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April 8, 2007

James Blake

Patrick McEnroe


TIM CURRY: Questions, please.

Q. Bob said he would love to come back here in December for the finals if everything worked out all right. Could both of you comment on the possibility of returning in December.
CAPTAIN McENROE: First of all, we have a big match in Sweden to take care of. That's No. 1 priority. No. 2, obviously we had a great weekend here. The people came out and supported us to no end. We're incredibly appreciative of the local support. It was just an awesome atmosphere.
Davis Cup obviously, you know, one of the goals that we have at the USTA is to move it around, to take it to different places around the country. In saying that, this was obviously very successful. I'm sure we'll all evaluate the possibilities of what we could do.
Certainly there wouldn't be anyone on this team that would say they wouldn't want to come back here. All the elements are in place, this was a great event, a great tie. It's a big country out there.
JAMES BLAKE: I felt great here. Won all my matches so far here. Feeling pretty darn good. Have a lot of confidence playing here. Very welcomed by everyone. You know, I'd just be happy to be in the finals at that point to play it anywhere. I'd be so excited to be playing in a Davis Cup final. I'm sure the atmosphere here would be unbelievable. It already gave me goosebumps here for a quarterfinal. To be here for a final would be amazing.
But like Patrick said, it's a big country. I'm sure there's a lot of other places that would be pretty good atmosphere as well. I think playing in a Davis Cup final, no matter where I was, I'd have goosebumps.

Q. Patrick, you've now had two wins. Do you think you're going to have a hard time building back that momentum not playing till late September?
CAPTAIN McENROE: No, we won't have a hard time getting motivated and pumped up for the semifinal. The good news is it will be after a good summer of hard court tennis. The guys usually play some of their best tennis that time of year. You know, knock on wood, everybody's healthy, have good summers, and we can regroup for about a week, then get ready.
I'm certainly not worried about losing momentum. Obviously that's the part of the challenge of Davis Cup, you play two, maybe three matches sometimes within four or five months, then you have to wait so long.
It would be nice to go and play in a month, but that's not the way it works. Certainly we'll be real excited for the semis.

Q. Do you think you found a surface that works for the team? Everyone responded well to it.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously you play to your strength. In that happens to play into your opponent's weaknesses, great. We can tinker with the speed somewhat. There's no perfect court. It just depends on the scenario, who we're playing against. We might play a particular team where maybe we'd want it a little slower. Just depends.
Certainly we were real happy with the way it worked out here.

Q. James, you looked like you were shaking something off in your hand.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I was just -- I kind of jammed my thumb a little. It's fine. Happens when you play basketball or something. You just get a ball off your finger. Just popped a little bit. It's a little bit swollen, not a big deal. Same thing that happens all the time when you play basketball.

Q. Is it hard to play all out and yet play not to get hurt?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it's weird in dead rubbers. I've played a few now. You don't know exactly how excited to get, if you should really go after it. I'm probably not going to go out there and dive at anything, put myself in any kind of harm's way.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Thank you, James.
JAMES BLAKE: As I'm getting older, I'm learning that. But I also want to make sure to thank the fans for coming out, so I want to do my best, I want to play well. I'm going to still have the USA jacket on so I want to act appropriately and do my best and show my enthusiasm for the team and for the sport. I think I did that today. I hope I can do that in other dead rubbers after we clinch.
But it's fun. I like -- I end up having a pretty good time out there, usually smiling a little more than a normal match because there's less pressure. But there's still a lot of pride on the line. The guys want to win. So it was fun today and it worked out well. I didn't get hurt and I won a match. I think everyone had a pretty good time.

Q. Between-the-legs shot?
JAMES BLAKE: Maybe that will get on SportsCenter, then it will really be worth it.

Q. Can you comment on Donald as a practice partner. In the past you said he might have been hard to approach on normal tour events. You had a week with him. I understand you've invited him to practice with you in Florida.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, he's a great kid. When I said that before, I felt like he was kind of isolated. He wasn't maybe as outgoing to get to know some of the other players right away. I guess looking back, any 17-year-old would probably be a little bashful around some of the top players in the world.
He opened up a little more this week. We had a lot of fun with him. He is someone that's got a lot of talent. I hadn't really see him play much. After practicing with him, watching him this week, I know he's got a lot of talent. I'd be happy to have him come down and practice with me.
I think the best thing would be for him to practice with guys like myself, Andy Roddick, the Bryans, Mardy Fish, see how a lot of us train, how hard we work, how professional we are about it - most times - just to kind of get that experience at a young age. I was never able to get that kind of experience at a young age.
Once I did start practicing with guys that were better than me, that could beat me day in and day out, it made me practice hard, made me better. I think that's going to help him. I think he has the talent. I'd love to see him staying positive all the time out on the court. I think he gets down on himself, which I was definitely guilty of early in my career and probably still am. I am still human, I go back to it sometimes. I see a little bit of myself in that. I'd love to have him come down and train with me. Hopefully I could help him out and he could get over that at a younger age than I did.

Q. James, what goes through your mind when you hit a shot like that?
JAMES BLAKE: It was fun. Like I said, it's a dead rubber, so we're out there having some fun. As soon as I saw it go up, I started thinking about it, I think I can get to this one. This should be fun. Wanted to see if I could actually make it in a match.
It worked out. I had a feeling the crowd would enjoy that a little bit. I definitely enjoyed it, too. When you have a little less pressure, you can go for that, you still have this many people, 14,000 people there to watch, it's pretty exciting. Usually if you don't have pressure, that means you're on a practice court or something. To be out there with without that kind of practice, still have that kind of crowd, a pretty unique feeling. It was exciting.

Q. You wouldn't have tried that Friday?
CAPTAIN McENROE: No (laughter).
JAMES BLAKE: I think that's your answer. Would have gone back and hit the safe lob I learned back in Harvard, go back and get the defensive lob up, be smart about it.
TIM CURRY: James was No. 7 on Plays of the Week today from his first match win.

Q. James, we've talked before about the admiration of the people in Winston-Salem have for you, the bond you feel with them. How much about that grow this week?
JAMES BLAKE: It was unbelievable to have this atmosphere here. The first day I said in my first press conference how much it meant to me to have those people cheering for me and to get me over this so-called slump, to give me the confidence. It meant a lot to have Patrick having confidence in me still after not having played as well the last couple weeks, the team so supportive of me. It was a great feeling to know that I had that many fans cheering for me. They saw me at the beginning of my Davis Cup career and now hopefully right in the middle of it where I feel like I've grown quite a bit as a person and a player.
I hope they appreciate that. I definitely appreciate how much they came out to support us and how many people are here on a dead rubber Sunday where we're only playing matches that don't count. That many people here, it's really exciting. I'm happy to be a part of it. I definitely had a great time here again. I had fond memories of this place to begin with, and they're going to continue. I grew a few more fond memories this week.

Q. Knowing that you have to concentrate on winning in Sweden for anything to happen in the finals, also knowing the players do have a lot of control over where they wind up picking home sites, was Bob making an emotional statement on the spur of the moment or do the players feel that strongly about Winston-Salem?
JAMES BLAKE: I think you might be giving us as players a little too much player there. The USTA makes those decisions. We go along with what they say. We probably have a little more control and say in the court surface. We are in constant contact with Patrick about how quick we want it. He tests it out. That's the thing that we probably have more control over.
In terms of the actual city, I think that goes to the USTA. For us, we'd love to be back here. As the USTA, they have I'm sure a large mission in terms of getting this kind of tennis to more people throughout the country, to so many other fans that don't get a chance to see top-level tennis as well. We just kind of go with those decisions.

Q. Patrick, there's been a lot of talk this week about the camaraderie, the way the team has played together and grown together. How has it been in the past and why is it so hard to get this sort of camaraderie?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, since I've become the captain, it hasn't been hard at all. So I've been extremely lucky in that I came in at a time when these guys were starting out. They were just extremely excited about playing for their country. They're all great friends. They're great friends away from Davis Cup. They practice together. They train together. They do things outside of tennis together.
It really -- we're really lucky at this time that we have such a group that's that together. There have been different times where maybe some of the top players in the U.S. they weren't not friends, they weren't enemies, but they weren't great friends. It just makes for a little bit of a different feeling when you go there.
I think these guys don't feel like Davis Cup is a burden. I think they really enjoy the weeks together. The matches are great always in Davis Cup. It's the weeks of preparation and doing that, that's the tough part, the time commitment. But these guys genuinely I think enjoy the week together and doing things together.
So the last -- since I've been captain for my seventh year, is been awesome. That's part of the reason why I love it so much, is because these guys are always there for us. James has been a practice partner. James has played doubles. James has had to sit on the bench. Mardy Fish came here this week to support us. Sam Querrey came here to be there as a backup. These guys are setting an example, which is really the biggest thing, so our future players coming up when they're gone, when I'm gone as a captain, hopefully they'll have the same kind of camaraderie and commitment to it that these guys have. I think that's the biggest positive is for now and for our future players coming up. When Donald Young gets to come here and see what this is all about, when Sam jumps on a plane and flies across the country to be here as the second backup, those are all really positive things.

Q. Patrick, you alluded to some options that Sweden would have for the semifinal. Can you talk about those and Joachim Johansson who might be back from the injured list by then?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Obviously, if he were back, I think they would lean more towards a fast court because he has a huge serve, a good fast court player. He's had a lot of injuries the last couple years. I'd love to see him back. As a tennis fan, he's fun to watch. He's a tough guy to play against if you play him on a fast court.
Their players are more comfortable on fast surfaces. That doesn't mean -- so are we. We can play on clay. We proved that in the Czech Republic. Their guys are not as good on clay.
It's a decision as a captain, do I play to my strengths or to my opponent's weaknesses. That's always sort of a balancing act. Here we played to our strengths and so happened that was a Spanish weakness, just as they did when they played us on an extremely slow, heavy, wet clay court in Spain. Some clay courts can play a little bit faster. Obviously a hard court can be a lot of different kind of speeds.
Maybe they play us on a slow indoor hard court, for instance. That's not my problem to worry about. I'll get the call and find out what it is and we'll get ourselves ready after the US Open for that.

Q. Patrick, obviously no Davis Cup tie is easy. Certainly the ones at home are a bit more comfortable. Can you give us an idea of how difficult it is playing an away tie as it will be in the semifinals?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think the good news is that we've had a lot of experience doing that, this group. We've won in Belgium, won in the Slovak Republic, won in the Czech Republic this year. We've lost some big matches against Russia and Spain and France. James played there five years ago I think it was. We've been in a lot of different situations.
So, yeah, it's always harder to go on the road. It's always tougher. We've only lost, since I've been captain, one match at home. So obviously the record speaks for itself. But in saying that, I think we're as well prepared now to go to another country and have a very good chance of winning with the experience these guys have in tough situations.
I think when we look at the Swedish team, they always have a great camaraderie, the Swedish players. There's not guys in their lineup that would scare our guys. They're good, solid players, but I think if we go over there and play our best, we've got a good chance.

Q. Do you think about the fact, the suggestion is Gothenburg, the USA's record hasn't been that good?
CAPTAIN McENROE: We don't care where it is. We're excited to be going. These guys have never been to Gothenburg. I think I've been there once covering it on television, I believe. I barely remember.
As I said, it's all about playing those players. Obviously we're in a tough environment. I can tell you that these players aren't going to be worried about what the U.S. record has been there over the years.
TIM CURRY: If we should play against Sweden, it's a 50/50 chance of being home for the final. We would be at Germany or hosting Russia if we reach the finals.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Thank you, everybody.

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