September 6, 2001
NEW YORK CITY
ART CAMPBELL: We're joined this morning by USTA president Merv Heller, Patrick McEnroe and Arlen Kantarian. We'll begin with a statement from Mr. Heller, then we'll open it for questions. Merv.
MERV HELLER: We'll probably give it to Patrick, too. I just want to first of all welcome you. I originally thought that this was going to be at 11:00. I was ready to scurry from some meetings that we had, then it got moved back to 1:30. Probably there may have been a reason last night that people didn't want to get here too early. (Referring to Agassi -Sampras match the previous evening.) I don't know if any of you are still waking up. In the glow of last night last, probably one of the most dramatic and historic matches we've ever had at the US Open, it's indeed an honor and privilege to have you all together to introduce Patrick as he's about to announce the team for the qualifying round that we have against India September 21 through 23rd in Winston-Salem. We're delighted with our promoter down there, Don Flow, and the team he's put together. It's my understanding, if it's not a sell-out already, you better get your tickets by today. The interest there is sky high. We are delighted that against India we'll have a very enthusiastic American crowd. With us also is our Chief Executive of Professional Tennis, Arlen Kantarian, who not only is in charge of the US Open, but also because Professional Tennis takes the role and lead in the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, as well. It's going to be a real treat down there. We're really looking forward to the matches. Without any further ado, I'd like to turn it over to Patrick for his statement.
PATRICK McENROE: Thanks, Merv. Real quickly, I'll announce - if you haven't seen it already - the six players. I've decided to go with a six-man team for this particular match. I've obviously been thinking about that concept a lot when I took the job, to have as many players as we can with the possibility that they all will play. Those six are: Andy Roddick, Todd Martin, James Blake, Robby Ginepri, Don Johnson and Jared Palmer. They all come in with the expectation that they all could play. Obviously, I will have to submit four players I believe ten days before the tie as a technicality really. So that is not going to be the four necessarily that we'll choose the day before the tie. We're going to go to North Carolina, we're going to train, we're going to practice. At that time we'll make a decision on who the four players are that will represent the team. I'd like to also announce here that Jim Courier will be joining the team as a coach for this particular match. I'm very, very excited about that. He's going to bring all his leadership and his experience obviously in Davis Cup to the table. He's excited about being there and helping out the team during the week that we're there. All that is to hopefully continue what I've been trying to do, which is create a nice team environment - obviously for this match and for the future. I'd particularly like to point out that Todd Martin, who has played in so many matches over the years for us, always called, understands the role that he's going to be in. He's the consummate team player, the consummate guy to play for his country. He's going to come down there, practice and prepare. He's coming with the understanding that he may not be one of the four, just as the rest of the guys come with that understanding. I just want to note that from Todd, that because he's done so much for US tennis and for Davis Cup, and he's made it clear that he's willing to sacrifice again and be there as part of the team whether he plays or not. All the players know there's no guarantees whether or not they're going to play. Everyone is coming in with that attitude. I'd be happy to take any questions.
Q. Did the Bryans eliminate themselves here?
PATRICK McENROE: It was an ongoing process. You know, I watched both these teams play a lot of matches this summer. Obviously, their performance here wasn't great. If they'd won the tournament, they'd have a real better shot. All in all, Johnson and Palmer have had a better year. They've won Wimbledon. They're in the finals here. I've watched them play a lot of matches this summer. I've watched the Bryans play a lot of matches this summer. I feel the Bryans obviously have an excellent chance in the future. They've gotten a lot better this year. In my mind right now, Johnson and Palmer are a better team, a better doubles team. I felt that, obviously considering the singles options, et cetera, that that was the most telling factor in my decision.
Q. When did you decide that James Blake would be right for the team?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, he's been improving a lot in the last six months. Obviously, he took a couple of huge steps this summer. Obviously, what he did here was a tremendous effort. He's been playing well all summer. He played well in Newport, had a couple great wins in Cincinnati. He was with the team in Switzerland. So obviously his performance here was a factor. Watching him play the way he played against Hewitt, before his legs gave out on him, was impressive. So he's certainly someone that's made huge strides in the last six months.
Q. Can you talk about this team as it represents a transition to a younger generation?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, it's a nice mix, obviously, when you have Todd in there. You know, Todd is someone that has a lot of respect from the young guys, and he gives a lot of advice. A lot of the young guys listen to him and take a lot of pointers from him. So whether he pllays or not, he's a positive. Obviously, he's been through a lot of wars. Having Jim there as someone the guys can learn from and feed off of, I think is a positive. Certainly Johnson and Palmer are veterans as far as the tour goes, but Don has never played a Davis Cup match.
Q. Could you give us an update on Jan -Michael?
PATRICK McENROE: Could I finish my response first. Don has had a great career and has worked many years to I think get this opportunity. He will be playing in his home state, which will be exciting. So it a nice mix. Obviously, it's a nice mix of the young guys and some of the older guys, and that's important. It's important to have those guys, you know, feed off of each other.
Q. Can you give us an update on what you know about Jan-Michael's injury right now, how long it's likely to be before he can play again?
PATRICK McENROE: I spoke to him last week, obviously talked to the doctors about his testing. He needs at least a couple of weeks of really doing nothing and maybe light rehab before he can even start hitting. So he has a slight I think rotator cuff tendonitis. Don't quote me on the medical parts of his problem. He certainly needs a few weeks to completely rest and rehab, and then start playing. To throw him into this mix and put him out there and have him show up on a Monday and practice for three days was not something I wanted to do. His health is the number one issue, the number one concern for me - now and for the future. I want to see him get a hundred percent and hopefully be able to play a little more this year and be ready for next year.
Q. Is it absolutely certain that no surgery is indicated?
PATRICK McENROE: Not that I know of.
Q. Two observations. The first one is I'd like to congratulate the USTA communications department. It's huge in our country (India) for this coming tie. It's been a great job in public relations coming about the USTA tie.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you.
Q. The second thing is, your illustrious brother has been one of the greatest Davis Cup players of all times. Perhaps in India he has one of the largest fan following among tennis stars for the last 30 years. What is the kind of influence that the name "McEnroe" generates for the feeling of being inspired to play for your country? Will Davis Cup be a huge factor in the coming moments of American tennis?
PATRICK McENROE: We hope so. It wasn't such a huge factor last year with some of the players. You know, everyone has to make their own decision. No one is going to question your statement about what my brother has done for Davis Cup, done for tennis, et cetera. That's obvious. That's all well in good, but it's time to get some young players, it's time to get some excitement building about Davis Cup in this country. It's time to try to create a spirit and unity amongst our players. I've said from the beginning - and I'll say now - I feel if that happens amongst our players, over time it will start to happen with fans. People will see how much these guys care and how much they want to be part of a team. That's an ongoing process.
Q. In the past you've said that you went with two singles players to play doubles, the reason being, you had to have a team that you felt pretty good about. Apparently in Johnson and Palmer, you think you can win the doubles.
PATRICK McENROE: I do. I definitely do. I think they're the best team out there right now. They're our best team by far. They may very well be the best team in the world. Their record this year is phenomenal. They've lost I believe five matches. I've watched them play a ton of matches. I've played against them a little bit in Team Tennis - not that I'm someone that is at their level. But it's good to go out and actually play against guys. I feel they're the best team out there. So I feel we have an excellent chance. You're right, I feel you go with singles players unless you really feel strongly that you have a great doubles team. I think we have a great doubles team.
Q. How disappointing is it to not have the guys from last night (Sampras -Agassi)?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, it's not disappointing. It was great to see last night. Last night was a great night for tennis, a great night for the sport. Those two guys have done a lot and they're doing a lot. I know where they're coming from as far as Davis Cup goes. I haven't lost any sleep over it. It's an opportunity for other guys to step up. They've done their part. If they ever want to talk and want to think about coming back, you know, I'm certainly keeping my ears open. But it's always been something that you want to go with guys that want to be there.
Q. You mentioned the issue of how much these guys care. How important is to it have a guy like Andy, with the promise he has, express how important he thinks Davis Cup is to him?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, obviously it's huge. I mean, obviously Andy is a great kid and a great player. He enjoys the team concept. He enjoys being around the other guys. He's got a lot of energy. He likes the concept of the team. He's excited about playing tennis, no matter where it is. He's excited about getting on the practice court. Hopefully we can keep him along having those same thoughts for a long time.
Q. Todd Martin is coming off some injuries. He struggled against Robredo here in the second round. If you need a singles win beyond Roddick, are you comfortable that Todd is in the physical shape to go best-of-five?
PATRICK McENROE: I'll know that the day before the match. You know, that's obviously part of the conversation that I've had with Todd. He understands that. He understands that he has to be a hundred percent fit. I've told him that I'm not going to put him out there if he's not. It's not fair to him. It's not fair to the team. If he's not a hundred percent fit and ready to go, he'll be sitting on the bench. He's the kind of guy that understands that. That's why I made my comments about Todd, because there's some players that might necessarily not want to do that, when they've done all he's done in the sport. He's willing to do that, willing to understand that he's got to be ready. If he's not, we have some other kids that will be champing at the bit to get the opportunity. It's all going to come down to who I think can win the match. That's what's it's going to come down to. It will be nice to have someone like Jim Courier there to help me in that process.
Q. Are your plans to come into North Carolina on Monday and will you actually be in Winston-Salem for a week?
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, we'll come in probably Sunday, take it easy, play a little golf, relax, guys get together. Maybe we'll have a light hit on Sunday. Starting Monday we'll have a couple of good, hard days of practice. The court should be ready probably Monday. It has to be ready by Monday. We'll come out and get ready and spend the week there.
Q. Will there be any practice partners besides the six?
PATRICK McENROE: No. This is a six-man team.
Q. As hard as it is to get players like Sampras and Agassi to play regularly, do you have any thoughts on possibly revamping Davis Cup to make it every two years or four years?
PATRICK McENROE: We all have all those ideas. Unfortunately, to get the ITF to commit to doing that is difficult, to say the least. We all look at it from our perspective, the American perspective, which isn't necessarily the rest of the world's perspective. You know, I happen to think it would be better off if it were every other year, if it were played over a format where four teams could get together, like a Final Four, play a huge event, ten-day event. With the tennis schedule and the powers that be, it's difficult to get everyone to agree - it's almost impossible. That in a way is sad because Davis Cup is such an incredible event. But my job is to field the best team. You know, obviously I have my opinions on that. But my job is to field the best team, inspire the guys, hope that they want to play. Because still, even the way Davis Cup is, it's well worth being there and being part of it.
Q. Can you talk about the guys from India, the challenge they're going to present, also the importance of winning the tie.
PATRICK McENROE: It's pretty important. The Indians have always been very tough in Davis Cup. They've always sort of played beyond what they play normally, say, on the tour in Davis Cup. Leander Paes has probably had the best matches of his career in singles in Davis Cup. Their doubles speaks for themselves. They're capable of pulling off upsets. Our team knows that. The guys know that. They spend week-in and week-out with Bhupathi and Paes. They know how talented those guys are. It's a tough match, but it's a match we believe we'll win. At the same time, obviously as far as relegation goes, we would not like to spend a year in relegation.
Q. You've grown close to Andy this year. Can you give us an insight into his personality, how you think he's coping with the adulation that is being poured upon him?
PATRICK McENROE: I think he's coping with it well. I think there's always a transition period for the young guys when they break through, have that much success that early. I think he's handling it well. I think he listens, he learns. He loves to play, number one. He loves to compete, he loves to be out there. He does like the big stage. I saw him play his first match at the French, Wimbledon, here, first time he played on center court. He just can't wait to get out there. Obviously, his game is obvious, what his weapons are. His attitude is great. He just enjoys it. So all in all, he's handled it real well. As much or as little as he wants me to help him, I try to do that.
Q. One of the other TV commentators, your brother .
PATRICK McENROE: One of those other guys (smiling).
Q. He said something about having concerns about his long-term health because of his serving motion. What are your thoughts about that?
PATRICK McENROE: I think it's probably overblown really. I mean, he realizes now, especially as he's playing more matches, the matches are tougher, that fitness is more and more important. He's still young. When he got hurt at the French, they went and did the test on him. He was still growing. That's what the doctors told us in France. Tarik, his coach, has done an incredible job come bringing him along slowly, not making him do too much. And I believe that if he physically takes care of himself and trains, does all the exercises that you need to do, that it won't be an issue. But it's always a problem for any tennis player - if you have perfect technique or not. If you actually went down and analyzed his serve slowly, technically, you'd see it's a pretty good-looking serve. It's just got a lot of power. Look at what Roger Clemens is doing this year. He throws as hard as anyone - the guy is 38, 39 years old - because he has taken care of his body.
Q. Can you talk about how Jim became involved? Is there a chance that he might be assisting you beyond this tie?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I hope so. I think there's a chance. We're doing this match to see how it works, to see how it goes. My desire when I took over as captain was to create a unity and create a team spirit. What better guy to get involved than Jim Courier? I've had discussions with him over the last really six months about doing it. He's excited about doing it. It's just to send a message and to have someone else that we can knock around ideas with. We've decided to not have the players' individual coaches come during the week. We're going to try to really have a good team spirit going. One of the reasons why I try to spend a lot of time with the players and their coaches is so that I know during that week what works with them and how to work with them. I feel that's the message we want to send to our guys, that we want to be there as a team, and it has to be about winning that match. You've got to put some of your own individual interests aside to do that.
Q. All indoor courts obviously don't go at the same speed. What specifications are there for this particular indoor court? Have you already examined the surface, know it's what you're looking for?
PATRICK McENROE: The surface is going to be exactly as it was at the San Jose tournament and at the Davis Cup last year in LA, if you remember when we played at the Forum in LA. It's a relatively slow indoor court, which will work just fine for our players. I've obviously had many discussions with them over the last few months about it. The court will be laid down, and I'll be there to test it out a day early before the players come, in case there's any adjustments that need to be made. I don't envision any problems. I've had many discussions with the guys that make the courts. Hopefully they'll be just as we ordered them.
Q. One might think Andy would want a very fast court.
PATRICK McENROE: One would then be wrong (smiling).
Q. You have to go back to 1927 to find someone who has come onto a Davis Cup team as late as Don Johnson. Can you talk about how he's become so good so late in his career?
PATRICK McENROE: It's a real tribute to him and what he's been able to do. I think it's a remarkable story. I mean, when he first started on the tour, he was a guy that no one knew, scrappy guy, pretty good athlete. But he's developed his game. He's won with many different partners, especially over the last couple years. He won the doubles championship last year. He's a great team guy. He brings a lot of energy to the court. He's great for Jared. They work well with each other. You know, there was a part of me that said, "It would be great to have the Bryans because they're the youth, the young guys." There's another part of me, when this whole debate started in my own mind about which team to go with, "Wouldn't it be great to see Don Johnson play because all he's done." At the end of the day, they're a better team right now. It made my decision easier in that sense. It certainly is nice to see Don get the opportunity to play after all the work he's done and all the wins he's had. To play in his home state I think will be exciting for him and I think it will be a great atmosphere in the doubles match.
Q. How closely did you consider naming Chris Woodruff to the team?
PATRICK McENROE: Not very close.
Q. The last time India and the US Davis Cup played, they won 5-0.
PATRICK McENROE: I remember it well.
Q. You played the doubles. Todd Martin is a person still playing.
PATRICK McENROE: We wanted to bring back the good memories of that win (laughter).
Q. Do you have any plans to involve Richey involved somewhere?
PATRICK McENROE: I'm going to get him a great seat behind the bench.
Q. He was your partner that day.
PATRICK McENROE: That's right. He's playing in the 35s. I went out and watched him the other day, him and grab, my expartners. They said, "What are you doing, looking for us as a team?" "Probably not."
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