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September 4, 2007
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
TIM CURRY: Thank you, everyone, for joining us. We have U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. The U.S. will face Sweden in the semifinals in two weeks, September 21st, 22nd and 23rd, in Gothenburg. Patrick will announce the team that will be traveling to Sweden.
CAPTAIN McENROE: We will be taking Andy Roddick, James Blake, Bob and Mike Bryan, and Sam Querrey and John Isner as our two practice players/extras.
Q. Patrick, talk a little bit about the surface choice. This time it was a little funky, a gray area. Usually you get the clay. This time you didn't know what they were going to give you.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think their guys are obviously a lot more comfortable on fast courts, which obviously we are, as well. I think it was a tough, tough choice for them.
You know, clay might have been tougher for them to deal with than us. I don't think we were that disappointed when we heard it was a fast hard court, particularly coming off the Open, the guys playing all summer on this kind of surface.
So for us, you know, the number one thing for me is for the guys to be eager, ready, well-rested, because they've played a lot of tennis in the last couple of months.
Hopefully Andy will play a little bit more. But, you know, just for them to come over, be ready, we won't have to make that adjustment to clay. If it would have been a clay court match I'd be worried about the guys immediately trying to start practicing on clay. I'd rather see them take a little time off, come over to Gothenburg ready to practice hard for a few days.
Q. Can you assess the presumptive choices for the Swedish team.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think they're a little up in the air. Soderling pulled out of the Open. He has a wrist problem, from what I understand. I'm not sure if he's going to be able to play.
I really don't think -- we probably won't know till the last minute. Obviously, Thomas Johansson will obviously play. Andy beat up on him pretty good here.
The Swedes have a great history in Davis Cup. They always play well, usually play above their ranking, where they are. We're certainly expecting a tough match. You have Bjorkman, who will certainly play the doubles, maybe even play singles as well.
I just think it depends. Soderling would certainly be their No. 1 guy. With him somewhat injured, I think they have a few more question marks.
Q. What have you seen from Andy so far in this tournament in terms of state of game, evolution of game?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think he played a pretty good summer up until Cincinnati where I didn't think he played well there. He had a great match against Johansson here. I was a little disappointed that he didn't get to play a full match yesterday. I think he was, too.
It was a tough first set. He's played Berdych a couple tough matches, including in Davis Cup this year.
I think he's ready. I think he's ready to take on Roger. Obviously Roger is the favorite, but I think Andy, he wants to put himself in these positions, to get another shot at him. I think that's why the Wimbledon loss was so disappointing for him.
I've seen a lot of positives in the way he's doing some things. I'd love to see him continue to progress. I'd like to see him be a little more aggressive at times. López was a good example last night of just sort of coming out and firing from the start. I think that's the kind of game that Andy needs to play at times against Roger.
We'll see if he can do that. But I think he's worked extremely hard. He's put in the hard times on the practice courts. I mean, he's ready for these types of matches, so let's hope it's a good one.
Q. Do you think our squad is a good road squad, or do they still need some things?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think any squad is a better home squad. Davis Cup, it's always a big advantage to play at home. Certainly our guys thrive on the home crowd and the energy of that.
I think Andy has done a great job over the years on away matches. I think that's the next step for James, to be honest. That will be a big part of my job, is to get him to play as well away as he played a couple matches this year at home.
He played great against Spain. I thought it was the best match he played in Davis Cup, beating Robredo in straight sets. Clearly James thrives off that positive energy, just as he's played well here the last few years.
Hopefully we can get him to play that same kind of match on the road. But Andy's proven it. He's beaten Berdych, won some big matches on clay on the road for us. And the Bryans, doesn't matter where they play.
Q. Speaking of James, following yesterday's events have you spoken to him? Do you think he's going to be even more pumped up for this semifinal?
CAPTAIN McENROE: You know, he's disappointed. I mean, I spoke to him briefly after the match. He's got nothing to hang his head about it. He put on a great performance. He was a little unlucky certainly not to win one of the match points. Credit to Haas who hit three great serves.
I think James was tired. I think he's played a lot of tennis. That caught up to him a little bit mentally and physically.
Overall, he's in great shape. Physically he's in great condition. He's played a ton of tennis. I told him, Don't even look at a racquet for at least a week. I'd like to see him just rest and be eager to come back because, you know, obviously that was a disappointing loss.
But he'll be fine. The guys always circle these weeks as big events for them. I think they know we have a real good chance to go all the way this year.
Q. You have been together for a while. What do you think is their greatest asset?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think their togetherness. Their enthusiasm, number one, for playing Davis Cup. I've been captain seven years. Roddick has missed one match because of a serious injury. So that's pretty amazing. That's pretty incredible for any country to have their No. 1 player over that long a period play.
I mean, he's played everywhere. He's played after he won the US Open, a week later, in Slovakia. He's played after his biggest -- when he lost in the first round here, again on the road on clay.
I think it's their commitment and their energy. They just love being there. They love being with each other. They bring that kind of passion every time.
Q. What have you seen out of Isner that made you want to bring him along?
CAPTAIN McENROE: His height (smiling). Well, obviously I saw him play a lot in Washington when he had that breakout tournament. I asked him right then because I could see that not only does he have the game, but he's got a great attitude. I love his enthusiasm. I love his intensity on the court.
Even when he played Roger here, you know, he wasn't intimidated at all. I think he's got a tremendous upside. Obviously coming out of college tennis, that's a great opportunity to get another team type of player that understands what we're trying to do as a unit. I think he'll fit into that really well.
Q. Do you see him having the potential to be the next big thing in American tennis?
CAPTAIN McENROE: No pun intended, yeah, I think he's got a great chance. I think we have a lot of positives come out of this US Open already, irrespective of what happens in Andy's next hopefully couple of matches.
Sam Querrey has had a good summer. He didn't play well here. Donald Young, I was just thrilled about how he's played, his progression. So between Sam Querrey and Donald and John, just right there I think we have a lot to look forward to.
We've got some other kids coming up a year or two behind them. All of a sudden I think we have a lot of positive energy going forward.
The answer to your question is, I think all three of those guys down the road could be playing Davis Cup, sure.
Q. Are you excited about the prospect of maybe hosting the final?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Yes.
Q. Are there any cities out there?
CAPTAIN McENROE: At the moment it seems to be down to four cities right now in the hunt: Portland being one; Winston-Salem where we played the last one; Oklahoma City, where we had a tremendous tie; and San Diego. We played a match there obviously last year.
So those at the moment are the four cities. We're hoping within a week or so to maybe narrow it down to two.
Obviously we all know we've got to win the next tie. My job is to get the guys ready to play Sweden. But because it's such a quick turnaround, obviously we have to look into some possibilities. It is a difficult time of year to find an arena in an appropriate location with hockey, basketball, all those things going on.
Q. Do you see a favorite with Russia and Germany?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think Russia is the favorite, playing at home on clay. They're the clear favorite. You know, we certainly would love to see them win, if we win, assuming we win, to play them at home.
Q. Is there a feeling going into Sweden, a sense that this is really our best shot here?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think we have a very good attitude about it. I think we've been in there. Obviously we made the semis last year. Going to Russia was always going to be a tough match. We made the final. Going to Spain is about as tough as you can get.
I think we feel like we've got a great chance. We won a big match on the road early in the year against the Czechs, which was big to do that, especially on clay away.
I mean, I think we feel like we've got a great shot.
Q. Is this a bigger challenge with the Bryans with Bjorkman in the mix there, maybe something they're not used to in a tie situation?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, they did play Bjorkman a couple years ago down in Delray. It was actually Bjorkman and Johansson. You know, the guy they lost to yesterday, Aspelin, is Swedish. He could possibly play. They'll be ready.
I think part of the reason that the Swedes actually picked a fast court is it gives them a better chance in the doubles, to be honest. I think if they played us on clay they'd probably have no chance in the doubles.
On a fast hard court, a little bit of an equalizer in doubles. When we played the Spaniards with the big serves, it's a tight match. The great thing about the Bryans is they're prepared for anything. They know they're playing Bjorkman and whomever on a fast court. It's probably going to come down to a couple of breaks in the whole match.
But they come in with the mindset of ready to do whatever it takes to win the match.
Q. People criticize the Davis Cup format-wise, saying it should be in one place, concentrated, period. Sitting here talking about this stuff, them choosing the fast surface, doubles angle comes into it, is something vital lost if Davis Cup ever gets changed?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think something might be lost, but I think more overall would probably be gained. I'd like to see it somewhat change, yeah. Now is not the time and place to get into it. I think overall for the event it would be better, you know, to maybe have four teams in the semifinals.
I think you could still keep some of that home and away, by the way. I still think you could keep some of that maybe early in the year, and then have sort of a final four or eight teams go to one location and make it more of a Grand Slam type of atmosphere. If you did that every other year, I think that would be great for tennis.
I think you make a very good point, is that you want to keep some of that, you know, who gets to choose the surface, all that, the variables about the doubles. Obviously me having the Bryans as a doubles team always is a risk because you can only have four players.
A lot of people think that you should have five players. So I put my hand up for that. I'd be all for that (smiling). That's our own self-interest.
A lot of people think that's better for Davis Cup. But there are a lot of traditionalists that never want to change anything. I think there should be some changes made.
Q. Have you been to Gothenburg before?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I was actually there the last time we played there announcing, when we lost, was it '96? Last time we played in Gothenburg, U.S. team?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I was there when we lost that match.
Q. Swedish tennis has a great tradition. Are the crowds...
CAPTAIN McENROE: The crowd are into it. They're not rude I think in any way. They're very vocal. They're somewhat similar to our crowd. Our crowds don't usually scream in the middle of a serve. We've had that happen in other places.
You know, the Swedes, they have a great team environment, too, which is something that we've been very luck to have for the last number of years.
Q. You're in the unique position of having been captain of the Davis Cup team as well as an Olympic coach. How would you say the Olympics are different than Davis Cup in terms of attitude?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I always felt the Olympics should be more of a team format myself. To me the Olympics is losing a golden opportunity to have it sort of team against team. I think that would make sense in the Olympics because the problem for the Olympic -- obviously, to win an Olympic medal is huge. That's why the tennis players go. But the Olympic event is set up just like any other tennis tournament.
I'd like to see it be somewhat different. I don't know if you're familiar with the World Team Cup, the event played right before the French Open. It's an exhibition. But it's two players and a doubles team. They play in one day. They play three matches.
So I think the idea of, you know, the U.S. playing Sweden in the Olympics is Roddick plays first, Blake plays second, if it's 1-All they play a doubles. To me that would be really exciting. You get country against country. Maybe you'd be able to come up with a system within that where players could win individual medals, as well. They do that in gymnastics.
It was different, is the answer. The Davis Cup feels more like a team, like a real team. As the Olympic captain, obviously it was a tremendous honor to be there, to be amongst the best athletes in the world, but it was really like just another tournament as far as the day-to-day routine of it.
Q. This Open has opened up a lot of people's eyes about countries that weren't considered traditional tennis powerhouses. Do you think in the days to come the Davis Cup World Group will change? Are you going to see a Serbia?
CAPTAIN McENROE: It's already changed. I mean, Croatia winning. Croatia/Slovakia was the final a couple years ago. It's already changed a lot. Part of the beauty of Davis Cup is you can have two great players. You don't need seven or eight.
The power countries, you know, like us or France or Spain, that have multiple players in the top hundred, don't necessarily get the benefit of that, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just the way it is.
But I think you're already seeing that. Serbia could certainly end up being a serious contender. Look what's happened in Australia. They're playing Serbia to try to get back into the World Group.
So it's definitely changing. I think what you're also seeing is a lot of teams coming in and out of the World Group. You're seeing a team like Chile, who if their two guys are hot, can beat anybody. They played us in the quarters last year. Then all of a sudden they're playing Belgium, these kind of teams, Czech Republic.
Teams between seven and eight and 20 now that are all kind of come and go. Even since I've been captain we've had to play twice to stay in the World Group.
I think that's how it's changed so much, is that you're seeing different countries sort of come in and out of the top 16.
Q. Word is that the practice partners have to go through a little hazing. What's in store for Mr. Isner?
CAPTAIN McENROE: You'll have to talk to the guys about that.
Q. You don't have any say in that?
CAPTAIN McENROE: A little bit. Depends how far it goes. We try to keep it in good fun, which it usually is. We always have someone maybe has to say a few words, talk to the big group. That's had its moments over the years.
No, it's great. Part of it is spending that time off the court with the guys. I think the biggest thing that I know guys like Sam Querrey and Donald have learned the last couple years that they've been there is, you know, they see the guys off the court, they play cards, they have fun, they trick around.
But when they get on the court, you know, they're incredibly focused and serious. I think that's the biggest thing that the young guys can learn about the work ethic, sort of the day in, day out grind of trying to be a top player, what it takes.
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