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April 13, 2008

James Blake

Patrick McEnroe


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. James looking ahead, Spain on clay. Not necessarily your favorite surface. Guy said you're such a great athlete, he thought if you were patient, you could be good on the surface. Can you talk about that.
JAMES BLAKE: I've definitely heard that before. It's nothing new. I think I have the ability to play on clay. Had some tough losses. Last year at the French I thought I had a good chance to do well. I thought I was playing well on clay. Against a guy like Karlovic, doesn't matter which surface you're on, if his serve is on, it's going to be difficult. I have some pretty good clay court wins over guys like Moya and Murray and Almagro, Monfils. I know I can beat top players. It's just a matter of putting it together you a few in a row.
In Davis Cup, I'll just need two. Hopefully maybe just need one with this team. I'm gonna do my best over there. I think I have the ability on clay. It's just a matter of executing it and having the confidence. I think part of my game, being that I try to play aggressive and first strike, is confidence. Maybe from the beginning of my career, I didn't have the confidence on the clay, but I feel like it's getting stronger and stronger.

Q. Patrick, has this tie played out perhaps as bizarrely as any other tie you've been involved in in terms of the personnel choices by the opponents?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Not really. I mean, I think the French have a lot of versatile players. They have a lot of depth. Obviously they had some bad luck with Tsonga getting injured. He certainly would have added a lot of spice to the tie. So we missed having him here.
But, you know, so many crazy things happen in Davis Cup. To me it wasn't that crazy. I mean, Mathieu played a great match against James. Obviously he had match points. As well as he played, you could certainly make the argument he deserved to play against.
You know, Andy played great. That was one of the best matches I've seen Andy play. Any ball he had a chance to attack, he attacked. When he didn't, he played great defense, used his slice, used a variety, came in when he had chances to come in. I thought it was one of his best all-around performances today.

Q. We just heard Gasquet agreed to play the fifth but not the fourth match. What did you know about that as today went on?
CAPTAIN McENROE: We didn't know anything about it. We only know an hour before the match. We were all obviously sort of speculating on who we thought would play. Some guys thought Gasquet would play the first match today. Some guys thought Mathieu would play.
I guess for them, they had to try to win two matches. They were 2-1 down. Maybe they thought that the matchup was better the way they went about it.
I mean, I think they were up against it really no matter who they put out there, based on how well Andy and James were playing. I think they were probably the underdog in both matches, no matter which guy they put in.

Q. James, you were out there, Richard said his knee bothers him, maybe the blister wasn't a problem. Guy said that he told him he didn't have the confidence to play Andy. Did he appear injured? The first set he seemed right there with you.
JAMES BLAKE: No. I felt like he was playing fine. I think maybe the thing that hurt him was the fact that he didn't get as much time on this court as the rest of us did. He definitely looked like he wasn't as comfortable out there.
But I think that had more to do with the court than the injury. Never can tell. Some guys are very good at hiding injuries. Some guys are much more open. They can show it. You can see if they're in pain at all. So I don't want to ever speculate as to the way someone feels.
But I wasn't looking at it as I was playing an injured player and try to take advantage of getting him moving or anything on the knee. To be honest, I had forgotten that it was a sore knee as well. I thought it was because of the blisters. I wasn't even thinking about that.
Seemed like he was running all right. Definitely was serving pretty well. So I wasn't really thinking about taking advantage of any sort of injury.

Q. Patrick, can you address the semifinal, the challenges of playing on clay.
CAPTAIN McENROE: I'm real excited about it. I was kind of hoping to get a chance to play Spain. I think it's a great opportunity for us. I think it's sort of the ultimate challenge, to go to Spain, play against them on obviously slow red clay. I mean, I think we can do it. I think obviously we're the underdog. We know that. But to me it's an incredible opportunity. We've got a lot of experience now. We know what to expect over there. We know they'll make the court slow and heavy.
But as James just noted, he's had a lot of great wins on clay. Andy certainly has had some good wins, too. He hasn't played well at the French the last couple years. In one match, we're certainly capable of winning some singles matches. Obviously in the doubles, we'll be the favorite.
I think it's a great opportunity. I mean, I guess having won it, maybe it's a little easier to say it's a great opportunity because we won it last year. I think in that sense we're playing with -- you know, the monkey is off our back, we've done it. We go over there and say, This could be a huge win for us. If we could pull this out, it would be an incredible accomplishment.
Whatever happens, we're going to go over there, enjoy it, play hard, put it all on the line. That's worth it, too.

Q. Patrick, can you talk about how continuity over the past 10 ties has benefited this team, the good fortune of avoiding injuries such as the one that affected the French this week?
CAPTAIN McENROE: We're lucky that our guys have stayed healthy. But it's also a testament to how hard they work. All these guys, James and Andy, put a lot of hard work in in the off-season and in their off weeks. So I know coming into the Davis Cup week that they're going to be prepared, that it's just a case of getting used to the conditions and the courts and all that.
So we keep in pretty good contact. I know where they're at. But it says a lot about just their commitment to being a hundred percent as often as they can. Obviously you're a little fortunate. Obviously the Bryans take care of themselves to get ready to play doubles and to do what they do. Obviously everyone knows the camaraderie these guys have, the commitment they have to the team.
I think that plays into it, as well.

Q. I know September is far off. How important is it for the guys to post some good results this coming clay court season, maybe not fighting the Spanish, but in their own psyche?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, it would be nice. Look, it would be nice for them just as individuals. I think they're all capable of doing well over there and making a run if they get a break in the draw and get some confidence going.
Really, to be honest, it doesn't really mean too much to me as a captain because there's so much time in between. I would just like to see them do well 'cause I know how much it would mean to them to post some good results on clay.
Look, certainly it would help. There's so much time. It's very strange the way -- from the quarters to the semis, it's the longest break of any time in Davis Cup, even from last year to this year. It's almost half a year. So a lot can happen. Knock on wood, the number one thing is the guys are healthy. They're going to have a lot of tennis. There's three Grand Slams to be played. There's the Olympics. So there's an incredible amount of tennis.
The number one thing obviously for me will be hopefully they'll be healthy. Once the US Open ends, they'll have a little break and get ready to go over to Spain.

Q. Along with good health, you have had the good fortune to have guys who were committed every time they were healthy and able. You must sympathize with a captain who has a top-ranked players that he feels is shaky or not committed.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I've been very lucky as a captain of this team. I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. After winning it last year, I have a lot of people like you, friends of mine in the press, even fans saying, Hey, you think these guys are still going to want to play? To me it was never a question because these guys, they just love it. They're so committed.
It's not just about that we won it. It's about being there, being committed as a group. I'm lucky that these guys are great friends. They love being around each other. They love these weeks together. So I've been very fortunate as a captain to not have to worry about some of those things.

Q. Can you imagine yourself in a situation of having to talk somebody into playing?
CAPTAIN McENROE: From the time I became the captain, which was obviously sort of a time of transition in our players, when James and Andy were quite young, there were still some possibilities that Andre -- Andre did play, Pete did play a couple times. Todd Martin was on the team a couple of times. The attitude I always had and still have is if you want to play great. If you don't want to play, quite honestly, it doesn't do any of us any good to have you around if you don't want to play.
Generally speaking, if you're not -- if the player's not a hundred percent not wanting to play, they're probably not going to do their best, they're probably not going to play their best. It's not the kind of atmosphere you want for the rest of the guys.
So I'd rather have guys that are a hundred percent committed even if maybe they're ranked a little bit lower. As I've said, I've been lucky. We've had the best guys and they're a hundred percent committed.
JAMES BLAKE: I was just agreeing with him. We have that atmosphere. It means a lot that we come out here and we have fun. We all want to be here. We know that. I've heard stories from the past about teams that really weren't teams. They were very much individuals that would go out and play their match, not really be a part of team. I couldn't imagine being on a team like that. Our teams have all been guys that win together, we lose together, we laugh together, we cry together, we do all the stuff. We have a great time these weeks.
I couldn't imagine it any other way. Like you said, I think we play better. We wouldn't want it any other way. We wouldn't want someone to come in that might be ranked higher but is going to be a cancer to the team. We want guys that are going to have fun. We're so lucky as well to have the players be excited about it and also have a guy like Mardy Fish, a practice partner come in that is an absolute team guy. There aren't many guys 40 in the world that will offer to run down the street to get you Subway sandwiches, have no sort of ego about it, do whatever he can to make the team better. We're very lucky to have that.
I don't know why it is. I don't know what brings us all together, but we just have a good time.

Q. James, you got a couple looks at Nadal in recent weeks. Did you have any take-aways from that match you can maybe apply down the road?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I mean, like Patrick said, there's going to be a lot between now and then, especially the full clay court season where he's tended to dominate the last couple years. Each year it's been a question will he be able to do it again? Can Federer make some progress on the clay against him? Is there anyone that can withstand really his greatness on clay the last few years?
We'll see this year. I've never played him on clay before. I think that would be an interesting matchup. I definitely feel like the last couple matches, few weeks, I had chances. If I kept playing my game and executed the way I'd like to, I thought I had the opportunity to win those matches. But he just played a little better these times. We'll see if it's the same thing on clay. If it comes down to a point here or there, one breakpoint, who plays better, a tiebreaker, anything like that, if it comes down to that, I'd love to see how I pull out those matches, if I can pull out those matches. That's what I play for. I love those moments.

Q. Are you expecting the same kind of atmosphere as the '04 final?
JAMES BLAKE: I wasn't at the '04 final. I saw it on TV. From what I've heard from the guys, it was rough. I doubt they'll be able to get 26,000 or 27,000 like they did there. Any away tie is tough. I expect slightly unruly crowd, every once in a while a distraction, maybe a call not going your way, anything like that. But you prepare for that.
I feel like Andy and I and the Bryans have played so many times together that we've seen just about everything. We'll be able to deal with that. We're all maybe a little different in how we react to them, but we all do it the way that works best for us. For me hopefully that's putting it out of my mind very quickly and just moving on and facing the challenge head on. The fact that we're not going to have the home crowd, we're not going to have all our fans going crazy for us every time we hit a winner or hit an ace or anything, we'll hopefully face that challenge and conquer it.

Q. Patrick, if you ever had a player in a particular tie waver on wanting to play in a match, would you hesitate selecting him for that next tie as a player on the team?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I'm just going to say what I said, which is that I've been lucky that I've had players that want to play and that want to be there. Those are the kind of players you want to have on your team. So I'm not going to speculate on something has never happened to me as a captain.

Q. Patrick, it's an away tie down the whole road the rest of the year. Do you feel like you have learned to step up to that now a little bit better?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Oh, definitely. No, I mean, our guys have learned a lot. As James said, you're gonna get some bad calls, you're gonna get the crowd cheering in the middle of your serve sometimes. Quite honestly in yeast past that rattled our guys a little bit. I think both James and Andy have sort of learned how to deal with it. It doesn't mean you don't get ticked off. You're allowed to get mad, yell at me or the umpire, but you have to move on. You have to expect that those things are gonna happen. We're also playing against a great team. We'll be playing against a great team.
You put all that in there, that's why I say, it's the ultimate challenge. We've won some real good matches away in the last couple years, this year in Austria in very tough conditions, Czech Republic, we won there, Belgium, tough matches. Now we're playing Spain. So we've got to use all of our experience. Obviously we have great players so we know we can play with them. But it's really the ultimate test 'cause not only are you playing in tough conditions, but you're playing against great players on their favorite surface.
So that's why I'm looking forward to it. I feel like we're at the point now where we're not going to get rattled. We can lose, but I feel like we're gonna go out there and be prepared. I think we're going to give ourselves a chance to win.

Q. Your third Davis Cup tie here in Winston-Salem, they've all been unique, can you rate the experience?
CAPTAIN McENROE: It just gets better. Obviously last year we had a bigger crowd. I think we know some of the reasons why we didn't this year. The feeling in the stadium was tremendous. You see some of the same faces you've seen before. Just tremendous support from the community and from the people and the volunteers. The security guys are in here helping us out, taking care of us.
As I said yesterday on the court, we felt a lot of love from the people here. It's been great. Even when we go on to our next tournaments, the next matches, the guys talk about it very fondly. It's just another great source of memories for us and for the guys.

Q. Patrick, can you talk briefly about Michael's contributions as a practice partner?
CAPTAIN McENROE: He's a great kid. We finally got him to talk a little bit towards the end of the week because he was pretty shy, but that's probably smart when you're a practice player, to not talk so much. He's got a lot of potential in his game. I think it's gonna take him a little time to sort of figure out how to put it together. But he's got a lot of weapons in his game, good athlete, big serve, hits the ball well off both sides, got some variety in his backhand.
So I think he was great to have around. He worked hard, was there for whatever the guys needed. I'm expecting he's gonna make some serious moves in the next year. We had Donald here a year ago. He's already broken into the top hundred, which has been a good move by him. Michael I think is around the same age, maybe a year younger. We've got some good talents coming up with Querrey as well and John Isner.
These guys are great. With the younger players, they really take them under their wings, help them. My advice to the younger players is always, Keep taking as much as you can from these guys 'cause they want to help and they want to be there and help you out. So if they invite you to come to their house to practice, say yes.

End of FastScripts

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