October 14, 2001
WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA, J. BLAKE/H.Mankad 6 -3, 6 -0
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How does it feel to get this one out of the way and be back in the World Group?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Feels nice. As I have told you before, John, that when I took this job the people said that it might be a couple of years sort of before we were back in with a chance to win it. I started to believe in the beginning of this year that we could compete and have a good chance to win it next year. Obviously to be back in it makes that possible and certainly with the way that these guys played this weekend I am even more confident that we can do that. Obviously there's -- theY are up against a lot of great teams; tough draw; we'll find out this week. I walk out of here even more excited about the future. And I think the future is now, so, I think that's the best part of this week and in addition to winning this match and getting back into the thick of it next year.
Q. Talk about, I mean, Andy even though he had had a great year he's still 19 and he had a lot of pressure going into today. Can you talk about just his mental strength and what he was able to do out there?
CAPTAIN McENROE: He handled it really well. I told him during the match as it was going on that this was a real test of his composure because Leander was playing out of this world. The guy was trying sort of very low percentage shots and making them pretty much every time. And plays his athletic type of tennis and he's played some incredible matches before this Davis Cup so I knew coming in that he was dangerous. James handled him well on Friday, but he picked up his level a whole notch or two today and so did Andy. Andy came out playing well in the first set. For Andy to play well and lose his serve twice is incredible. But I just kept telling him that he just had to stick with it and keep working, not get frustrated and stick with his game plan and did that. To me it was another sort of marker in his development, that he was able to get through a time when the -- really the pressure was on him to win. Obviously knowing we had James was great, but I mean, you wanted to -- Andy felt the pressure to win both his matches because he was our No. 1 guy. So he did that and played better and better as the match went on.
Q. Of all the positives coming out of this weekend with James stepping up, Andy taking care of business, what are the most significant things to you about this weekend?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think both these guys got the experience of playing under pressure in Davis Cup and they are both young. As you said Andy is 19, James is 21 and that -- to get that experience now and knowing that there's so much room for improvement with both of them, you know, I mean, just even seeing James in that last match knowing that obviously he was -- there wasn't as much pressure on him but just to see the way he could play, to me says that there's no reason he can't play like that all the time. And against stronger competition. So I think both of these guys will take a lot out of that, James as far as how much better he can get, Andy obviously can get better but also the way he handled the pressure of being our top guy and knowing that we had to win this match to get back into the World Group.
Q. Talk about your match a little bit. Obviously cruised through. As you look back on it, what sticks out in your mind?
JAMES BLAKE: I think it helped that first game actually where I was down 40-Love and came back and fought for each point and I think I got five straight to win that game, and from then that eased the pressure on my serve so felt like I served really well today. I think that helped the fact that I let a little pressure off right away and could go for more on my serves and then I did well that first game and so had confidence on my serve. I really didn't feel like I was going to get broken; that in turn, takes pressure off the return games. I was able to let loose. Obviously there wasn't anywhere near the pressure if it was a live rubber. It's nice to have that in a match where you feel that good about your serve and you started out early playing well. Then I could go for more shots; they tend to go in more when you are that relaxed.
Q. Talk about this weekend, what kind of confidence did you get from playing so well this weekend?
JAMES BLAKE: Got a ton of confidence just great experience when Captain McEnroe gave me this opportunity and I tried to do the best I could, and I feel like my weakness -- some of my biggest weaknesses last two years is just that I don't have experience, I didn't have much experience playing at this level, and having this opportunity to play in a pressure filled situation in front of great fans at such a tragic time in our country's history, it was, I mean, it was great to be a part of it and to come out of it with a couple of wins was just, I mean, icing on the cake. I was going to learn a lot from this experience win or lose. I feel great now being a part of a winner. I have been 0 and 2 as a practice partner. Now I am 1 and 0 and I have been playing in live matches. I don't want to put my pressure on Patrick or anything.
CAPTAIN McENROE: A remainder. (Laughs)
JAMES BLAKE: Just to throw that out. I have learned a lot. It feels great. I mean, if I have get the opportunity again, I will feel like I am more prepared and better prepared which is all you can do is be as prepared as you can. If I don't get the opportunity again, I feel like I have this memory that will -- no one could ever take away from me and this accomplishment to be 2 and 0 in Davis Cup, I feel great about it.
Q. Evaluate James's play both today and over the weekend.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think his play speaks for itself. I think, you know, how much he's improved in the last 6 to nine months is remarkable. It is a testament to him, to his coach who is here, Brian, how well they have worked together. Other people that have helped James and his commitment. It's hard when you come out of college and you essentially dominate and then you come into the pros and you figure out that you are not going to dominate and you have to go back to the drawing board in some sense and figure out what you need to work on. James is willing to do that. I think that you know, he stepped up his game and he handled the pressure of playing Leander in the first match and you saw what happened when Leander can play well and get into a match. He's a very tough guy to play. He kept his composure and I think from today's match I think James can learn that the more he goes for his shots the better a player he is. That will help him when -- as he continues to rise in the rankings because then he will be playing better and better players.
Q. There has been a lot of negative publicity the last few years about players not wanting to play Davis Cup. Not wanting to be here. Can you just talk about how this weekend might validate your decision to just sort of, you know, form the team in your own opinion and take what you think is important.
CAPTAIN McENROE: My beautiful wife who is here who sang the National Anthem always gets sort of annoyed at me because I always focus on the positive. In some ways we have a little fun discussion about that. But that's what I am going to do no matter what when it comes to who is going to play and who isn't going to play. The first thing I said the day I got the job was that the people that play Davis Cup when I am the captain are going to want to play Davis Cup and that's it. That's the end of the story. If I have got to go down to kids who are 17 and find those guys that are desperate to play that's what I will do. I hope I don't have to. I don't think I will. I think with guys like James, Andy, and the doubles guys that were here and Todd Martin, you know, this makes it fun. It should be fun, No. 1. When you have fun and you are together as a team, good things happen. And I really believe that. And I believe that I want to do all I can to help these guys get better in whatever way I can. I want to see them do well. And the better they do, the better I think we'll do in Davis Cup. These are great experiences. You don't get too many of these opportunities in your career as an athlete, and especially as a tennis player when you are playing on your own it is such an individual sport and we all do our own thing and we have to in some ways, but these are opportunities that you cherish and so I just will always have guys that feel the same way about that. And I hope and expect that it will continue for a long time and we'll just have to see how it goes. But certainly it's a real boost of excitement about what happened here and the enthusiasm of the guys, I felt the crowd was into it and I think there's just a new sense of this is sort of a new start for us, and I think that will create a lot of interest from fans. People sense that. People sense when athletes really care and are motivated for the right reasons.
Q. Would you tend to think you will keep this team together intact or with Jan-Michael coming back --
CAPTAIN McENROE: I really don't know, John. I really haven't thought about it. These guys played great. These guys stepped up their games. They proved that they can win in these conditions. I am certainly going to weigh that heavily when we play the next match. We don't know where we are going to play; with whom we are going to be playing against, we don't know on what surface, so all those things will come into play. But certainly with the way these guys performed this weekend, I'd feel real comfortable and confident having them on the team again. But I am not going to certainly go say, well, what we are going to do until we see where we are at.
Q. Would you assume that you will be seeded or --
CAPTAIN McENROE: How many do they seed?
RANDY WALKER: 8.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I would think so but never know. You never know what they take into consideration. But I would imagine we would be.
Q. With all the positive feelings that you were talking about, do you foresee that maybe some of the guys the last few years maybe haven't been as enthusiastic ....
CAPTAIN McENROE: You mean Sampras and Agassi?
Q. Yeah, pretty much.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I don't foresee that and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it to be honest. I have said what I have said about them. They are incredible athletes, what they have done for tennis; what they have done for US tennis. It's time for the other guys to step up and I think today was a sign that they are ready. They are ready to step up. If those guys come knocking on my door, I will Open it, and we'll see where we go from there. But I am certainly not expecting it. I am not hoping for it in some way. I am excited about what we have here. I think people will feel that.
Q. I know you had total confidence in Andy winning but when Leander won the first set was there ever any time that that you thought that this might go down to the fifth match?
JAMES BLAKE: I was, as Courier and Captain McEnroe said earlier today, they said, James, you have a match today so I prepared like I had a match today. I didn't prepare any differently if it was to be a three out of five or a two out of three. I went out and watched a little bit of Andy. I saw how well they were both playing and I just thought I really hope Andy comes through, but either way, I was prepared. I keep saying all I can do is be as prepared as possible. And I knew when I went out there I was just going to have to play my game. I didn't know who I was going to be playing if it was live they might have put in Bhupathi, to me, it was just get ready for the match and get ready to play my game and be in as concentrated as I could be to do the best I could. I didn't really think a whole lot about it. I just thought that I had a match today and I prepared the same way.
CAPTAIN McENROE: That's what having someone like Jim Courier around is invaluable because that's difficult when you are next up and you are waiting and if you watch too much you get real emotional about the match, and you have to be aware of that. Having Jim who has been in that situation a bunch of times, was great because it leaves me to focus on what I need to do on the court, knowing that you have someone like Jim there helping James out, and just sitting with him, and helping him with his mentality because that's, you know, as James said we did say that to him. But it's still something that obviously your preparation is the same but there's still different factors when you know you are going out there to play the final match, you know it's a different situation.
JAMES BLAKE: Do they weigh coaches in when they come to seeding? I think we would be the top.
CAPTAIN McENROE: They should.
Q. I have got a story going in talking to your father. He talked about he loves being there when you won the French doubles, and some of your bigger moments he's always been at. Can you give me a comment on...
CAPTAIN McENROE: He has been a great supporter -- great supporter of all of us, my older brother, my brother Mark, I mean, in whatever we do. He loves Davis Cup. He and my mom are probably the biggest reason that we care so much about Davis Cup, me and my brother, and, you know, are inspired by it in a lot of ways. It's always fun to see him out there and supporting us and supporting the guys, even second guessing some of my decisions which, you know, he has been known to do in the past.
Q. Have you talked to John at all over?
CAPTAIN McENROE: John left a real nice message the other night and said to me to relay to the guys well done and he watched it on TV that day, so, you know, we still talk a lot about everything obviously, but he's very interested in how we do and very supportive of the guys and I think he along with all of us like the fact that we had some young legs out there and some young energy and realizes that that's good for us for the future.
Q. He doesn't second guess your decisions?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Oh no, not at all. Never. He still wants to play doubles, you kidding?
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