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September 23, 2007

James Blake

Patrick McEnroe


THE MODERATOR: Press conference with the U.S. team.

Q. We just asked Andy this and we'd love to know from you also how you feel about how the team has evolved since the last time you were in the final.
JAMES BLAKE: Patrick is probably better to speak on that than me since I wasn't here for the other final. I was with them in spirit. I was watching it from home. But since then, to be a part of the team has really been an honor. This team, it's been kind of the same team, but we rotate in different practice partners and we have guys that are there if we need them. We know that if Andy or I were to get injured or the Bryans were to get injured, we have guys that are willing to play. It's a great feeling to know we're all so supportive of each other. I just hope it continues that way. I don't see any reason why it won't. We have such a great team dynamic, I think.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think that, you know, obviously there's more than just these four guys. Like Sam Querrey being here a couple of times has been really big for us to have him. Mardy Fish has been there, and other practice guys as well. So that, you know, should be noted.
At the same time I think all these guys have improved individually and in their own games. At the same time, you know, they just are there for each other more and more. It just makes it more -- it makes I think the weeks more fun for us and for them. Even when they're not on Davis Cup weeks, these guys are real tight and really pull for each other. So it definitely makes I think the journey that we've all had, we all have enjoyed it.
Obviously to get one more step, hopefully we can win it, would be great. And I think we all feel like we honestly did it as a team. At different times James has pulled Andy up, Andy's pulled James up, one of them losing the first day. That's real important.

Q. Patrick, talk about Andy's performance today. Also under pressure now, 9 for 9 in the series clinching matches.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Yeah, I thought he was really workmanlike today. He served extremely well, as he has all week. Obviously the surface helped him in that department. He didn't do anything out of his comfort zone. I think he just played real solid. Jonas played particularly a great second set to get to the tiebreak.
I think Andy's just handling the pressure moments really well in Davis Cup. He's obviously very high-strung in a good way, energetic. Sometimes that could get the best of him when he was a little younger. Now he rides I think the emotional wave a little better in these best-of-five-set matches because you're going to have some ups and downs in these matches, even if you're playing well and everything's going well. I think today was just another example of him sort of weathering a great set from Jonas and playing a great tiebreak.

Q. Your reaction, the team's reaction, upon finding out you'll host the final in November.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Everybody's pretty excited about it. We knew either way it would be a tough match. Germany certainly would be tough away. You know, the opportunity to play a final at home, we've never had that chance as a team. Even in the other -- I think we played one other semifinal at home in all these years. So to get the final at home certainly is a big plus for us. Russia's obviously a great team. They have a lot of good players that can play on different surfaces. We'll try to play to our strength.

Q. Now that it's over, can you tell us how sick everybody really was this week.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, everybody at different times was sort of fighting a bug. I think it hit John Roddick first.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Isner got it pretty bad, then Andy got it, then James got it a little closer to his match than we would have liked. Bob got it a little bit yesterday.
JAMES BLAKE: Last night.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think it's been kind of going around. It hasn't been anything that's been completely debilitating, but just sort of zapped energy for like 24 hours or so. So it's been difficult.
JAMES BLAKE: Pepto-Bismol can be our new sponsor (laughter).

Q. Bob was actually sick for his match?
CAPTAIN McENROE: He wasn't a hundred percent as far as how he felt in the morning. But he said in some ways he felt like it helped him just sort of focus and he kept his energy just focused on what he needed to do. Obviously the guys played an incredible match.

Q. Andy just promised that the final wasn't going to be on clay. I'm assuming you concur with that?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Yeah, that's for sure. Yeah, it will not be on clay. It will be on a relatively quick court. We have just haven't decidedly exactly what it will be or where it will be. We know there's a couple options. But court-wise we make the decision, me and the players, on what the actual court will be, what they want it to be, and then I do the best I can to make sure it's right.

Q. James, I know Andy just told us about his attending his first Davis Cup when he was nine the last time there was a final hosted in the U.S. I know the Bryans went to one. Did you ever have a chance to go?
JAMES BLAKE: No. My first experience in Davis Cup in any way was I watched on TV. Kind of cornered, made sure to section off the TV in the common room in college, my sophomore year '99, when they beat Britain in Birmingham, watching Courier beat Rusedski. It was just inspiring. Then later that year I got a chance to be a practice partner, their next tie in Boston, since I was just dropping out of Harvard, starting on the tour. They gave me a chance to be a practice partner, meet guys like Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin. I was more than a bit nervous and I hopefully did my part as a practice partner.
But Gully still gives me a hard time about -- having the easiest job of practice partner ever. They really only had one court. So the guys would just hit with each other most of time. I would sit there my sandals on and sunglasses and watch those guys beat up on each other. I was having a great time.
The intensity, once the matches came around, was something I had never seen anything like it in college matches or even normal pro matches. I was stoked from the start to see that.

Q. Patrick, you had a very dramatic match last year against Russia in Russia. What kind of lessons can you take from that, apart from never playing on clay?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, we did play on clay this year and we won against the Czech Republic. You know, obviously that's the toughest surface for us.
You know, we have a lot of respect for Russia because their players, first of all, they have a lot of depth. They have different kind of players that can play on different surfaces.
But obviously playing at home, we'll play the surface that we like the most. Some of those guys play well on that court as well. But we'll feel pretty comfortable. But certainly we'd like to get a little payback against them. They beat us in a big match there. This one is even bigger, considering it's the final.

Q. Talking about finals, can you remember any big finals you were a part of as a spectator or supporter or player?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I remember the one in Texas when we played Switzerland, "we" meaning the United States, when my brother played doubles. They had Sampras, Agassi and Courier that were on the team. That was a pretty darn good team. Played against Switzerland in the final. So I remember that.
Obviously I remember a few of the ones my brother played in when he was our No. 1 player over the years, which there are a lot of them. For us to get the chance, for these guys to get the chance to win one I think would just be huge for them. It would be just a huge accomplishment, especially since we've been doing this for a lot of years together as a team. I mean, James played in the first year I was a captain, 2000, 2001. Andy played that year as well. So that's a lot of matches and a lot of years.

Q. How big will it be for you personally?
CAPTAIN McENROE: It will be great. It will be huge. I enjoy the ride. I enjoy the journey with these guys because they're so committed and they're so easy to be around and they love playing, they love playing for their country. For me I love every match.
But obviously the goal is always to try to win. To win would be huge for me, too. I mean, to watch these guys accomplish what they've done, continue to get better, and most importantly do it as a team, would be an incredible accomplishment for all of us.

Q. As a captain, your strategy in team spirit from your players, would you close the team? If John asks to be on the team as part of the bench, cheer, or Jimmy Connors comes along and says, Can I be part of the team, would you open up the doors for the final or you would say, No, we'll keep it tight, just me and my mates?
CAPTAIN McENROE: We make those decisions as a team. Obviously I try to be the leader in that sense, but I always listen to these guys. Basically I want to do what they feel comfortable with and what they want to do because that makes for the best team camaraderie.
I can safely say I don't think you'll be seeing any people that haven't been around sitting on our bench, no.

Q. Patrick, can you talk about the main differences, obviously James and Mardy, between the team that went to Seville in '04 and this team? Do you feel this team is much more complete?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Yeah, I think obviously. First of all, they're all better. They're all better players. They have more experience, which I think is really key in Davis Cup. As I said, these matches are, first of all, physically very demanding being best-of-five, and emotionally. I think that's the biggest difference that the guys have now, they're very focused and don't -- try not to get too up and too down in the matches. Obviously playing at home is a huge advantage for us.

Q. Do you think the United States, the crowd, can match what we all saw together in Seville?
CAPTAIN McENROE: After what we saw in Winston-Salem, I believe they can, yeah. I believe they can. It was an awesome crowd. I know the guys were really fired up about it. Wherever we go for the final, I certainly hope it's the same.

Q. Playing the week after Thanksgiving, is that problematic scheduling-wise?
CAPTAIN McENROE: No problem, no. There will be no problem.
JAMES BLAKE: Just be working off our Thanksgiving turkey, so it will be perfect.

Q. James, I know you're in a situation where you're trying to qualify for Shanghai. Do you think you'll tweak your schedule knowing your season is going to be extended?
JAMES BLAKE: No, no. I'll definitely still do my best to make Shanghai. I always planned on playing these next four tournaments, Stockholm, Madrid, Basel and Paris, then hopefully Shanghai. Hopefully Andy and I will both be over there, have a chance to rest a little, be with our families for Thanksgiving, get ready for this.
The only thing I may do is tweak my schedule for next year. It will be ending later than the year mine has ever ended. That might mean I'll maybe start a week later next year just to give myself a little bit more of an off-season or more like my off-seasons of the past.
I won't tweak my schedule this year at all. And I think I'll still have great preparation to get ready for this Davis Cup match. All those tournaments are going to be on hard. Hopefully in Shanghai, I had some success on that surface. I think it's a relatively quick hard court. Should be good preparation hopefully against the best eight players in the world to play in the States.

Q. So you're staying in Sweden then?
JAMES BLAKE: No, no. I have to go home first because it's in two weeks. I'm going home for about a week and a half and then coming back to Stockholm.

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