q. John, why has the U.S. had such a hard time in Davis Cup doubles since you stopped playing, and is there any point where you wanted to play?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: There's always a point where I've talked about that. There's always dreams of me wanting to play. I'm not playing that well, so that's more of a dream than a reality. I'm playing well for the Seniors Tour. That's a little different level than the level that we're talking about. I don't have the answers. I haven't been around the Davis Cup that much from my match in '92 to this first match in 2000. I only was witnessing it from afar, and it's -- it would be irresponsible to give an answer.

Q. To either Jared or Alex, American tennis fans, whether rightly or wrongly, are stunned that the U.S. is down 2-1 at this stage of the game. Are you guys stunned, and did you ever think it would come to this point that you would have to win the two reverse singles on Sunday to beat the Czech Republic? Either one of you guys.

ALEX O'BRIEN: No, I didn't feel that we would be in this situation at all. I felt like we would have a chance to close the match out, being up 2-0. Like John said, this is Davis Cup and that's why it's a different game, and it's a different animal. Yeah, I'd say we're a little stunned to be in this situation. But, you know, we've got two great players and I'm excited to have these guys out on the court playing for me tomorrow and our country.

Q. Another disappointing Saturday afternoon in Davis Cup play. Such a similar situation to Zimbabwe, John. What do you think you can learn from the situation there?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I really don't know. I just know that we're acting like spoiled kids basically. You have to work harder, you know. You know, this other stuff is, you know, we just can't expect to win no matter who you play.

Q. What do you mean "spoiled kids"?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: You know, you just, like, expect it to happen without having to work for it. Like rich -- like my kids, actually. (Laughter.) They expect, you know, just hand over the goods, without, you know, putting in the hard work and appreciation of real effort. I mean, I think there's extra effort that needs to be taken now. That's my opinion. I think that if we're guilty of anything, we haven't worked -- we haven't played hard enough.

Q. You were saying that the Czechs were lazy or indicated --

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I didn't say they were lazy. I said they played lazy. That's not lazy. You're not -- I didn't say for one second that -- Novak was hustling, it would appear to be, more than Pete. You know, he was what appeared -- that's what we have to, you know, you feel like you're diving, you know. Dosedel lost, but he was diving. Would be nice to sort of feel like we were doing that. I think that that's, you know, that's what I'd like to be able to see more of.

Q. Were you disappointed with Pete's efforts yesterday? Did you feel he didn't work hard enough yesterday?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I don't feel he worked hard enough. That's what I just said. I don't feel any of us have worked hard enough. He has to work hard. You have to forget about the fact that you've won all these things. It's not like it's anything that I haven't said to him or it's not like some headline to me that I didn't feel like he worked hard enough. I think he knows that, and we'll see. You know, I think, you know, it's easy for me to say, though. Having said that, I'm not out playing. When I'm out playing, you can criticize me and I'm, you know, I'm in this as, like, a team. It's about trying to win and advance and try to advance the cause. It's not about, like, you know, being critical of your own guys. I'm not trying to be critical. I just want us to work harder so that we can pull this thing out. I think that's what it requires. I think we need to suck it up and work harder and then we'll pull out these two matches. If we don't, we're in danger of losing.

Q. John, have you underestimated your opponent? Can you imagine, the best-ever Davis Cup, you can lose tomorrow?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: You know, I can -- I don't feel that we underestimated it, but maybe we did. You know, we should win every match. I mean that's the bottom line; I don't care what anybody says, you know. Novak's a good player. He's not as good as our players. They're a good doubles team. I don't believe they're as good as us. But that's why sports is exciting and unpredictable, then you add Davis Cup in where you're feeling some sort of intention for your country. We didn't, you know, we didn't answer the call. It's as simple as that. What can I tell you? I've played matches where I didn't answer the call. It feels horrible because, you know, you want the opposite. But bottom line is that we didn't, you know, so far. So, you know, the good news is you got to win three. That's the only good news I see, and that Andre won a match, so we're still in it.

Q. John, on another matter, could you comment on the general atmosphere out there? There's some sentiment in this room that it was more like the World Wrestling Federation, over the top a little bit, the smoke and fireworks and the announcer. Do you agree with that, or do you like what went on?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Both. (Laughter.)

Q. What's your opinion of the PA announcer? Did he beef the crowd up?


Q. PA.

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Oh, PA announcer, I'm sorry. I don't know, ultimately it has to come from the players and maybe a little bit from the people around, myself and around. I mean, it's just -- ten people on their side made more noise in a lot of situations than all the people on ours. So, you know... See, people don't understand. Like, Davis Cup isn't appreciated as much here because it doesn't have the history in the sense that it does in other countries. They sort of -- this is a big chance. This is like David versus Goliath. It's the same thing in Zimbabwe. The Czech Republic is a small country, they do have a great tennis tradition and tennis is a bigger sport there than it is here. Right now they have other things going on, a lot of other sports and, you know, I didn't see it -- I have a feeling if this had been played in Prague, for example, that this would have been the first story in the sports. This is still like the fourth or fifth story. They're still talking about the baseball and the Masters, golf, and the Lakers and even maybe, you know, the hockey playoffs coming up or whatever. So, you know, we have work to do. I mean, you know, we need to change. There's no question that this needs to be changed. But I think some of it was, like, too much. I think that -- but, I mean, they're only trying to, you know, I think that you guys are sort of -- what I don't like is your sort of negativity towards it. Because all it does is end up hurting it. Like, you write about like they missed the Czech national anthem or something like that, and all of a sudden that's a big deal. It just makes people less into Davis Cup. I just don't understand why -- or that Andre wasn't at the ceremony or, you know, these types of things that are just negative. It's too bad, like, that there's -- that you're looking for negatives in, like, what desperately needs to be positive. Because otherwise, you're going to see this marginalized even more, and quite honestly, we need help from the -- not only the, you know, the players, but the media as well. It disappoints me to see that, because, you know, there's been some positive -- there's been some positive press and I think that the people that know Davis Cup know that it is a good thing, but it's discouraging to see this, you know, nitpicking. It's embarrassing. You should be embarrassed of yourselves to sort of belittle it.

Q. But the Czech captain and Novak, John, both came in themselves and again and again emphasized that was a factor; that that woke them up and motivated them.

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I mean that's -- I just don't buy that, personally. I think that's a bunch of baloney.

Q. In a similar vein, how much do you think their ability to rise to the occasion stems from the fact they've grown up thinking that Davis Cup is the most important thing they can play, where our players really don't grow up with that?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: It's definitely a factor. We need to change a lot of things about Davis Cup.

Q. Alex and Jared, do you wish the crowd would have pumped you up more today? Could you not get enough energy?

JARED PALMER: I thought they pumped us up pretty well. For the matches that we're used to playing, I thought that the atmosphere today was pretty rowdy. I doubt that it's nearly as rowdy as it can get, you know, in some other places. But I thought for us, I mean, I thought the crowd generated certainly enough enthusiasm and the rest should have been supplied by us, and it wasn't. So...

ALEX O'BRIEN: We had to give them a reason. We never gave them a reason. We broke back in the third set and gave them a small reason to get into it and they got into it. We needed to give them a good reason and do some, you know, make some good shots and turn it around. We didn't do that.

Q. Were you guys nervous at all?

ALEX O'BRIEN: I wasn't really nervous, but -- I never felt nervous. I think that this situation takes on a whole new dynamic, though, with, you know, we're two doubles guys and, you know, everyone's kind of looking at us like these guys are doubles guys, so, you know, you go out there and you just feel like you want to show -- you want to prove that you're -- there's a reason that you're out there. So maybe that was in the back of my mind. But I never felt, like, nervous on the court. I never felt, like, tension or, you know, I felt like things weren't going our way and I tried to fight out of it. But I never felt, like, really tight on the court.

Q. John, you talked about how golf, baseball, Lakers are dominating the papers, yet you have a Laker hat on. Would you be better off wearing a Davis Cup cap?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I don't think that's a nice question, to be honest. That's taking nitpicking even to a higher level, but, you know... I mean, don't make me even answer that because that's -- that's sort of insulting.

USTA: Thank you.

End of FastScripts….

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