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March 26, 2002
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining us today. I'm going to turn the program over to Jim Curley, the USTA managing director for tournament operations. Jim?
JIM CURLEY: Thanks, Randy. Thank you for joining us here today. Before we start with Patrick, I just wanted to give you some additional information on the USA versus Spain Davis Cup tie. As you know, we will be playing this quarterfinal tie on grass courts at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston, Texas. This will be the second time since 1959 that the United States Tennis Association, the organizers and promoters of Davis Cup in this country, has chosen a grass court for a home Davis Cup tie. The last time the USTA chose grass courts was in 1991. It was the 1991 Davis Cup Quarterfinal at the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island when the US defeated Spain 4-1. Prior to that, when our organization was known as the United States Lawn Tennis Association, we chose grass courts at another West Side Tennis Club that was in Forest Hills, New York, as the site for the 1959 USA versus Australia Davis Cup challenge round. That tie, which was won by Australia 3-2, featured the NASDAQ-100 tournament chairman Butch Buchholz as a member of the US team. There are a limited number of tickets remaining for the tie in Houston, which we expect to be our second consecutive Davis Cup sellout, following Oklahoma City. On Sunday, the Spanish Tennis Federation announced its team for Houston. It will consist of Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo, Alex Corretja and Juan Balcells. Now, without any further delay, we'll turn it over to Patrick.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you, Jim. First of all, I just want to thank you guys and ladies for being here. I want to thank the USTA for going out of their way to find some grass courts that we can play professional tennis on, because as all of you know, that's not that easy in this country. I'm hopeful that the courts in Houston will hold up well and we'll have a great tie and good courts. We don't want cricket pitches, what do they call them? Cricket, yeah. We don't want that down there. I'm excited that the USTA took the lead from me after speaking to the players, when I said that I want to play this match on grass. I got that feedback from the players. We went out, Jim and his team, and Jeff Ryan did a lot of work to find those courts and to find some options, some facilities where we could play. So our team will be consisted of four players, obviously, for this tie. It will be Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Todd Martin. We'll have two players there as practice players, Jeff Morrison, who I'm real excited about. It will be his first time as a practice player. He's been doing really well lately in singles and doubles. I felt he deserved the opportunity. Robby Ginepri, who's been a practice partner for us, but will be again, one, someone that plays a style similar to the Spanish players as far as being a back court player and playing with a lot of topspin. Robby fits that bill nicely. That will be our team. Had some difficult decisions to make obviously, for this team. A lot of guys out there are playing well, a lot of younger guys, a lot of older guys. I'm sure you will have some questions where I can address some of those tough decisions I had to make.
Q. Patrick, how concerned are you with the way Pete is playing?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, I was certainly not real happy to see the way he played yesterday. I mean, I thought he was making some good strides in Indian Wells and had some good matches there. I know how hard he has been working in practice, with Jose and on the practice court. He just seemed flat to me yesterday. I think one of the reasons that Pete has said he wants to play Davis Cup is to not have many matches like that. You know, to have these matches in Davis Cup where he can get inspired and get some adrenaline going and play with the fire, which I didn't see that he had yesterday. So, obviously playing on grass, I think, will help him, will help our team against them. But, sure I'm concerned more for how Pete does all year. I want to see him do well. I think obviously on grass and with the atmosphere of Davis Cup, I don't think he'll have any trouble getting up for that.
Q. This is a different surface than Houston, but Jan-Michael Gambill played two days ago instead of yesterday, would you have changed your mind at all?
PATRICK McENROE: No, not really. That obviously was my toughest choice to make with keeping Jan-Michael off the team. He's been playing very well lately. He seems to be healthy again. Obviously played a great match last night. I was impressed. I am impressed by the way he's playing. But I felt that Todd has got a lot more experience on grass. I mean, better results overall. He's obviously playing as well as he's played in a long time. So I feel that going in, he's probably our second, third guy on grass, you know, for this match. So that gives me some options with him and obviously with Andy and Pete. And I think James is playing real well, making tremendous strides in his game with his confidence. I also think James, as far as matching up with some of our other players on the team, is a better guy for matching up with the strengths and weaknesses on the doubles court. He's a good swing guy that could come in and play singles or doubles. Obviously, because I can only have four guys for this match, that's important, to have someone that has a little more variety on the doubles court.
Q. Understanding your wanting four singles players to be there considering, how hard was it not to give consideration to Johnson-Palmer?
PATRICK McENROE: I gave them a lot of consideration. I gave the Bryans a lot of consideration. In my mind, the Bryans are continuing to make strides. It was difficult to leave those guys out. I mean, this is just the way it is. This is how Davis Cup is set up. You can only have those four players. If you could have five players, it might be different; you could have the luxury of maybe going with a doubles team. The problem is, and I think when you talk about the Bryans, I think there's more of a potential for them down the road to be a singles player as well. But I don't think right now they're there, as far as being able to step in and play singles. Johnson-Palmer, clearly can't afford to have one of them play singles. That's the bottom line, as good as they are in doubles and as well as they're doing. And I think in Davis Cup, as we all know, the pressures are different. The intensity is higher. You need the options to have, I think, a couple more singles players there.
Q. How much does the surface tilt things in your favor, do you think, in this matchup?
PATRICK McENROE: We're hoping it tilts it significantly in our favor. But we know the Spanish guys are going to come and they're going to come ready and they're going to come wanting to prove us wrong. Obviously, it's a big decision to choose to play on grass. We don't play that many events on grass throughout the year. But certainly, I felt that if we played on a hardcourt, a fast hardcourt, we could still win and probably would win. But we wanted to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to win. So, I feel that grass gives us that option. But at the same time, they're young guys, especially have a lot of firepower. Robredo's played well on grass, so has Ferrero. They're feisty, they're competitive. Corretja and Balcells are going to be a tough doubles team no matter what surface we're on. We expect it to be difficult, but we expect to win.
Q. Reverse psychology has begun with Corretja saying, "Gee, we can't win, we don't play on grass. We don't go to Wimbledon. We're hopeless. We got to go to the United States." What's your reaction to all that?
PATRICK McENROE: Alex is a great sportsman and a great competitor. He's been around a long time. He understands the situation, and he understood very well the situation in Spain when they beat us 5-0, and they did everything they could to make life difficult for our team there. So, you know, we're going to try to do the same. We understand that we don't really care about what they say. What matters is what happens on the court. As I've said for the other matches, if our guys are ready, prepared, in good shape and playing well and confident, I feel like we can beat anybody.
Q. James Blake has become a regular on this team. What kind of strides has he made in his game since you first named him?
PATRICK McENROE: As a practice player last February, the strides he's made since then have been phenomenal. I mean just from where he came as a practice player and getting beat up on all week in practice by the other guys on the team like Todd and Jan-Michael and Andy was there as a fourth player, it's been great to see. It's been really a joy to see someone that's a good kid, that works hard, to see him just change over the course of the last little bit over a year. And the confidence is continuing to grow. I think his potential is great. I think -- I'm looking forward to his match with Hewitt, I think he's got an excellent chance. He's proven himself in the Davis Cup matches. I mean, the pressure was really on him in our relegation or playoff match with India to play Leander Paes, who's a tough guy to play in Davis Cup. He handled that well, handled the pressure. He stepped in, won a doubles match for us last time with Mardy. He's exceeded my original expectations of him when he came on the team initially. Now he's raising the bar for himself. And, you know, I believe he can continue to get a lot better.
Q. How many options were there in terms of professional-quality grass?
PATRICK McENROE: There's a couple in California in the desert out there. We looked at PGA West in Mission Hills, had some nice courts. We could have put up some temporary stands there. There was a place in Arizona that we looked at. Obviously, the east coast was sort of off limits because of the weather. If it was a different time of year, how nice would it be to play at Forest Hills one day? Obviously being the first week in April, it's a little dodgy to do that. So there were some options. Some Florida options as well. Different things popped up. But we felt that this one was the best.
Q. Andy goes in with little match play over the last month.
PATRICK McENROE: Funny, I was talking to Courier two days ago, who is, of course, our coach. Every time Andy's in fact played Davis Cup, he's come in without a lot of match play. He came in to Winston-Salem, he hadn't played since the Open, when he had that great match with Hewitt. Got injured in Hong Kong, I believe it was. Didn't play for a number of weeks. Then he came to Oklahoma City. Of course he got injured in Australia and hadn't played for a few weeks. I finally thought we were going to get him with some matches. I expected him to do well here. I said to Jim, "We got Andy again. We got to get him in there first thing Monday morning and get him competitive and playing some matches." I'm looking forward to the time when he can come in and have matches and not have to deal with that. But he is a great competitor. He's still never lost in Davis Cup, and his record is great. You know, he hasn't played his best in Davis Cup yet and he's still won. To me, that's a big statement. So it's something that we deal with, and I keep in touch with his coach and see what he's doing this week. Then basically, as soon as we get to Houston, we'll get him out there playing sets and preparing to play singles.
Q. (Inaudible) Are you just going to wait until Thursday or Friday and check in with him then?
PATRICK McENROE: I keep in touch with him, let's just say, regularly.
Q. What's the latest report?
PATRICK McENROE: Latest is that it doesn't seem to be anything serious and that he's taking a few days off to rest it. He should be back hitting - what's today - Tuesday? Probably in the next day or two.
Q. Is Todd a candidate for No. 2 singles?
PATRICK McENROE: He's a candidate. It's an option to have. What I wanted to do with this match, with the last few matches, I basically picked five players, six at one point. I wanted to have four players that came in clear-cut, that knew they were going to be part of the four-man team. I didn't feel it was necessary and in the best interest of the team for this match, which is obviously a big match, to come in sort of wondering if they were going to be on the team, like we did the last couple. I could have easily had someone like a Mardy or Jan-Michael, a Taylor Dent, someone like that, be a fifth player and play their way into the line-up the way James did in Winston-Salem, the way Mardy did in the doubles in Oklahoma City. I didn't want to do that for this match. I felt like the guys have been through that a few times, a few of the guys. I wanted them to come in and be prepared to play. Obviously I'll have some options in singles and doubles. I mean, basically, I could put any four of those guys together as a doubles team and feel pretty good about it. We'll see how everything's going in practice, and see how the guys look. And, knock on wood, you know, health-wise, everybody is 100 percent. And we'll take it from there.
Q. You would have called up Taylor Dent?
PATRICK McENROE: Taylor Dent is an option. Obviously, he hasn't been playing well lately. Certainly when you think about grass, I mean, I think about seeing him play at Wimbledon last year. To me, he's got a natural grass court game. But did I talk to Taylor? Yes. Of course I talked to him. But I decided to go with the guys I went with. I've certainly considered him, yeah.
Q. What I was getting at, has he committed that he would play?
PATRICK McENROE: He's told me that he will. He's told me that he would.
Q. Is there any scenario you can envision where if Pete looks flat in practice you might not use him in singles? Or do you just go with his seven Wimbledon titles and know he can come through?
PATRICK McENROE: I feel pretty confident that he can come through. But at the same time, there's a reason why you don't have to name the two singles players till Thursday. If Pete Sampras is not 100 percent for whatever reason, whether it's something physical, that's a decision I'll make. I'll make it at the time. I'm going to do what's best for the team.
Q. So both singles spots are open, not just one spot?
PATRICK McENROE: I'm not going to go and say they're "open," Craig. I'm going to say we're going to go into the week, all be on the same page. This is a team. We're not worried about -- Pete Sampras is going to be prepared to play singles, no doubt, obviously. Andy Roddick is going to be prepared to play singles. Todd Martin is going to be prepared to play singles. So is James Blake. All these guys can step in and play. Am I going to have James Blake play a little more doubles in practice? Probably. But certainly the way he's playing, he deserves consideration, too. So, I'm not going to sit here and say that, "Oh, yeah, if Pete loses a couple sets in practice I'm going to sit him down." I've seen him lose a lot of sets in practice. That's not the issue. The issue is doing what's best for the team. I'll feel comfortable making that decision. And if I have to make a tough one, I'll make it.
Q. On Thursday night or Friday morning, whenever you have your final team meeting, do your meetings at all take on the sort of thing you might find in an NFL meeting room?
PATRICK McENROE: Banging heads against the wall? It depends who's getting ready to play, yeah.
Q. Watch tape maybe even of players?
PATRICK McENROE: We know the players well enough. We don't have too many tape sessions. As I said, if our players are prepared and we're playing well, obviously we all go over the opponents. But, you know, we don't get the chalk board out and say, "Pete if you serve out wide here, serve to the X, come in over here." These guys are professionals. We all work together well. We try to help each other and work together. Andy Roddick's played Robredo a couple times. We'll sit down and go through a list of what he does well, what he doesn't do well and try to exploit it.
Q. Now that Brad Gilbert is not working with Andre Agassi, have you considered taking him on as an assistant coach?
PATRICK McENROE: I considered that last year. But Jim Courier signed on for the year. So I feel pretty good about having Jim Courier. I don't think -- I don't think there's any doubt about what he brings to the table. So I certainly hope to see Brad back in the tennis world. I'm sure we will. He's -- he did a tremendous job with Andre. But that's not something that's on my agenda right now, no.
Q. Just if I could ask, just for obvious reasons, just on the point of Taylor Dent, in January he was not committed to either country. When did he tell you that he was prepared to play for the United States?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, he told me in Australia that he was going to play for the US. Until he actually shows up for Davis Cup match and plays a match, I guess there's still always the option, the opportunity that he could change his mind. But as far as I know, from what he's told me personally, he intends on playing for the US.
Q. The tradition, the choice of surface for the match, Australia chose it for the final last year. Do you think it's important for tennis as a whole that grass still retains its position in the sport and that someone like you can pick it for the Davis Cup match?
PATRICK McENROE: I think there's no question. I think that, you know, just even the attention and sort of the buzz it created when we announced that we were going to play on grass, I think sparked a lot of interest. You know, let's face it, the serve and volley game is a difficult one to play now. I think a lot of that has to do with the technology and the surfaces, and making the surface sort of -- you know, be as "flexible" is the right word. Like on grass, be more athletic and serve and volley more and come to net. So I hope, certainly hope that grass -- I mean, I know they're talking about it, I don't know if it's happened already, having another couple weeks, another week in between the French and Wimbledon. I think seeing another tournament or two on grass would be healthy for the game.
Q. Jim is such a valuable commodity here. If you could take a moment or two and go over the specific things you ask him to do for the team.
PATRICK McENROE: Jim obviously brings to the table his reputation and his commitment to Davis Cup and what he's done on the court. Basically, what I ask him to do and what he does is he shows up the week of Davis Cup, he is in communication with the players sort of not as much as I am obviously, but sporadically keeps in touch with them. And during the week, he's basically there as another set of eyes. One of the things I wanted to do when I got my feet sunk into being the captain was, I felt that we needed to create more of a team concept, a team unity. And, therefore, I decided to not have personal coaches come for the week or for the week of practice. They come for the weekend to watch, like everybody else. And in doing that, I felt like I needed someone that was there as someone that I can turn to and someone that can work with me. And that, obviously, what Jim does, he's very inspirational to the younger players. No one can question his desire out there as a player. He's got a great eye for helping young players, as far as coaching and strategy. So we'll sit down, Jim and I, we'll go through practice and what we think, you know, is important as far as what we need to do that day in practice. Certainly, in the last couple of ties when it was questionable about who was going to be the fourth player, so to speak, he and I would go through that. It really is comforting for me to have someone that is on the page of what we're trying to do, which is a team first. Individual coaches, obviously, come in and understandably they're looking out for their guy. And my job is to look out for the team and look out to what's best. I'm obviously going to take care of each guy. But most importantly I want the team to win. Sometimes individual players aren't going to be happy with my decisions. That's just the nature of the beast. But Jim is there to really be another set of eyes for me to work with, to be out on the practice court with us, and just to be another coach.
Q. Is he able to inject the passion that he has on the court?
PATRICK McENROE: I think so.
Q. When he's coaching and not really on the court?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, look, obviously the player's got to do it himself. Jim's been there. He listens, players listen to him. The younger guys especially are inspired by him. You know when guys go out on the court how much they can handle that pressure of being out there. But certainly having some -- you know, just for an example, when I'm out there during the first match, let's say, and Sampras is playing and Roddick's back in the locker room getting ready, Courier will go back there with him and sit with him and talk to him and just be there with him so that he doesn't watch this match too much, calming him down. He's been there in that situation many times. So that type of experience that he has is invaluable.
Q. Did you receive any resistance to your "no coaches at the practice" policy?
PATRICK McENROE: No, I didn't.
Q. Is Jim watching "Driving Miss Daisy" with Pete and Todd or "The Simpsons" with Andy and James?
PATRICK McENROE: I think he does both. He can go either way. But he's a good story-teller, too. The guys like that.
Q. In Santander, even John was rendered speechless by some of the antics that the Spaniards got up to. They're a clever team, very psychological in their approach. Do you think it's a tie for intense focus, to make sure you don't get carried away by what they're doing?
PATRICK McENROE: No doubt. That's one of the reasons I'm going with four players, the clear-cut four players. We need to go in there, as I said, we're the favorites. We should win. We expect to win on grass. But we understand that they're a tough team and they're resourceful. No matter what they say, they're going to come in and think they have a chance to win. We're aware of that, and we'll be prepared.
Q. Were you surprised not to see Moya?
PATRICK McENROE: A little bit. A little bit surprised. But a birdie told me that he might not be playing. I don't know the reasons why or what happened there. As I said, Ferrero and Robredo are both young, they're hungry. Obviously they're more comfortable on slower courts, but they can play on grass. I mean, they can play on fast courts. I saw Ferrero play very well at the World Championships at the Masters in Sydney last year. So we know that they can play. As I've seen first-hand, when you have young guys that bring a lot of intensity and a lot of enthusiasm in Davis Cup, that pays off.
Q. Is there any thought back to what happened in Santander going into this? Being there, seeing what happened, the way the Spaniards went through with that tie, the way the crowd behaved, is there any feeling on the American side of just sticking it back up them?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, the feeling is we want to win. I think we remember what happened. Not all of us were there. Certainly quite a few of the players on our team weren't there. But we all know what happened. And one of the things we're trying to do is build a spirit and a unity amongst all our players. That means the guys that aren't playing every match. Obviously, there's going to be guys that can't play every match. So we want to do right by the guys that were there. That means, yeah, we want to beat them. We want to get them back. Hopefully, we'll use that to motivate us. But at the same time, what matters is what happens on the court. And all the other stuff is secondary to how you prepare and how you go out there and how you play your matches.
Q. When you were playing Davis Cup --?
PATRICK McENROE: The few times that I did, yeah (smiling).
Q. Was there a match or tie where at some point you said, "I want to be the captain some day. I want that job"?
PATRICK McENROE: Not really. I think it's something that I always dreamed about - having the opportunity to do it. I mean, Davis Cup always meant a lot to me as a brother, as a practice player, as a TV commentator, as a player. So it's always been special to me. I always hoped that , thought that I could do a good job and thought that it would be something that I would enjoy. I've enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. So, yes. But I can't say there's one moment. But over the course of my life and seeing my brother's passion for Davis Cup and how much he gave to the event and to the team, certainly, you know, all affected me.
Q. Has the administrative part of the job been a little more overwhelming?
PATRICK McENROE: I got a lot of people to help me do that. They do a real good job with that, to be honest. They really do. I can focus on what I need to do, and these guys do an excellent job and work hard. And in my mind, Davis Cup is getting better. I mean, I'm excited about the events. I think we've done a great job of promoting them. They've been more than just tennis matches; they've been great events. We've had a couple of real good promoters in these different cities that have helped us. We're going to continue to try to do that.
Q. How much, when you were growing up and even before John got on the team, was the Davis Cup an inspiration to people just starting out?
PATRICK McENROE: When we were growing up, we played all sports. We played a lot of soccer, we played a lot of basketball, baseball. Obviously, we were drawn to tennis, and then ended up becoming tennis players. I think both my brothers and I love the team aspect of sports, and we're sort of driven to that and drawn into that as young kids. And Davis Cup, I mean, what better team is there? I mean, what better team format, obviously, then to play for your country? I love college tennis, too. I loved playing in college and being part of a team. Tennis has got its benefits of being it's all you out there and it's individual. But sometimes it's lonely to do that all the time. So Davis Cup has always been something that has sort of given me that opportunity to still be part of a team and to go out there and to try not only to do what's best for you, but to sort of help inspire other guys. So to me, that's the most exciting part of what Davis Cup is - is trying to figure out how to get these guys to do their best and to perform at their best. I take a real pleasure and a joy and a challenge in trying to do that.
Q. When the draw came out and you knew you were playing Spain in this round, did John speak to you at all?
PATRICK McENROE: Well... I mean, we speak often about whatever's going on in the tennis world. But he certainly remembers well what happened in Spain. I think he even said he'd be available to play (laughter), which I think he still says to me before every match. But, no, he did his -- look, he's obviously done what he's done as a player and put Davis Cup sort of back on the map at that time in the US more than anyone else ever has. He still cares a lot about it. I'm sure he'll be rooting for us to return the favor.
Q. Speaking of John, he wanted to be the captain so much. But in the end, are you surprised that it turned out not to be the job for him, being his personality?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I think that he's a guy that wants to do it himself. I think that he just was frustrated. He's also so committed to Davis Cup that when he saw maybe that not everyone has the same type of commitment that he does, that that was difficult for him. It was difficult for him to sort of, number one, sit on the bench and not be out there and control your own destiny, so to speak; and, number two, not see the passion from some of the players. It's hard. You have to realize that he had more than pretty much anyone as far as playing. I think he realized it was stressing him out so much that it just, for him, wasn't worth it.
RANDY WALKER: Anything else? (No response).
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you, everybody.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.