March 3, 2005
RANDY WALKER: We'll start with the first question for the team.
Q. Andre, how does it feel to be back, at least the practice week? First time in five years.
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it feels great. It feels better than I remember it. We've had a great few days here together. This is when it gets really fun.
Q. Is there more camaraderie than what you remember from your past years, maybe the dynamics of the team?
ANDRE AGASSI: No question about it. I think it's a testament to these guys' character, who they are, how they look out for each other, Patrick's leadership. It's a great team to be a part of. I know I missed it; I just didn't realize exactly what I was missing.
Q. Andre, why the absence for four years?
ANDRE AGASSI: Because I couldn't play full-time any more. I just couldn't commit to that. It takes way too much. I didn't know how much I had left. I wanted to play this game as long and with well as possible. I played 12 years for the Davis Cup. I just felt like it was just a good time for me to make a decision that wasn't easy, but pretty clear. I've never been one to, you know, play every now and then. It was either all or nothing. I've gotten a lot of support from these guys sitting here to my left. It's given me the chance to be a part of this again, which I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate that.
Q. Glad you're starting off right off the bat instead of sitting around tomorrow?
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, it's good. I've had many experiences on both ends of it, going out there up 1-0, down 1-0, watching a long, painful match that sort of takes your emotion. Get out there first and getting off to the races. Yes, you just sort of prepare yourself for whatever you have to do. I came here to be ready for Friday afternoon. Looks like I'm playing Friday afternoon (smiling).
Q. Andy, how do you look back on last year's experience, both the good and bad, with hindsight of three months?
ANDY RODDICK: That's a question that can't be really answered in a couple words. Obviously, I have a lot of fond memories of being with the guys, you know, the matches we did win. Obviously painful ones of the final that we lost. You know, I don't know if that was fun, and especially since a lot of it was on my head since I lost two matches. That only makes -- I don't know if I can speak for Bob and Mike, but it only makes me hungrier to try to perform better for my team this year.
Q. Andy, you spoke of welcoming Andre onto the team because you thought he might offer some insights from his years of experience. Has he been kind of insightful?
ANDY RODDICK: Andre's been very insightful this week (smiling). No, it's just been great. The whole week, he's just come in and he's gotten right into our flow and added so much. We're excited to have him. The big thing is we're glad to have him because we want to put up three points on the board this weekend, and obviously with him that helps our chances a lot.
Q. Andre, would you talk a little bit about your recollections of this young man when he was the practice partner back in 2000? Was he difficult for you to keep in line?
ANDRE AGASSI: Andy, no, no. I tell you, he's always been a hard worker out there on the court. He's always cared about what he does, in a very intense way. He was a phenomenal learner. You could see him absorbing every experience he was having. That was certainly a great sign he was going to have the career and future that he's now having. We had a lot of practice sets together over the years, especially when he was younger. Yeah, I look back on those as a pretty fun time.
Q. Andy, how do you remember LA when you were a practice partner?
ANDY RODDICK: Pretty much the way he said it. I mean, I was 17. I had played I think two professional matches and here I am on a team with Pete, Andre, John McEnroe as the coach, and the guys who were the No. 1 doubles team in the world at the time. I was ecstatic. I don't know if I said much, but I went out there and just tried to work hard and at least give these guys a workout. I had a blast. It was a dream for me.
Q. Patrick, the US Soccer Federation is always careful about the opponents it plays in Southern California because there are so many, for example, soccer crazy Mexicans here, they're worried it may not feel like a home game. There are 30,000 Croatians living a few miles down the road in San Pedro and a couple hundred thousand in the California area. Are you worried this may not be such a home game match for you guys?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Home Depot game. No, we're not worried. You know, it's nice to have some fans from the other side. Maybe it creates a little atmosphere. I think with this team, with the guys we have on the team, you know, the passion for Davis Cup of these guys at the table, is really to me the reason why Andre Agassi's back playing. So I think the fans are going to respond to that, to what they see, you know, give us a real good boost.
Q. Patrick, both these guys from Croatia are coming in with a lot of momentum. What is your biggest fear going into the tie with regard to the Croatian team?
CAPTAIN McENROE: "Fear" wouldn't be the word. The word is "respect" that we have for them. These guys have had a great week of practice and have worked extremely hard. I think for them they've basically got a two-man team, and a very good two-man team. But to be able to win three points over three days is pretty difficult. So we want to make them work extremely hard for every point they win. With the two guys that we have coming out on Friday, I think we'll be able to do that, we'll be able to make them work hard. We're going to have to play well. These guys are playing as well as they've ever played. We know it's certainly going to be a tough match.
Q. Patrick, is there a fine line between making the guys work hard and maybe not being aggressive enough?
CAPTAIN McENROE: You know, that's something that you work on during the practice. It's something we've worked on during the week specifically. So, sure, there's a fine line every time you walk out there, I think. But we certainly got a couple of guys that have a lot of experience in doing that, in playing in matches like this, in big matches. You know, Andy's only 22, but he's already got tremendous experience playing Davis Cup and playing five-set matches. You know, that's something they deal with every time they walk out, not just for a match, but on the practice court. So we'll be prepared to deal with that.
Q. Does it surprise you the day before the tournament and it's not sold out? Does it surprise any of you there's a lot of seats still available?
ANDRE AGASSI: It makes me question the stat on how many Croatians live here (smiling).
Q. On that point, Franklin Johnson just said one of the priorities of his administration is to raise the awareness of Davis Cup in the United States. If I could, I'd love to have all five of you speak to what you think should be done by the USTA to do that.
ANDRE AGASSI: Listen, the United States is a whole different marketplace than most places in the world. I mean, the competitiveness that exists for viewers in every sport and entertainment industry is phenomenal. We have a lot of options here. It's one heck of a country in that respect. But Davis Cup is a format that doesn't always lend for all the best players playing all the time. It doesn't lend for the average sports fan to sort of understand it. Why we finish in December and start again in February or March, it's tough for people to understand unless you really follow it. I think you can always consider some ways to make it a bit more exclusive when it comes to when you play it and even potentially how you play it. But at the end of the day, you're dealing with countries that are going against each other in a sport that's usually individual. I think the bones of that is a great product, and I think it has serious potential to catch on here.
Q. Andre, there have been a lot of suggestions in terms of reform or changes in Davis Cup, like no Davis Cup in Olympic years, Davis Cup every other year, bye for the winner. If you had one change in Davis Cup format or the way it's approached, what would it be?
ANDRE AGASSI: I think calling out a problem and solving a problem are two entirely different things. You know, it's easy to call out a problem, to say, "Well, we wish there was more interest." How you solve it is different because a lot needs to be considered. I mean, on one hand, you're playing so much and it's hard for people to sort of follow how Davis Cup is played, why it's played the way it is. On the other hand, you're taking incredible tennis and atmosphere to so many places across the world which has an impact on the grass roots level in every country, generates all sorts of awareness and monies to the game. With all those points to consider, it would be sort of a bit irresponsible to just speak off the top of my head and throw out something that really needs to have a lot of consideration put to it.
Q. Andy, is there a better team in the Davis Cup draw than the US this year? If you guys all play up to form throughout the year, should the US win the title?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, I don't know. I think there are a lot of good teams. That's a vague question, because obviously you have to take into consideration different surfaces, home and away ties. It's not just your typical tennis event where you go in pretty much all circumstances are even. You know, this is definitely the best team that I've been on. We came pretty close last year and we've only gotten better. So I think we're pretty optimistic. But at the same time we have our work cut out for us this weekend with the team that's playing hot right now. You know, before we can concentrate on winning it all, we have to win this weekend.
Q. Andre, you always used to get a bit irritated with having to play dead rubbers. Have you agreed to play them if necessary or can we look forward to the relaunch of Bob Bryans' singles career?
ANDRE AGASSI: The issue of a dead rubber is a bit like taxes: it's just a good problem to have. That's how I'm approaching this weekend. I hope we have the painful conversation of if me or any of us are going to be playing on Sunday. But that would be great news.
Q. Address the venue here, what you've seen, what you know about this place.
ANDRE AGASSI: Oh, this is an incredible venue for all of sports. I think it highlights what sports is all about, the hard work, the discipline. You can feel it when you're here. You see the people training on the soccer field, I've seen them here with beach volleyball, which by the way I enjoy a lot. You know, tennis, the cycling dome, the velodrome. I mean, to have that all in one spot, it would be a great place to live.
Q. Andre, you mentioned having nations play in what is normally an individual event. I'd be interested in knowing what you and Andy both think about what it means to play in a team event, in what is normally an individual pursuit for you guys? How does it change things?
ANDRE AGASSI: I think for me it changes the responsibility you feel. I mean, at the end of the day when you've done this so long, you sort of go, I'm pretty experienced with winning and losing, and I know how quickly I can get over a loss, how short-lived a victory is. But in Davis Cup it's different. You live with the losses a lot longer because you've let down not just your team, but your country. And it seems like the victories are forever felt. That's quite a distinction between what you normally experience.
Q. Andy, could you answer that same question?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, it's obviously something different than what we go through on a weekly basis. But just my favorite part is just being with the guys, obviously, you know, sharing one common goal with some of your friends is a pretty cool thing. And to be kind of working together towards it, it's great. And hopefully if we do get to the winner's circle someday in this event, it will be that much sweeter because we'll be able to share it with, you know, people who have really put the work in with you the whole time.
Q. What do you think is the biggest weapon of Ivan Ljubicic's game?
ANDRE AGASSI: The biggest weapon? What I've seen over the last few years, his serve has been quite an asset for him. I think his backhand is as good of a one-handed backhand as you see out there. He competes well. He plays week after week. He's obviously playing confident right now. That makes all those weapons even more dangerous.
Q. Did he surprise you in a way with his level of tennis this year? He played four finals in six tournaments.
ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah, I've learned in sports not to be surprised because you always got to leave room for that competitor's heart and mind. I've seen a lot of wasted talent go by over the years, and I've seen a lot of people achieve things that you never could have imagined. So, no, I'm not surprised, but very impressed.
Q. Andre, there's been a lot of talk with you being on the team, that the team is a far more accomplished, some people think pretty much unbeatable. How do you feel about that kind of pressure?
ANDRE AGASSI: I've never been one to start of rely on the past. I've always tried to learn from it and get better from it. I hope for that to be the case. But the only thing that's going to determine how beatable we are is what we put together starting tomorrow. I think if there's anything I can say confident about this team is there's not one of us that doesn't approach every match, every point with that mentality, that what we have to prove is something we've got to prove today, and again and again.
RANDY WALKER: Thank you very much.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.