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Transcript From Patrick McEnroe Media Conference Call

May 25, 2008 01:28 PM

CHRIS WIDMAIER: Thank you everyone for joining us today. We have a number of people on this call, in addition to Davis Cup Captain, Patrick McEnroe. We have with us the current USTA Chairman of the Board and President, Franklin Johnson, our newly nominated Chairman of the Board and President, Jane Brown Grimes, and the USTA's Chief Executive of Pro Tennis, Arlen Kantarian. All of whom worked together to bring you today's announcement. I'd like to turn it over to Franklin Johnson.

FRANKLIN JOHNSON: I'm very happy to announce that Patrick McEnroe will continue as our United States Davis Cup Captain through 2008. Jane Brown Grimes and I confirmed and it was a very easy decision to re‑up Patrick who we think has done a very fine job, and has wonderful abilities. Let me turn it over to Arlen.

ARLEN KANTARIAN: Sure, I just would like to add that we all feel strongly that Patrick's leadership as captain over these past years is a major reason that our top players, as you all know, made Davis Cup a priority. We feel Patrick's created a very unique chemistry amongst this team with players that we feel truly look forward to coming together as a team during these Davis Cup weeks. During Patrick's time as captain he's brought us to the finals once, he's taken us to the semifinals twice. We feel we're knocking on the door, with, of course, one remaining goal, which is to return the Davis Cup to the United States. And I know that Franklin and Jane and us here at the USTA feel our chances are far greater with Patrick at the helm.

So, Patrick we're thrilled to have you continue to represent U.S. tennis and the USTA and we'd like to turn it over to you for any comments.

PATRICK McENROE: Thanks a lot Arlen, I just would like to thank Franklin and Jane, Arlen, Jim Curley, and the entire USTA staff, that really makes my job very, very easy when it comes to the actual ties. I have to say that being the Davis Cup captain has been the biggest honor in my career and it continues to be that. So to do it for a couple more years is another huge honor for me. There's nothing like walking out on the court representing the U.S. tennis effort, the USTA, and I think, most specifically, the players, because although Arlen had some very kind words about me, which I appreciate, but the fact of the matter is the players have supported Davis Cup mostly because of themselves and because of how much they care about the effort and how much they enjoy it. So as big of an honor for me to be the captain it's equally a joy to walk out there with Andy and James and the Bryans, and the other guys that we've had play in the last couple of years, Robby Ginepri, Mardy Fish, obviously Agassi and Sampras when they played when I was captain. To walk out with them is ‑‑ every time it's something special.

I'm very excited to be coming back for another two years, as I'm sure all of you on the call know, the draw came out for 2007 and we've got a tough draw. But we're looking forward to the challenge, as we always do, of going away and playing a tough team from the Czech Republic and hopefully moving on to the next round.

I guess we'll open it up for some questions now.

Q. Congratulations.

PATRICK McENROE: Thanks a lot.

Q. You're very welcome. I'm sorry of being timid, I just didn't want to go first.

PATRICK McENROE: You should go first.

Q. I will. I wanted to ask specifically about the tie in Russia, which sadly I was not able to see the epic match with Andy. The question is could you shed any light on how he seemed to react to the emotion of that and I guess the disappointment of the win and any thoughts about what this will do for him going forward in Davis Cup play?

PATRICK McENROE: He's been tremendous. He's played every tie that he's been able to play. There's only one match he's missed, I think because of injury a number of years ago, I believe in 2002 against Croatia. Was that 2002 or '03? I think it was '02.

Anyway, look, Andy puts a lot into these Davis Cup matches. And to be honest I don't think he gets nearly the credit that he deserves for putting himself on the line, putting himself out there. He's played some of the most memorable, sort of marathon matches, particularly some of the clay court matches. Last year he won a huge match for us in Belgium and helped us stay in the World Group. Obviously lost a couple of very tough ones in the final against Spain a couple of years ago and then the one against Tursunov in Russia. I was extremely proud of his efforts. He was two sets to love down, the other guy was playing lights out. He just hung in there. He certainly didn't play his best tennis, but he competed his hardest. And the conditions obviously there were difficult for us with the clay being extremely slow, extremely heavy. And that is sort of par for the course in Davis Cup, so we've come to expect that. But I was very, very happy with his effort and his commitment. I'm very lucky that he's had that, as his captain, and I certainly hope and expect that that will continue.

He has a real passion for Davis Cup and I just don't think he gets the respect he should for no matter where we go he shows up to play every single time he's been asked. And in situations where the advantages were in his favor, obviously playing at home, for instance, and in situations where it wasn't always in his favor. So we certainly wouldn't have had the success we've had without him for the last five, six years.

Q. Congratulations. I wanted to ask you, since overcoming clay has been an obstacle for the team and the players, what can you and the players do between now and February to best prepare, assuming it's clay in the Czech Republic?

PATRICK McENROE: You know, Richard, I think that maybe we're making a little too much of it as far as thinking about it so much. Clearly from the matches we've played, meaning the guys have played, we're competing on clay. It's not like we're going over there and we're getting blown away, we're not in matches. We're in matches. I think we certainly can all do a better job, particularly me in preparing mentally. I think the game‑wise the guys get enough practice. It's too idealistic to say we should go practice for two or three months on clay for the next ‑‑ before the next match, if we do play on clay, because you've got the indoor season, you've got the Masters, you've got the Australian Open. Realistically that's part of the challenge of Davis Cup is that you don't have that amount of time to prepare for a particular match. So clearly with the way the guys play and look what happened this week, James goes and wins another title, and Tursunov goes and wins a title today in India. So it's not like we're not competing. We are. We just have to come in, I think, with an attitude of we can win and we're going to win. We've got the talent, we've got the ability. It's certainly not as good a surface for us as the US Open court or a grass court, but that doesn't mean we can't go out and beat quality players. I think when you look at the scores in the last few matches we've played, we're in these matches. I think if you come out with maybe a slightly different attitude going out there, that could make the big difference.

Q. Just as a follow‑up, you just mentioned Blake winning, and if he and Andy both qualify for Shanghai and he plays there end of November and comes back, and they have to go back to Melbourne, are you concerned just the schedule itself could drain those guys? They both played a fair amount in the summer, hard court season, and then playing into mid‑November and going to Australia, are you concerned about that at all?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, look, no one is rooting harder than me for both of them to make it to the Masters. I think that would be a huge effort, obviously for James it would be his first time. So I'm certainly rooting for them. But I think they do a pretty good job of balancing their schedules, of knowing when they need to peak and when they need to take some time off. Am I concerned? Of course. I'm always concerned. I'm always concerned if someone gets hurt or over plays or comes in a little bit worn down. But I think our guys have Davis Cup pretty high on the priority list. And as I said, I hope that continues and they usually come in with a pretty good attitude and physically prepared to play. So I think when your players are doing well and having success, that should help team effort in the long run.

Q. Last question, could you give us a brief scouting report on Berdych. He got into the final today and Blake beat him pretty decisively ‑‑

PATRICK McENROE: Tursunov beat him ‑‑ you mean at the Open?

Q. At the Open he beat him. And also Stepney or Novak, if you had an indication which guy or if they both ‑‑

PATRICK McENROE: I know Stepanek is injured at this point, he's questionable with an arm, wrist injury or elbow, but Berdych is a dangerous player. He's extremely talented, I think he's probably a little better on fast courts. You might be able to say the same thing about someone like a Safin. He certainly has a lot of fire power, he's beaten the top two players in the world in the last couple of years. He's actually played pretty well on clay. He played decent at the French last year. He can play. And Stepanek had a career year. He's probably a little more comfortable on fast courts, as well. I think most of their team would probably say they're more comfortable on hard courts, but at the same time they can play on clay. So it's a little similar to probably the situation with the Russians. So I don't think it's a slam dunk that they'll play on clay, but certainly that would be my expectation, that they would try to do that and Stepanek is obviously a tricky player, he's got a lot of feel and finesse, and hits the ball pretty flat, which is a similar game that Novak plays, he's more straight up, more a baseline player. He's had a couple of good years. He's, I think, towards the tail end of his career, but certainly a guy that can still win big matches. He's the guy that beat Sampras in Davis Cup last time we played him back in LA. They have a capable team, more than capable, and it will certainly be a big test for us to go over there in February and get a win.

Q. I was just curious about if you're thinking ahead to who will be on your team. You've had probably the luxury of having the same players on for quite a while now with Roddick, Blake and the Bryans. Do you anticipate keeping them together or possibly switching things up a bit or how do you feel about all that?

PATRICK McENROE: I don't anticipate switching things up for the sake of switching things up. But I anticipate ‑‑ I hope that we'll have some other players in the mix. Certainly James and Andy are pretty clear‑cut our top two guys at the moment. But I would certainly love the problem of seeing a Robby Ginepri or Mardy Fish, in particular, step up their level in the next few months and make a run to be a part of the team. That's always a good problem to have as the captain. In saying that, I'm certainly extremely happy that both James and Andy have been there and are doing so well with their ranking and with their careers. So I don't anticipate any changes, but I would certainly love the opportunity to have some more difficult decisions, sure, because that means more of our guys are having success.

Q. Sam Querrey is a really rising young star, do you see him contending for a spot on the team in the near future?

PATRICK McENROE: I would say in the near future. I would say it depends exactly what our definition of that is, but I'm extremely optimistic about Sam and how well he's done in the short time and he just won another Challenger last week or a week ago Sunday. So he's obviously making tremendous strides.

Ryan Sweeting is another kid we just had over in Moscow who has a lot of potential as well. So those players like that, Donald Young, who is our junior champion, we certainly are keeping a close eye on them. As I said, the more options we have in the long run, the better.

Q. I was wondering if you could just reflect a little bit, maybe comparing, contrast the breadth and depth of the opponent in Davis Cup play today, maybe when you played or ‑‑

PATRICK McENROE: It certainly changed a lot, and I think that the depth of men's tennis over all has gotten a lot stronger. And I think you're seeing that in Davis Cup where you could take ‑‑ I could have two really good players, like Croatia, and certainly like Slovak Republic had one very good player and others that can mix and match that can do well. We still have the depth with the Russian team with the sort of mix and match guys over in Moscow. And I think where that really helps is in adjusting the surfaces, playing on some different surfaces. Our guys, as I said, they've shown the capability of playing well on clay. Now we've got to turn that into winning matches on clay against very tough teams, the top teams. So all you have to do, I think, is look at the list of Davis Cup champions in the last ten years, and you'll see that it's very rare that the same team wins year after year. So obviously we're not on that list, and we'd like to get on that list and win the Davis Cup. But Russia has won it, they might win it again this year. Argentina who has been one of the top teams for years, has never won it. Spain beat us in 2004 in the final and the next two years they lost in the first round. So it's difficult for all the pieces of the puzzle to come together to win because you can have an extremely tough first round match, you can have an extremely tough final match. And I think that's where Davis Cup has changed a lot. I think it used to be where maybe three or four maybe very strong countries, and they could sort of walk their way into the semifinal. Nowadays from the first round on, depending on home court and who you play, could be ‑‑ you could have a first round match that's as tough as a semifinal or final.

 

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