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March 8, 2009

James Blake

Patrick McEnroe


JAMES BLAKE / Marco Chiudinelli
6-4, 7-6(6)

TIM CURRY: Questions, please.

Q. James, the decision to actually play the fifth tie, was that something the captains discussed and you came to an agreement about or did you actually want to give the fans a treat?
JAMES BLAKE: No, I like to get the Bryans a little nervous and keep them on the edge of their seat as to whether they're going to play or I'm going to play.
In the end it's great to go out there and work on your game and give the fans hopefully a treat. Hopefully they enjoyed watching me play. I was going to practice anyway, so there's no better way than getting match practice in. Marco played well. It was perfect. I had fun. The fans had fun. It saves Bob and Mike from being pretty sore and maybe in an ice bath tomorrow.

Q. So you wanted to do that yourself?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. I think Patrick wanted me to play. He'd always like me to play, to keep getting the practice. Even though it's not exactly the same pressure, as a normal Davis Cup match, it's still the pressure of Davis Cup. You got the big crowd. Might as well get me more and more used to it so I'll be ready one of these days if it is a live fifth rubber.

Q. You haven't won, but you walk out of here walking on air.
JAMES BLAKE: Came in here the other day, came in pretty despondent. Doesn't matter as long as we get to three. I hope the guys have confidence in me if it was a live fifth. I don't look at this weekend as a loss or anything personal. I look at it that we got to three, that's all that matter, and we're going to Croatia.

Q. Patrick, can you comment on Andy's performance today.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I think we saw from Andy, I think he's improving, which I think is awesome to see. He's getting better. Obviously he's delivered again in a crucial situation for us. Sort of beyond that, the guy works extremely hard. You could see the subtle improvements in his game. That's all you can really ask of any athlete, is to try to get better. I think he's doing that. Just played a great match. Played aggressive when he could. Played defense when he had to. Made a lot of balls. Even took the offense when it was there, too.

Q. James, to what degree did you need the match today?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I hope at this point in my career I'm not hinging my confidence level on a dead rubber. It was great to win. It was great to play as well as I did, especially volley as well as I did, keep moving forward. Had I lost that match, I'd like to think that a week of practice in Indian Wells would have done the trick for me coming out confident next week. I lost to a great player in Stanislas Wawrinka, when he was playing, in my opinion, some pretty darn good tennis. I'm not going to let that affect me. I feel like my serve was a lot better today, which was one of the things that let me down the other day. If I hadn't have won today, I definitely wouldn't have let it affect my confidence.

Q. Do you feel like you played a small part in Andy's victory today having worked out Stan on Friday?
JAMES BLAKE: I don't think I did anything made Andy serve 140 miles an hour or make enough returns and put that kind of pressure on Stan. I like to think I might have had something to do with it, just being part of the team. I hope I give the guys confidence that I'll be ready for a live fifth. I hope I create a pretty good mood in the locker room, have fun at dinners, playing cards, keeping the guys lose. I don't think being tired had anything to do with Stan today. He's a very well-conditioned athlete. We're ready to play these kind of weekends. That's what we do all our training for.

Q. Both of you heard Justin's remarks, Umag on clay. Do you think that's a done deal?
CAPTAIN McENROE: We certainly don't take what Justin says as gospel (laughter).
No, I mean, whatever it is, it will be a tricky turnaround after Wimbledon, but we're all in the same boat, us and them. It's a good test for us. Got some very good players. Obviously Cilic is one of the great young players in the game. It's a great challenge. They're the only country that I've played as the captain more than once that we haven't beaten. Hopefully that will be some motivation for us.
But it will be a tough tie, whatever surface they play on.

Q. James, you have a great record going into Indian Wells. What are your thoughts going into that weekend?
JAMES BLAKE: I think it's brutal at times for some guys, the two weeks, but for some guys it's three and a half weeks or so of the time of year I have confidence. I feel great on those courts in Indian Wells. I the ball flies a little bit. The courts are relatively slow. I feel like it flies through the air, so it gives me an opportunity to attack and be aggressive. Miami, that kind of heat, the ball flies as well. I try to use my aggressive style that's been effective there in the past. I made the finals and had other success. Quarters last year. Played a good match against Nadal. Hopefully this year I'll go in there and have plenty more confidence.
It's usually a good feeling when you go into a place that you've had success in the past. You step in there, you remember all your positive memories, you remember how well you played, what you did, the mindset you were in then. Going into this week, I'll have hopefully a great week of practice. I'm sure Andy and I will hit a few times. Have a relatively relaxed first couple days, then really ramp up and be ready for Indian Wells. I'll definitely feel confident there.

Q. Patrick, when you look at Andy's record on Sundays, is there anything different about him on a match like today as opposed to Friday? Did he do anything today that surprised you at all?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I think he played better today. I thought he played more aggressively. Normally, obviously when he's playing on the Sunday, he's playing the better player from the other country. Sometimes, even when he wins on day one, he sometimes plays a little defensively because he doesn't have to go for as much to beat maybe some of the No. 2 players that he plays against.
I think he knew today he'd have to play aggressively when he had the chance, and he did that. At the same time he was extremely consistent. So I think that kind of wore on Wawrinka as the match wore on, that Andy was serving great, and the court certainly helps his service games here. He put a lot of pressure on Stan's service games throughout. I think that eventually caught up to him.
I think having that one match under his belt the first day, he usually seems to play in his second match.

Q. How does Birmingham's performance compare to Davis Cup cities as a whole?
CAPTAIN McENROE: It's been awesome. It's been a great week. The hospitality has been as good as we've ever had. We couldn't be happier with how the whole week went. People came out, got into the atmosphere, what Davis Cup is all about, and did it in a very sporting way, which is important to us, to show that our crowd can get into it, but do it the right way. I think overall it was great.
Hopefully down the road, if Birmingham wants us back, I think it would be a great opportunity for us to come back.

Q. Can you tell us about bringing the old goat if waffle house into the locker room today.
CAPTAIN McENROE: That was yesterday actually. She spurred us on during the week, so we wanted to thank her. Went out and got her some tickets. She seemed to be having a good time. We had a good time with her.

Q. Where did the team wind up staying this weekend? Was the location just a matter of convenience in terms of location, proximity to the arena?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Mostly convenience and proximity.

Q. What on the waffle house menu is suitable for a professional athlete?
JAMES BLAKE: I had three eggs scrambled, wheat toast, grits and a waffle.
CAPTAIN McENROE: These guys burn a few calories. They can pretty much eat anything they want.

Q. What about the captain?
CAPTAIN McENROE: I had a waffle, which I went for it. Shouldn't be doing that now.

Q. Andy came in before and told a funny story about his reaction being in the locker room when Mike made his guarantee. Did you not touch that?
JAMES BLAKE: We made fun of him. We always do. He's pretty much nicknamed 'the mouth'. We get a little nervous when the be mic is in front of him. We always have a good time. We have little things that the rest of the guys can make fun of us for. That's his. He didn't disappoint this time. Luckily Andy came through, because if he doesn't didn't, we were going to put all the blame on Mike. It's lucky for him that Andy was so clutch today.

Q. Patrick, Andy, watching him play today, at what point did you know he's got this thing where he wants it to be?
CAPTAIN McENROE: You never know. I mean, I've learned in my job as a captain that you never take anything for granted. You got to stay really focused or whatever your player needs, whether that's shutting up, which I was able to do a lot today because Andy was in control, or giving him encouragement at the right time. You never expect that it's over, you really don't. You just can't afford to do that. These matches are too important. Obviously Andy played great. You look back now, he never was in any trouble at all in the match. Even had more opportunities to kind of blow it open even in the second set.
He just played a very composed, focused, intense match. As I said, to me the biggest thing about the way he's playing is I think he's improving. You see he's coming in at the right time, making great decisions. He's aggressive when he has the chance. He's using his slice well. So I think he's becoming more and more of a complete player.

Q. The Love-30 game, serving for the set, goes down two points. It's not like he serves his way out of it. Was that kind of a lot of what you've seen in him?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Yeah, I think so. Look, obviously he's got one of the best serves in the game. That gets him out of trouble, too. When he get himself out of trouble with some defense, really smart strategy play, I think that's a sign of improvement, getting better. I think he's obviously in great shape. He's worked extremely hard. So I think he's just got more clubs in the bag to use at different times.
Oftentimes when Andy was younger, come in more, he'd come in on everything. Got to stay back more, he'd stay back on everything. Nice to see he's kind of figured out you can play a different style within one game and be successful. I think he's kind of found the right balance there.
TIM CURRY: Thank you.

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