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POWERSHARES SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 9, 2014
RANDY WALKER:¬† Thank you all for joining us today on this PowerShares Series tennis conference call.¬† Inside Out Sports & Entertainment, a division of Horizon Media, the largest and fastest privately held media services agency in the world, has announced the 2015 PowerShares Series schedule.
The series will kick off March 24th in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the series will next visit LosAngeles at USC on March 25th, followed by April 1st in Lincoln, Nebraska, April 2nd in Chicago, Illinois, April 16th in Austin, Texas, April 17th in Little Rock, Arkansas, April 18th in Dallas, Texas, April 25th in Boston, Massachusetts, April 23rd in Richmond, Virginia, April 29th in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 30th in Cincinnati, Ohio, and May 2nd in Vancouver, Canada.
Before we get to speak to our players on the call today, I want to introduce Jason Schoepke, the global brand director for PowerShares, the title sponsor of the PowerShares Series.¬† I want to ask Jason to talk a little bit about the relationship that PowerShares and you have with Champions Series tennis.
JASON SCHOEPKE:¬† Thank you very much.
Just briefly I kind of wanted to say we couldn't be more pleased with the business partnership with Horizon Media and the value the tour has provided PowerShares.
The agility exhibited by the tennis champions is an excellent reflection of PowerShares QQQ, one of the most traded securities in the world, and the other hundred plus exchange traded funds in the PowerShares family.
We appreciate the opportunity and are excited to be part of the tour next year.
RANDY WALKER:¬† Thank you, Jason.
We're excited to be joined by three of the top competitors on the PowerShares Series, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, and James Blake.¬† Before we get to the Q&A session for you all, we'll start with an opening question for each player.
James, you finished number two in the PowerShares Series last year behind John McEnroe.¬† Talk a little bit about the transition you had from the ATP Tour to the PowerShares Series tour last year, which I think was about five months, getting to play against players like Andy and Jim and John.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† It was a lot of fun.¬† With that intro, only five months since I retired, that maybe says I should have retired a little sooner if I can't quite get to No.1 on the PowerShares Series that quickly.
I think it says that McEnroe is still playing great.¬† It's going to be fun competing again with him this year.¬† I had a great time.¬† It was fun.¬† It wasn't quite the same hazing as you would get in college or being a rookie on tour or anything like that.¬† I guess guys have matured a bit.¬† So no real rookie hazing.
But it was a lot of fun to play against some guys I get along with great, have fun, have a ton of respect for.¬† I know the credentials it takes to get on this tour.¬† I'm proud just to be a part of it.¬† I had a good time and I'm looking forward to it again.
RANDY WALKER:¬† Jim Courier, this is the 10th year of Champion Series tennis.¬† Talk about the growth of the series from that first event in Houston back in 2005 to where it is now.
JIM COURIER:¬† Yeah, it's amazing how quickly time flies.¬† 10 years goes quickly when you're as busy as this tour has kept me.¬† It's been rewarding to see the trajectory of the tour, to see how it's moved from a multi‑day tournament setup to now these one‑night high‑energy fan‑centric tournaments that we play now over the 12 cities that we'll reach.
I love the fact we're able to get to so many new markets each year with this tour.¬† We'll be playing in six cities we haven't taken the PowerShares Series tennis to in 2015.¬† That's going to be fun for me to play in places like Lincoln, Nebraska, where I've never been to, let alone played tennis in.
I'm excited about the new cities.¬† I'm excited about seeing the younger talent on the tour like Andy and James, challenging myself to compete at their level, which is a big ask for me, but I like challenges.¬† I'll be seeing if I can take a couple of young scalps every now and then.
But the beauty of this tour is we have great players from a few different generations.¬† Fans get a chance to see some names they know in a competitive environment.¬† I like to compete.¬† This gives me an outlet to go out there and compete and try and stay good at something that I've been doing my whole life.¬† I'll be ready come March.
RANDY WALKER:¬† Andy Roddick, your transition from the ATP Tour to the PowerShares Series was a little longer than James'.¬† Talk about returning to competitive tennis and where it fits in your life and career now.
ANDY RODDICK:¬† I didn't play much tennis my first year out.¬† Last year Jim and I talked.¬† We've been such good friends for a long time. ¬†I said, Let's try it.¬† Let's kind of dip our toes in.¬† I think I played three nights last year.¬† I enjoyed it so much that I'm playing 10 nights this year.
I had a blast.¬† I think the format is great for fans.¬† A couple of one‑set matches.¬† Always high energy.¬† Everything matters.¬† Everything counts.¬† There's no boring spots the entire night.¬† It's just a really good way to go about playing a one‑night shootout.¬† I had a blast playing it.
RANDY WALKER:¬† We'll now take questions.
Q.¬† Jim, tell me what your thinking was coming back to Dallas.
JIM COURIER:¬† Well, Dallas is a market that we certainly enjoyed playing in.¬† Given that we're now playing indoors, we had looked at the arena there in Dallas.¬† We know they've made some adjustments to it, some upgrades.¬† It's a perfect fit for us to play there.
We enjoyed playing outdoors at SMU.¬† But I think going indoors for the one‑night aspect, given it is one night, we need to ensure we can control the weather, which Moody Coliseum does better than playing outside.
I think it will be a good experience for everybody.¬† Bringing in myself, Johnny Mack, Andy Roddick, Mark Philippoussis, who played well when we were down there in Dallas, I think it will be fun to have that group of guys down there.¬† It certainly will be very competitive.
Andy obviously is extremely fit and good.¬† Johnny Mack just doesn't like to lose.¬† I think we're going to have a highly entertaining, competitive night there in Moody.
Q.¬† The series has changed a little bit.¬† You've gone from the extended weekend to the one night.¬† Tell me what fans can expect from that.
JIM COURIER:¬† From a fan standpoint, we have some VIP activities that get going in the afternoon where players are on the court hitting tennis balls with sponsors and VIPs.¬† We have some behind‑the‑scenes stuff, cocktail party, et cetera.
For the general public who buys a ticket, who doesn't choose to upgrade into the VIP world, matches start at 7:00, doors open at 6:00.¬† Then we play three one‑set matches.¬† So it is two one‑set semifinals, first one at 7:00, second one starts somewhere around 7:45, then the two winners of those matches play in a one‑set final.
It's a hyper condensed tennis tournament.¬† As Andy mentioned, it's high energy, there's no down spots.¬† It's all action.¬† We get a champion in about two and a half hours from that tournament.
There are points that count towards the rankings on the PowerShares Series that players are playing for.¬† It's a situation for the fans where they know that on that Saturday night, April 18 in Dallas, they're going to see Johnny Mack, Andy Roddick, Mark Philippoussis, me, come in to play and battle it out.
It's a little like going to a basketball game or a hockey game from a time standpoint commitment and hopefully they get to see everything they want to see.
Q.¬† Andy, what about coming back to Nebraska, playing in Lincoln?¬† You played some exhibitions in Omaha.¬† Talk about coming back home.
ANDY RODDICK:¬† Yeah, I mean, when Jim and I first started talking about my interest level, how many nights that I was interested in playing this year, kind of just working it out.¬† He's got to juggle a lot of schedules, a lot of egos with the PowerShares Series.¬† I definitely staked my claim to wanting to play back in Nebraska first.¬† It was a priority for me.
I'm looking forward to it.¬† I've been to Lincoln many, many times.¬† Never played tennis there, but been there for football games a bunch.
I'm just excited.¬† I was thrilled when I saw that was a possibility for me to play there.¬† I thank Jim for putting me on the card that night.
Q.¬† Have you been at Pinnacle Bank Arena?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† I have.¬† I was there for an opening ceremony for an event there.¬† I don't know how long ago it was.¬† But I have.
I'm looking forward to it.¬† This is such a fun way to play.¬† We understand our best years are probably behind us.¬† But we all still want to win.¬† There's an edge.¬† It's 6good tennis, good personalities.¬† I'm excited that I'm a part of the tour that's coming through Nebraska.
Q.¬† A little bit off topic.¬† I would like a comment from Jim and Andy on the state of the superstar coaching thing that's going on.¬† Do either of you guys have any interest in doing that?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† I was asked this question a lot last week.¬† I don't really have any interest in coaching right now.¬† Is it surprising to me?¬† No.¬† They're able to get players who kind of have the itch to be involved again on a high level.¬† Obviously that's not going to be done through playing for those people.
When you get to a certain level, there's only so many people that kind of understand what you're going through, kind of know what it takes to break through at that level.
I'm not really surprised by the trend.¬† I view these coaches almost like quarterbacks in the NFL.¬† When things go right, they probably get a little too much credit.¬† Should they go wrong, they'll probably get the lion's share of the blame.
At the end of the day, most of these players were really good or great players before they came along.¬† It's just nice to have a voice beside you that you can put stock in their opinion confidently.
JIM COURIER:¬† Just to add on to Andy's statement, I think people overlook that Andy was the first one to hire a coach of this caliber when he hired Jimmy Connors.¬† Jimmy was the first guy who didn't really need to coach for any other reason other than he wanted to help a player who could do some great things.
I think it's become a little bit popular lately.¬† Obviously you could see the success rate has been pretty high.¬† I think it's understandable why that's happening, because of the reasons that Andy just laid out for you.¬† You know those anyway.
But to answer your question directly, from my personal standpoint, I'm glad to be involved with the Davis Cup.¬† That's my coaching outlet at the moment.¬† It's not something I would rule out.¬† I get old enough to realize every time I say 'never' like when I was 23 about playing Champions Tennis...¬† I won't say 'never' to it, but at the moment it doesn't fit with the lifestyle that I want and need to live for family reasons.
But I think it's wonderful to see these players that have meant so much to the game come back and give back to the game by being involved and adding to the star power.
I should mention James is involved with Jack Sock.¬† I think it's wonderful that James is able to lend his experience and expertise to one of our American players who obviously has taken to it and has seen his ranking climb significantly this year.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† He did say superstar coaches, and I don't know if I fit into that role.
ANDY RODDICK:¬† I want to add on to that a little bit.
I've been reading things here and there.¬† But I will say if James has any interest on a bigger level as far as coaching, in the development job that's open, I think it's a no‑brainer.¬† He's recently on tour.¬† I hope that happens, selfishly.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† Thanks, Andy.
Q.¬† James, could you summarize what your expectations are working with Jack?¬† You said you were kind of a mentor.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† I'm definitely not in the role of being the day‑to‑day coach.¬† That's Troy Hahn.¬† He's worked with him closely.¬† I help with some of the big picture type things, keep the mindset the right way, make sure he gives his opponents enough respect.¬† I think that's something a lot of younger players overlook.¬† Keep his mind in the right place.
I have been able to help him hopefully with some scouting reports since I am recently off tour.¬† Some of the guys he's playing I played, too.
I just feel like I'm, like you said, probably more of a mentor, someone helping guide him through some of the same situations I went through.¬† I'm not out there sitting there, working on his forehand, working on his backhand, strokes or anything.¬† He's got a full‑time coach for that.
I'm just adding in what I can.¬† I'm happy to do it.¬† I really think he's obviously got a ton of talent, gone from around 100 in the world to top 50 in a pretty short span.¬† Something that's impressive.¬† Hopefully he'll continue keeping that trend in the right direction.
JIM COURIER:¬† One last thought.¬† James finished No. 2 on the PowerShares Series last year, he's trying to get to No.1.¬† He did ask to me to help coach him on the tour, but I turned him down.¬† He is looking.¬† So you may want to put out there on ESPN, Tennis Magazine, and Tennis.com (laughter).
Q.¬† Something we've seen a lot recently at the World Tour Finals, a lot of people were saying the singles might have been a dud.¬† You see in the Davis Cup finals, it really came down to the doubles.¬† With Bob and Mike redefining what it's like being good at doubles, how come doubles isn't getting so much popularity and airtime?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† I don't know.¬† Obviously I think the Bryans are the exception to a lot of rules regarding the doubles tour.¬† If you have a small enough sample size of anything, you can make something a truth.¬† I think the World Tour Finals was a complete outlier as far as the quality of tennis.¬† I know people like to focus on that.
If you look at the year as a whole, the best moments in history have been on the singles courts, on the money end of big events.
Again, the Bryans are the exception to I think every rule in doubles.¬† But I don't see a changing of the guards as far as the No.1 product on tour anytime soon.
Q.¬† A question about mentoring.¬† All three of you have been in the position of mentoring the younger crop of American players.¬† What are your thoughts, what makes them different from your generation of players, temperament‑wise, perspective, pathos, ethos?¬† What do you look for in working with this generation of players?
JAMES BLAKE:¬† I would say the difference is they're just getting better.¬† The athletes are getting better and better.¬† I realized that as I was getting towards the end of my time on tour.¬† It keeps impressing me how good the guys are.
A lot of the other things are similar.¬† You got to put in the hard work.¬† No matter how much talent is there, you have to put in the hard work to be successful.¬† As now I'm sort of transitioning to helping Jack as a mentor, goes through probably the same frustrations my coach and people that helped me went through.
With this sport, you're coming into it at a relatively young age when you look at the grand scheme of thing.¬† You're making young people mistakes.¬† You're taking other players for granted.¬† You're not doing some of the things that you don't think are important.¬† You're not taking certain things seriously, whether it's the stretching, taking care of your body, eating right, whatever it is that you think of that is not a big deal.
Sometimes you have to go through it to learn.¬† Sometimes they'll actually take the advice of someone they respect.¬† I think that's why the mentor role is important because if you're listening to someone you really respect, then you're maybe going to take it a little more seriously rather than listening to some random person off the street.
I take the role seriously because maybe Jack will see I've gone through some of the same things he's gone through.¬† I think that's important.¬† Hopefully it can only help.¬† Hopefully it makes a difference in a positive way.¬† Maybe making the learning process, whether it be a little bit quicker or a lot quicker, hopefully just really helping and aiding in that way.
JIM COURIER: ¬†I don't know that I could say anything that would be helpful other than echoing what James said.¬† I think he nailed that answer.
Q.¬† Do you feel the work ethic issue, you were saying it's no different than your generation, do you feel it's a bigger issue with these guys?¬† I hear other coaches saying, We're competing against their cell phones for their attention, get them to focus.¬† Do you feel there's more distraction, any different at all than what you were going through at the same age?
JAMES BLAKE: ¬†Yeah, it's definitely different.¬† But we had distractions, too, whether it was sitting in the locker room playing cards, whether it was in general watching TV, DVD that just came out.¬† Now you're catching up on every movie.¬† Netflix comes out so you're binging watching shows.
There's always going to be distractions for players.¬† It's a matter of how they deal with them.¬† The further away you get from being a kid, you forget the same mistakes you made when you were a kid.¬† I feel like it's popular to say for someone who has been out of the game for 20 years, Back when I was doing it it was this much better.¬† The old saying of the older I get the better I was.
I think we're all maybe forgetting when we were 20 years old as well, we were probably distracted chasing girls or going out or doing whatever you're doing.
Now there's a ton of attractions, cell phones, Instagram, Twitter, whatever it is.¬† They're more technologically advanced to what they were before.
It can be frustrating I think to see a kid work really hard, putting in 10, 15 minutes on the court, then you take a break to get a sip of water and they have to check their phone.¬† It's annoying to see.¬† But it's similar to years past when we had other distractions, whatever they were.¬† Cell phones were brand‑new when I first started on tour.¬† It was really cool just to have a phone or something.¬† You always have distractions.
I do think it's similar.¬† I think there will always be distractions for kids this age.
Q.¬† Andy, you're playing April 16th in Austin, Texas.¬† Talk a little bit about playing in Austin.¬† You played a Davis Cup match there.
JIM COURIER:¬† And if he could remind how many spare bedrooms you have and which one I'll be staying in (laughter).
ANDY RODDICK:¬† There will be plenty of room for everyone except Johnny Mack, because he gets in a bad mood sometimes.¬† Besides that, everyone is welcome (laughter).
You know, it's no different than anything else.¬† Everyone in every sport loves a home game.¬† Again, I feel pretty lucky with the markets that we're visiting this year with Austin and with Nebraska.¬† Obviously a lot of history in both those places for me.¬† So I'm excited.
Q.¬† Jim, with the IPTL doing pretty well this week, pretty successful, I'm wondering if that is encouraging to you business‑wise, seeing there's a hunger for other formats rather than tournament after tournament for 10 months?¬† Do you think maybe we need a little bit more of this, other things for fans other than just tournaments?
JIM COURIER:¬† Well, I think that while all of us know what the focal point of the year is in tennis, which is when we get to the four majors, there's so many markets globally that have an appetite to see the star power that exists.¬† We exploit that here in the United States by playing in a lot of markets that don't have WTA and ATP events.¬† I think the IPTL is doing that in some markets as well overseas and taking players, current and former, to places that don't get a lot of tennis, like Manila, like Delhi.¬† I think there's room for that.
Obviously the question mark is over time at this time of the year, the 'off‑season', will you continue to get the same kind of support from players?¬† I'm sure they'll continue to do everything they can to make that possible.¬† There is a finite amount of energy that any player can spend wisely and effectively and get the most out of their career.
So depending on where you are in the spectrum of what you're trying to achieve on tour, extracurricular events are either great opportunities to make money that some players really relish, and for other players it may be too much.
I think time will tell with that.¬† I think what we do in the PowerShares Series is different because our players are no longer playing in the major championships.¬† Most of us are doing television or other stuff.¬† But this is a focal point for me, James, Andy and the other players as far as the playing parts of our lives.¬† So it's a little bit of apples and oranges.
I think it's wonderful if there's an appetite for tennis.¬† It's not surprising, given the star power, that there is that kind of an appetite.
Q.¬† Andy, you mentioned a few weeks back, you would have lasted a little bit longer on the tour if the season was more condensed or not as stressful on the body.¬† I want to tie that into the IPTL.¬† Do you think the sport is better served by a season that's shorter, playing 50 matches instead of 80, then there's a chance for you to market yourself to different events?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† Everyone is making a big deal, and I think it's valid, people saying we're asking for less time then playing XO's.¬† IPTL is a choice.¬† Don't hold the choice of a couple to play XO's in the off‑season and use that as majority vote.
There's a reason why people are playing after their season is over.¬† I'll trust you to figure out what that reason is.
But, yeah, I mean, my whole point last week saying I would have thought about retirement a little differently if there was an avenue on tour to play eight or ten events a year, kind of similar to the amount of nights I'm doing on PowerShares.¬† Once you start playing less than the mandatory events, you're actually paying to take tournaments off, which seems a little weird to me.
I think it's shortsighted in tennis.¬† Because there's no home team, you need to keep your individual stars in the game as long as you possibly can.¬† You can't tell me that Andre at 35 and 36 years old, that he wouldn't have value for the tour even if he were playing six or eight or ten events a year.¬† Golf has that avenue.¬† I think tennis should probably be a little bit more flexible with allowing people to schedule events later on in their careers.
Q.¬† James, you won your first PowerShares Series title last year in Salt Lake City, beating Jim in the semifinals, beating John McEnroe in the finals.¬† Talk a little bit about returning to Salt Lake City this year.¬† It's a new venue, the Huntsman Center.¬† Talk about returning this year.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† Yeah, it was a lot of fun last year obviously to get a win at any level.¬† Whether it's futures, challengers, tours event, or PowerShares Series, like Jim said, we're still competitive.¬† We still want to win.¬† For me going in the first time, I came in guns blazing.¬† I was looking for a win and got one.¬† I was pretty excited about that.
Hopefully this year will be a similar result.¬† I had a great time there.¬† This tour has really been a ton of fun for me.¬† Like Jim said, we get to get our competitive spirits somewhere still where some people, once they retire don't have that outlet, have a tough time because they miss that.¬† It's a big part of their lives for so long.¬† For all of us it's been a part of our lives for probably 90% of our lives, playing junior tennis, college tennis, pro tennis.
It's a great feeling to go anywhere and win, whether it be against McEnroe or against whoever.¬† To beat a guy like McEnroe is just sort of the icing on the cake for someone who I respect so much and grew up watching, idolizing, probably contrary to my parents' and coach's liking, I probably idolized his attitude on the court and therefore broke a few too many racquets on the court.
It was a good moment for me to beat him and beat one of the other people I look up to, Jim, for how hard he worked.¬† He outworked his opponent every time he went on the court.¬† That was something I tried to emulate.
It was a fun night for me.¬† Hopefully I'll have another fun night this year.
Q.¬† The other day Monica Seles announced she's going to be returning to Madison Square Garden with Gabriela Sabatini 25 years after their match at the WTA Championships.¬† She said nowadays men and women should play three‑out‑of‑five from the quarters on.¬† I'm wondering what you think of that.
JIM COURIER:¬† I think it's not news to me that Monica or some other women like Martina Navratilova would say or believe or feel that they want to play best‑of‑five.¬† In the era when equal prize money did not exist, they were certainly putting their hands up saying, That's not an impediment to us, we'll play best‑of‑five if that's what gets us equal prize money.
So if that's something that they want to do, I think they should go to the tour, their tour should take it up with the Grand Slams and see if there's an appetite for that.
As far as the men also playing from the quarterfinals of five, if I'm not mistaken, I think they did that in the early '70s at a few majors.¬† I'm partial, from my historical perspective, to playing best‑of‑five sets in the majors from the first ball in the men's game.¬† I think it does separate those tournaments from the others.¬† But I'm also not stuck in the past.¬† If it's something where there are benefits, commercial benefits for everyone, if the game becomes too physical...
For me, if the players are driving the discussion, and the players on both the men's and women's game, come to the majors with an organized voice and say, This is what we want, this is in our health's best interest, in the sport's best interest, they'll have the power as they've seen with the equal prize money movement, as they've seen with the increased prize money movement most recently.¬† If the players want something to happen, they have the power to do it.¬† They just need to do it.
If Monica believes now is the time, I would encourage her to go to Stacey Allaster and see if there's really a belief in the women's game that is something they want to do.¬† They certainly can do it.¬† They would certainly get my support if that's what they want.
If the men say they want the best‑of‑three going forward because it's no longer tenable because the matches are too physical, as long as it's coming from players, not administrators, who don't know what the heat of battle feels like, I'm fine with it.¬† If it comes from the ivory tower, I'd have a big problem with that.
ANDY RODDICK:¬† Now that I'm retired and don't have to do it anymore, I think the men should play five out of nine sets (laughter).
Q.¬† Do you think women can hold physically and mentally and emotionally for three‑out‑of‑five?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† That's not a question that's going to do me any good any way that I answer it.
But the other thing I guess you have to realize is, where is the time on the schedule for a Grand Slam event, especially considering two of them don't have lights?¬† Where are you going to schedule these matches?
It's a great idea in theory from somebody who doesn't have to do it themselves.¬† But like Jim was saying, just from a logistics standpoint of scheduling, we all know that the dollars from our sport come from television.¬† If they have to fit in four five‑setters in a day on center court, that's two days of play.¬† Logistically I think it's probably a little shortsighted.
Q.¬† You dodged completely the question.¬† I said, can the women mentally and emotionally play five sets?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† You understood the first part of my answer, right (laughter)?
Q.¬† James, playing in Boston on April 22nd, you had two great years at Harvard.¬† Have you played in Boston since you last played at Harvard?¬† Talk a little bit about what it's going to be like playing in Boston again.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† Yeah, I played since then.¬† I played TeamTennis there a couple times.¬† I was actually the practice partner, which was a great thrill, for the Davis Cup team when they played in Boston, Todd Martin, Jim was on the team, Alex O'Brien, Pete Sampras.
I had two great years at Harvard.¬† I feel pretty connected to that Boston fan base.¬† Still two, two and a half hours away from where I live currently.¬† It's still pretty close to me.¬† I love going up there.
It's going to be a great time to play in front of hopefully plenty of crimson shirts out there.¬† I know they still might be coming down from celebrating another undefeated season in football.¬† Hopefully we got a lot of good sportsfans out there with all their Harvard material.
Q.¬† Jim, as you've looked at the scheduling of PowerShares, you were in the fall for a while, now back into the spring.¬† Can you walk us through those decisions as far as scheduling, timing, money.
JIM COURIER:¬† Sure.¬† We were in February and March last year.¬† We've now moved the schedule into late March and early April.¬† A lot of what we look at, first of all we talk to the players to make sure this will work for their schedules because without players, there's nothing to even talk about.¬† The schedule has to work for everyone's personal life and their business life.¬† That's ExhibitA.
ExhibitB for us last year we ran into some weather issues due to the severe winter where the first six nights of our tour we had major, major snow problems with our talent and our staff getting in and out of town.
We wanted to avoid that this year.¬† We also want to avoid any conflicts with the tournaments in the United States, make sure we're giving space to the ATP and the WTA events that exist.¬† We have to be cognizant of that.
Those are the things that are the framework of how the schedule gets built.¬† Jon Venison and Jack (indiscernible) of the Inside Out team go to bat talking to the arenas, because that's another aspect, are these arenas available, because they have other events taking place.¬† It's like routing a concert.¬† We have to be mindful of other sports that are happening as well as different events.
It's a big jigsaw puzzle that starts with the players and goes through a few different iterations to where we get to today where we're announcing where we have these great 12 cities to play in.¬† It's like a sausage factory:¬† you want to enjoy the finished product but you don't want to know what it took to get there.
Q.¬† Did you ever feel like when you were training or practicing that clay courts really were softer on your body?¬† When you felt achy or pain, did you want to get on the clay, or it doesn't matter, training is training?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† I think that's too vague of a question.¬† For me I was actually having this conversation with Sergi Bruguera last week.¬† We were talking about obviously his body responded well to clay.¬† His favorite surface was clay.¬† His game and movement were suited for clay.¬† He talked about when he went on grass, everything hurt, his low back, his hips.
I think a lot of it depends on where your comfort level is.¬† For me on clay, I was such an awkward mover, when I slid, I would get a lot more groin pulls, kind of different things because I wasn't natural on the surface.¬† So I felt because of that I was probably more prone to injury on clay.
Now, if general coordination and lack of mobility isn't in the equation, yeah, there's no question that clay is probably a more rhythmic surface and softer on your body.
But I think to say to train on clay all the time is a little bit of an impossibility because, I mean, you're obviously not playing all your tournaments on that.
I think it definitely caters to the individual as far as where you're likely to get hurt.
Q.¬† Roger Federer just won't go away.¬† He's been front and center in the conversation for so many years.¬† What is so special about this guy?¬† What makes Roger Roger?
ANDY RODDICK:¬† Well, it's hard for me to say just because I was so dominant over him in our head‑to‑head (laughter).
Listen, I was not one of the guys who was jumping off a ship last year when he had a rough two months.¬† Roger is always going to be a great tennis player.¬† As long as his body is healthy, he's going to be one of the top players in the world.
He's never going to forget how to play tennis and he's always going to find a way to be effective even as the game evolves and changes.¬† For me it's pretty simplistic.¬† If he's healthy, he's going to continue to do what he's doing.¬† He has the benefit of being so athletic and graceful that he doesn't have maybe the wear and tear that Jim and I would have basically because we're not as talented and we can't do the things as effortlessly as Roger can do.
But at a certain point you run out of superlatives to describe how great he's been over such a long period of time.
From hearing him talk, he just really enjoys it still.¬† It doesn't seem like there's a lot of stress involved.¬† If he wins, it's awesome.¬† If he loses, on to the next one.¬† That's a pretty great place to be.¬† He's not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore.¬† He hasn't had to do that for a long time.
It's certainly been fun to watch and he deserves all the adoration that he's getting.
Q.¬† Grace plays a pretty important role in his longevity and success?
JIM COURIER:¬† Yeah, that's absolutely right.¬† The amount of energy that he expends per shot, if you could compare that to Rafa, I think would be substantially less.¬† I think we can all see that and hear that.¬† I think because he's not exerting himself as much, because it looks like he's in a ballet performance out there instead of sort of combat the way Rafa looks like, I think it's easy to guess that Rafa is not going to have the type of longevity that Roger is enjoying right now, as much as we'd all love to see Rafa have that length of career.
It's just a credit to Roger's grace and athleticism and coaches who taught him to play that way when he was a kid that he's able to do that, and we're all better for it as tennis fans, to be able to watch him do what he's doing, trying to defeat Father Time, which is undefeated as far as I can see.¬† Roger is putting up a pretty good fight so far.
Q.¬† James, on a different topic, obviously the events in Ferguson and New York and other cities have rekindled our national debate on race relations.¬† Serena tweeted after Ferguson, Wow, shameful, what will it take.¬† What are your thoughts on the situation?¬† What can be done?¬† Are we ever going to get to a post racial situation?
JAMES BLAKE:¬† Well, honestly I think we're getting there.¬† I don't think we're in a post racial situation right now at all.¬† I think those incidents are tragic.¬† I'm not one to say that it's the rule.¬† I definitely believe they're the exceptions.¬† There are good cops, there are bad cops.¬† Unfortunately right now there seems to be the focus on the cops that maybe aren't doing their jobs the way they're supposed to do them.
Those are tragedies.¬† But I think one of the bigger issues is the actual system itself that's in place that has an extremely disproportionate number of African Americans incarcerated than in my opinion need to be or should be.¬† I think the war on drugs was a total failure, putting violent criminals behind bars, and that makes it that we're not in a post racial society because punishments don't necessarily always fit the crime from different surroundings.
If you grow up in an urban area and are more likely to be in an African American community, there's a greater likelihood of being put behind bars.¬† That's the system that should be protested a lot more than these two horrible, horrible tragedies, which hopefully will shine a light on the system as a whole.
I think unfortunately it's been way too inflammatory.¬† The talks have been strictly about race when I think it should be more about the system in general that's hurting the African Americans more than just these two incidents.
The only thing I can say about the two incidents is that my prayers go out to the families.¬† I don't know how much is being thought of for the families and for the heartaches that they're going through.¬† Really we need to be thinking about helping them as opposed to causing any more violence, causing any more problems.
In my opinion, addressing the legal system as opposed to just the law enforcement officers that are at the center of the attention right now.¬† Like I said, there's bad apples, there's good apples.¬† We can't judge the whole of law enforcement by a few that do their job a little too, I don't know‑‑ they're not the ones that should be used as examples for law enforcement.
Q.¬† The USTA has its first African American president.¬† Your thoughts on that?
JAMES BLAKE:¬† I think Katrina will do a great job.¬† I also think it's the first pro player that is now a president, as well.¬† I think that's great to have someone that is a voice that's been there, that's felt the burn from long workouts, felt the pain and suffering of losses at big moments, the joy of victory.
I think it really helps to have someone like that with a voice.¬† I've worked with her actually at the Harlem Junior Tennis Program.¬† I'm someone that grew up playing there.¬† I'm a product of that.¬† I've been a supporter for many years since I've been on tour.¬† We've worked together on a lot of things there.¬† I know how good she is at getting what needs to be done done.¬† I think she'll do a great job with the USTA and look forward to working with her and helping her in any way possible in the years to come.
Q.¬† You were talking a little bit about doing some coaching similar to some of your contemporaries.¬† As far as American tennis is concerned, we've seen Patrick McEnroe step aside as player development for the USTA.¬† Do you feel any sense of responsibility for any sort of guardianship of our sport, being either consultants, coaching from time to time, just involvement in helping resurrect things to the level to when Jim was playing, Andy and James?
JIM COURIER:¬† I'll be brief just so the other guys can jump in, too.
I'm proud to serve as captain of the Davis Cup.¬† I'm proud to be a mentor, available to be a mentor to the guys that come on to the team, whether they're practice players or the guys currently playing on the team, and to be there to help them with any questions they may have down the line.
I think we've all made clear that being out on the road full‑time is not palatable for any of us.¬† Yeah, I definitely feel a responsibility to try to be available to the players, the younger players, trying to get up and through, or the players who are the veterans who might need somebody to bounce ideas off of.¬† I relish that.¬† I think all of us do in different ways.¬† I think all of us are probably more involved than you may know.¬† That's just fine, too.
I mean, I certainly want to see American tennis, men's tennis, get back to the heights that we've been spoiled by over the years.¬† I think it will be very hard to do that.¬† I think we're seeing some green shoots down below in the juniors.¬† On the women's side, it's clear there are some bright talents on the way up.¬† On the men's side we have some bright talents that are starting to prosper as well.
I know our expectations are high in this country.¬† But my expectations and hopes are to see players do the best they can with what they have, get as high as they can with what their skill set is.
I think we're seeing a lot of players make that good, positive move forward.
ANDY RODDICK:¬† Well, you know, I'm excited.¬† I think this next hire as far as player development is going to be a big one.¬† I do feel a responsibility to pay it forward.¬† I think everyone has to kind of work together.
When I retired, I made it known to the powers that be at the USTA if they ever had any kids they wanted to send to Austin for a week, with their coaches, I'm happy to hit in, hit balls, share what I know.¬† I didn't want any money for it.¬† Whatever it was.¬† I was never taken up on that offer.¬† Wanting to help and forcing yourself on a situation are two different things.
I think it is important to the next person that gets hired.¬† Frankly speaking, I hope it is James Blake.¬† That next person should connect the dots between generations and really reach out, kind of tap into the knowledge base that we have here in this country.¬† I think that's important.
JAMES BLAKE:¬† If I am the next person to be hired, if I got that offer from Andy Roddick, if I got that offer, I'd take him up on it.¬† I think there are things falling through the cracks that could be done better with the USTA.¬† I would love to fill those in and give my experience of what I did right on tour, what I did wrong on tour, what can help guys.
I feel like I'm in a position where I've been at almost every level, I've been a pretty bad junior, I've been a good junior, I've been through the college ranks, I've struggled on the futures and challengers tour, then I made it up to top five in the world.¬† I've had a lot of different experiences on tour.
Hopefully I can help a lot of players bridge whatever gap they're looking to bridge, whether it be coming from juniors straight to pros or college straight to pros, what it takes.
I also feel like I had such a great relationship with my coach Brian Barker, I spent so much time with him, I tried to learn a lot.¬† I would never put myself in the same sentence as a lot of the top coaches because I haven't had that experience.¬† But I don't feel like being the GM of player development necessarily needs to be out there coaching 24/7, but just be able to understand what the coaches are going through and be able to help them in any way they need help.
I do think I have hopefully a good perspective on what needs to be done to help a lot of players.¬† I would love that opportunity.¬† That's why I did throw my hat in the ring as a possible candidate.¬† I'm going through the process of hearing what they're looking for and what the deciding factors are.
If it doesn't come down to me, I'm not the best fit for them.¬† Like Andy said, I'll speak for myself, I also feel like I need to pay it forward.¬† In the next few years when I'm still a viable option to hit tennis balls with the younger players, if they want to come and hit and hear what I have to say about their games, do whatever I can, I'm happy to do those kind of things as well.
But if I'm given the more official title and role to do that, I'd really relish that opportunity.
RANDY WALKER:¬† I want to thank everybody for joining us today, especially all of our participants on the phone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports