February 7, 2006
LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA
TIM CURRY: Welcome to the predraw press conference with the US Davis Cup team. This is the second consecutive tie that Captain McEnroe picked Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers to represent the US, the last being in a relegation match in Belgium in September. Open up the floor for questions.
Q. What is it like to represent your country and play in this thing?
ANDY RODDICK: It's great. It's sport's ultimate honor, whether it be the Olympics or any other international competition, is to be asked to represent your country. I think it's a pretty big deal, and I think that's why all of us up here are so committed to the Davis Cup cause.
JAMES BLAKE: Similar sentiments. I feel like, especially in our sport, being a relatively isolated sport, you're out there a lot of times competing for somewhat selfish reasons, yourself, you're representing your family always, but to represent something greater, being your country, is really an honor. It's also for me a great deal of fun to be with guys I get along with so well. I've heard of other ties, other countries, that have very separate teams. Our team is one that enjoys hanging out together and having a good time. So I couldn't imagine anything different. So I'm proud to be a part of this team, and as well friends with these guys.
Q. Patrick, is your team as prepared as you would like it to be?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, we look pretty good. We've had a good couple days of practice. The guys, as you heard from them just now, are always really motivated to play, play well in Davis Cup. They always seem to play well. We expect a tough match. Romania has a couple very tough players, good guys that are veterans. Pavel especially has played a lot of Davis Cup. Hanescu has had a very good last year especially. He's a tough player. We expect a tough match. We're certainly looking to be primed and ready to go.
Q. Patrick, it seems like there's a perception that overall men's tennis in the US is down right now. Can the Davis Cup be a way of getting it back, showing it's not down?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, that's a little bit tough to call that perception accurate. I mean, I understand where it comes from, but at the same time, you know, we've got the No. 1 doubles team in the world, we've got Andy who is No. 3. Even at the US Open when Andy went out early, we had two of the four semifinalists and three guys in the last eight. It's a little bit tough to say that we're that down. We've now got four guys in the top 20, including James who has just gotten into the top 20 for the first time. You know, tennis has changed. Tennis is a lot more of a global sport than it's ever been. But to get to the meat of your question, sure, Davis Cup can help. But we don't -- these guys don't really care about that because they just like to play and just like to be part of the team. When we went to Spain and played in front of 27 plus thousand every day in the final, it's not as big a deal here as it is there, but it doesn't really affect us because we love to play, and these guys love to play, play for their country. We just want to win it. These guys have been together for quite a few years now, and I think we've got a great chance to go really far this year.
Q. I think four of the top 10 players in the world are not playing Davis Cup at least this round. Can you speak to the idea of whether there is a perception problem globally among players about participating and whether you see any kind of a pattern in that?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, the problem is really the schedule is overcrowded. That's really the problem. I don't think it's a Davis Cup problem, per se. It's a tennis problem. I think the new head of the ATP has a pretty good grasp for that, Etienne. I think he realizes that some changes need to be made. At the same time now is not the time to go into detail I think about changes that could happen in Davis Cup. I happen to think there are some that could help it, but at the same time we don't really think about that. The problem is an overall tennis problem with the powers that be. Davis Cup, you ask any of the top players in the world, is one of the most unforgettable events you'll ever play as an individual. It's disappointing that some of the guys can't play. At the same time I don't blame the players. I don't blame the players; I blame the system.
Q. Bob and Mike, doubles doesn't always get the attention in the Grand Slams. Davis Cup, it has its own day. Does that make it extra special for you guys?
BRYAN: Yeah, in Davis Cup doubles is huge. Davis Cup is a format that really showcases doubles. To be on TV, to be the only match on that day is huge for us. We're trying to make doubles bigger. This is one of the events that does make doubles bigger. I think it's going to be a good year for doubles. As you heard, they're going to do more promotion. They changed the scoring a little bit to try to make it more exciting. Hopefully we can get off to a good start here and have a good match, show fans why doubles is great.
Q. Patrick, you say you don't blame the players. They seem to be choosing an opportunity to enhance their incomes over representing their countries. Isn't that pretty difficult to defend?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: No, it's not difficult to defend at all because first of all I disagree with your premise. The fact of the matter is that when Davis Cup is played potentially four times a year, and when the schedule, especially for the top players, is relentless, it continues and it doesn't seem to end. You know, how can you blame someone like, say, Tim Henman who played Davis Cup for, I don't know, 10 years for his country. He finally gets to be in his 30s and says, "You know, something has to give because the system has not changed. If the system isn't going to change, I've got to protect myself." Yeah, in an ideal world, I'd love to sit back and say every player should play Davis Cup, period, end of story. But I don't see every basketball player saying, "Oh, I'm just going to play the Olympics because I should." I deal in reality, the reality of the situation. I think the reality, it's very easy to sit back and say, "The players are spoiled, the players get paid so much money." You know, the players in any sport have to deal with their career. I think it's misguided to sit back and just say, "The players don't play because they're greedy." I mean, I find it hard to believe that Roger Federer is a greedy guy. I think he's looking at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that something needs to be done, in my opinion, to change the format of the Davis Cup, then I think all the players would play all the time.
Q. Andy, from a player who shows a lot of emotion on the court, what is it like playing before these crowds that are more emotional than usual?
ANDY RODDICK: It's good. It's fun because you feel what it might be like to have -- to be a home team, playing on your home floor in basketball or something like that. Normally it's kind of city by city whether they like you or not. It gets kind of touch-and-go (laughter). It's nice. Bob and Mike and I, we've been on the other side of it in Spain with 27,000 breathing down your neck. I could still appreciate that because it's Spain showing passion for sport. It's just a cool experience. It's not something that we get to partake in every week. It's fun. It's a good change.
Q. Anything in particular you're focusing on, Andy, in practice on your game this week?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, just trying to come into form. I'm trying to play a lot of sets. Not too much else. I mean, I feel like I've been hitting the ball all right. You know, hopefully get out there Friday and things will work.
Q. Patrick, to get away from the format for a moment...
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Please (laughter).
Q. As you sit there, you know who is going to play who. Do you have any preference for who plays first?
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: That's the only decision as far as what comes about for Friday. So, no, I mean, we're always asked that, "Does it make a difference if your No. 1 guy goes first depending on the match?" The reality is, no, it doesn't make that huge of a difference. We've been in situations before where we thought, oh, we want one guy, Andy playing first, Andy playing second. Andy loses or Andy wins. You know, you just don't know. Both guys are going to be ready to play on Friday. I think if we play well, play our games, we like our chances in both matches.
Q. Andy, following up on the idea of the overscheduled top players, what do you get out of being here this week? What do you do with your schedule to squeeze in the Davis Cup?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I mean, I think it's more of just a choice. Unfortunately, we're in a position where we're playing pretty close to 11 months of the year. Something's got to give, but I haven't figured out what yet. I want to play everything. I want to try to do it all. You know, Davis Cup is definitely on the top of my list of priorities, though. We haven't won it. That's something that's a huge, huge goal for me personally and for us as a team. You know, it would be tough not having accomplished that goal, then to sit out and not commit to it. I've told the captain that I'm committed to this cause as long as he wants me here. That stands true.
Q. Andy, I want to take you back to when you were about 10 years old. Somebody was telling me that when you were 10 years old, you were in the same tennis class with Chris of the Lakers, now seven feet tall.
ANDY RODDICK: He was about 6'6" then at 13 (laughter).
Q. And Drew. What do you remember about Drew?
ANDY RODDICK: I might have even been younger than that. Might have been about eight. I remember the most annoying things was that Drew played about twice a week. I was hardcore, I was playing every weekend, playing however many days a week. I could never beat the guy.
Q. Was he senior to you?
JAMES BLAKE: (Whispering.)
ANDY RODDICK: Thanks, James. James whispers to me "older". Listen, I didn't go to Harvard.
JAMES BLAKE: You said, "What?"
ANDY RODDICK: I didn't understand what he was saying, not that I didn't understand what "senior" means (laughter).
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Now you know what our team meetings are like.
ANDY RODDICK: Geez, I'm so rattled right now I don't even remember the question. Huh (laughter)?
Q. I wanted to review your association with Drew.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, he was a heck of a tennis player. But then all of a sudden he became a basketball star, too, obviously quarterback. Yeah, he's probably three or four years older, if I'm not mistaken. I just remember him being a great athlete. I kind of forgot about him for a while. We hadn't seen each other. All of a sudden I'm watching a Purdue game. There is Drew. I remember that guy. He's throwing touchdown passes instead of hitting balls by me.
Q. From what you saw of him, do you think if he stayed with tennis, he might have been good?
ANDY RODDICK: It's impossible to tell when someone is 10 years old. I don't know.
Q. How good were you when you were eight?
ANDY RODDICK: I was pretty good.
Q. Obviously when the Davis Cup is here, you have home court advantage. What do you think of the setup, how are the court conditions for you?
ANDY RODDICK: They're good. It's a very, very average court in every aspect. I don't mean "average" as bad. I'm saying the speed, the balance, everything about it. I think it's a pretty intimate court out there, environment. Should feel pretty loud. I'm excited. I mean, it's beautiful here. We're sitting here, I'm training in paradise next to the beach. It's really nice. We've been welcomed with open arms. It's been a good feeling.
Q. Can all four of you speak to your childhood inspirations, Davis Cup memories that maybe inspired you to want to play Davis Cup?
MIKE BRYAN: My first experience in Davis Cup, we came down to La Costa, we saw Ricky Leach and Jim Pugh. I think we were, what, nine years old. We were dressed up in flags, supporting the team. We actually idolized Ricky Leach. I remember watching him walking down to play his match, he stopped to say hi to us. Blew our minds. That's our first experience. Now we're here in San Diego. I heard he's coming to the match. Turn of events.
ANDY RODDICK: My first Davis Cup experience was I was at the final in Fort Worth in '92. It's what some people consider the best single Davis Cup team ever with Courier, Agassi, Sampras was on the team but he wasn't good enough to play singles. That's how good this team was (laughter). Some brother of yours was there, too. Beat Switzerland. It was crazy, similar to Bob and Mike, the whole deal. One of the cool things I remember is the Swiss people brought their big cow bells. I don't know if you guys know a cow bell, but it was literally like this, these huge things. I remember one of the coolest things, before the doubles match on Saturday, my oldest brother and I went around Houston trying to find something that would make more noise than these cow bells. We ended up finding these bike air horns. He was on one side of the stadium doing it, I was on the other side of the stadium doing it. I asked Jim Courier a couple years ago if he actually remembers it. Goes, "That was you? God, those things were annoying."
JAMES BLAKE: My Davis Cup memories probably didn't start as young. Andy was pretty good at eight. I was pretty awful at eight, 10, 12, up until about 16 or 17 when I started improving. I wasn't as interested in tennis as much. I was a little more forced by my parents into the library than on the tennis court.
ANDY RODDICK: Hence he knows what "senior" means (laughter).
JAMES BLAKE: I probably didn't watch it. I was just watching on TV. Also doesn't come through New England too often. I grew up in Connecticut. Never got a chance to go to it. I just watched it a lot. As I got more and more into tennis, I was a little more thrilled with it. I got to see, I remember, the match when Courier beat Safin. I was just watching it on TV. Came back from two sets to love. For me, the biggest one was when Courier beat Rusedski in England, which was -- seems like only a couple years ago, but I guess now that was seven or eight years ago. I was in college at the time. It's pretty tough on a Sunday to block all the other guys out from watching football in the main common room in a college dorm. I managed to do that, secure it pretty early and watch Davis Cup all day. Was amazed that later that year I got a chance to be a practice partner on that same team with Sampras and Martin and Courier and Alex O'Brien. For me it was just a thrill when I got into it so late, and to now have a pretty good enthusiasm for the whole Davis Cup.
Q. The fact that you're all pretty good-looking guys could be an advantage to marketing the game toward maybe female tennis fans.
ANDY RODDICK: James, Patrick (laughter).
JAMES BLAKE: I don't know. We're not really the marketing geniuses behind it. We just go out there and play. I think none of us take a whole lot of time in preparing our look, as you can tell by most of our hair.
CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: We were at the Hard Rock last night. They had a nice little event for us there. The guys got behind the bar to serve a drink. Seemed to be a lot of females all of a sudden around the bar. Not too many guys for some reason.
JAMES BLAKE: We're happy about those kind of fans, but it's not like we're controlling that too much.
Q. James, your look has changed dramatically. Difference in the way you do your hair or lack of it.
ANDY RODDICK: He's become senior.
JAMES BLAKE: I think that's Andy's new favorite word. I'm a little senior to that younger crazy kid with the hair. Just kind of simplified things a little bit. This is a much easier way out of the shower, onto the court a little quicker. I don't have to worry about the hair any more. Yeah, a little less maintenance.
Q. I got to the watch the match in Belgium that Andy played, brought terrific intensity to that match. Truly elevated your game. I hope you're going to be able to keep that intensity. You played a terrific match. Hope to see that intensity continue.
ANDY RODDICK: Thank you. Intensity from me won't be the problem, I promise you.
JAMES BLAKE: Never has been.
Q. Have you ever played Pavel or Hanescu?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah.
Q. What is your record?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. I played Pavel maybe five times. I think I've lost once. I played Hanescu once and won that one.
JAMES BLAKE: I'm 2-0 against Hanescu and 1-1 against Pavel. I lost to him on clay a few years ago.
Q. Who is the better player?
JAMES BLAKE: Over their careers, I think Andrei has had more success. Victor is younger, ranked higher now. I think Pavel has won a lot of big matches and played more Davis Cup. I think he could be pretty dangerous. He won a Masters, which is no small feat. He's going to be dangerous even though he's the No. 2 player.
TIM CURRY: Thank you.
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