RELATED: Patrick McEnroe Interview
REALTED: Team Press Release
By HOWARD FENDRICH
John McEnroe's brief tenure as U.S. Davis Cup captain was marked by frequent laments about how tough it was to get Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to play for his team.
McEnroe's successor as captain, his younger brother Patrick, has no such trouble getting the current crop of top Americans to participate -- which probably is why he finally won a championship. And when the United States opens defense of its first Davis Cup title since 1995 next month, he'll once more be able to rely on Andy Roddick, James Blake and twins Bob and Mike Bryan.
"I've been extremely lucky. We've got a group of guys that love to play for their country, that love supporting each other, and that have answered the call every single time I've asked them,'' McEnroe said Wednesday in a conference call. "That's pretty amazing, considering the world we live in. I certainly understand the players that do skip matches here and there.''
The Feb. 8-10 series at Austria will mark the record ninth consecutive time that Roddick, Blake and the Bryans comprise the U.S. team.
No other quartet from the country ever participated in more than three Davis Cup series in a row, according to the U.S. Tennis Association.
"I'd love to take the credit, but to be quite honest, the credit goes to them, because they really do enjoy it and they really do enjoy the weeks together,'' McEnroe said.
"When I first became captain, the first thing I said was: 'I want to try to get players that really want to play, that want to be there.' I've been lucky that those guys happen to be the guys that are our best players.''
Roddick is currently ranked No. 6 in singles, with Blake at No. 9. The Bryans lead the doubles rankings.
They ended the longest U.S. championship drought in Davis Cup history by beating Russia in December on an indoor hard court at Portland, Ore.
Now the quick turnaround has the group heading to Vienna to face Stefan Koubek, Jurgen Melzer, Werner Eschauer and Julian Knowle on indoor clay. Koubek is ranked 55th, Melzer 71st.
The United States has won the title 32 times, Austria none.
But McEnroe knows how tough it can be to play on the road, in a hostile environment.
"It's very important for them to keep their wits about them and mentally just stay solid,'' he said. "That's something that Andy has really, really improved over the years. And I think we're seeing signs that James is starting to do the same thing. James has, quite honestly, had a little trouble doing that in some of the away matches. He gets a little too up and down.''