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Exclusive Davis Cup Blog: U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe

May 25, 2008 01:28 PM

Blog No. 4: Sunday, Dec. 2
After the conclusion of the 2007 Davis Cup Final

I feel as if it’s kind of sinking in, as I said on the court in my speech, I think it’s sort of starting to hit us. Obviously we had a big celebration last night and the boys were pretty excited. It’s been quite a road and I think that’s what makes it extra special that we put in seven years together as a team, all the ups and downs that we’ve been through together makes it feel pretty darn good.

When you take all those flights and you go to all those countries and stay in all those hotels and do all that, it’s been a journey but it’s been fun. I think the guys really enjoy the times together at Davis Cup and luckily they do because they keep coming back.

James’ win was huge for us. We felt pretty confident the first day that Andy would be able to get us a win, we kind of take him for granted, which we shouldn’t but we knew he would play well. I think James had a tough opponent in Youzhny, who has a lot of experience and is one of the toughest competitors in the world so James really handled the adversity well when it came as far as Youzhny getting back in the match, winning the third set, going to another tiebreak in the fourth so I was just really proud of the way he dealt with that and obviously played great. Playing great doesn’t mean you’re always going to get the win, but I think he handled the moment especially well and winning that match gave us a big boost going into the doubles.

I was confident but to win 3-0 was certainly a pleasant surprise. The Russians have a lot of very tough players, very capable on different surfaces, but anytime you can play a match at home – we’ve only lost one match at home since I’ve been the captain – obviously you feel pretty good about your chances when you have the kind of players that we have and you can set the conditions up in their favor. You feel confident. Knowing how good Russia is and how well they’ve played in big matches, I was making sure we weren’t over confident.

I’ve been pretty close a couple of times (to crying) so I think it will probably happen at some point in the next couple of days. I’m just so overwhelmed with everything, it’s been pretty cool.

I’m definitely going to fulfill that (another year on my arrangement with USTA as team captain) and I’ll see what the future holds but it’s been an unbelievable ride for me, it’s been certainly my greatest professional job and the most fun I’ve had. It’s been a great ride and I haven’t really thought about if they want me back and if they do, if I want to come back but with this group of guys, it is pretty darn good so we’ll see what happens.

I’m incredibly proud of them, they put in so much effort and I remember going back to 2002 when Andy lost against France in the semis and he was just shattered, losing two matches against great players from France on the road. I just told him then, I was so proud of him and his effort because I know he poured everything he had into it and that’s really what this team has been all about.

Obviously it doesn’t mean we have super success every year but we’ve been in the hunt for a couple of different years since I have been the captain and it sort of all came together this year. We got a couple of decent breaks with the schedule, we won some tough matches on the road and I think the maturity level of the guys from playing a lot of matches and being with the team for so long really paid off. I think they were able to handle going to a hostile environment and playing well but also playing at home, where it is a different kind of pressure but they responded to that too.

I’ll go home for the holidays and take it easy, not get on too many planes and just try to rest and enjoy that time. I know the guys do a lot of charity events in the next month or so and they will be training and getting themselves ready for Australia and we’ll all keep in touch as we always do but we’re going to savor this for a long time. No matter what happens in the years to come, we are going to savor this. At the same time, the guys are always going to talk about Austria (for the first round in 2008), so you know their mindset is they’re happy but they know there’s another challenge ahead of us.

We’ve had a great team on the staff of the USTA for years, since I’ve been captain and I’ve been really impressed with the professionalism and really making the Davis Cup matches a real event, a fun event for the fans and fun for the players. The players love all that, they love the pomp and circumstance and there is a lot of work that goes into making that look smooth and look easy so I think the players really appreciate that – they don’t get those kinds of intros at regular tour events. I give kudos to the whole staff because I know they work a lot of hours and put a lot of their heart and soul into making this great and to win it all and win at home is sweet for all of us.

Blog No. 3: Saturday, Dec. 1
Following the Bryan brothers win that clinched the 2007 Davis Cup for the United States

PORTLAND, Ore. -- This is just great. This feels awesome for these guys. I remember when we played in France and lost in the semis at Roland Garros, and Andy was just in tears. We went to the airport the next morning in the van, and we all were going on different flights, and he just said, “I’m really sorry.” I asked what he was sorry about, and he just put it on the line for us. And he’s really done that for all this run. He’s taken his shots from the media – from everybody, really – but he’s just put everything he’s had into Davis Cup. I think he’s really the one who has set the tone for us.

And I’m just so happy for James to pull through the way he did for us. I thought that was a huge effort. It wasn’t a great match against Youzhny, but it was a great mental effort by him. I think this surface was good for him. It allowed him to play really offensively, which you had to do on this court. I think, for him, it was really good to have those three, four, five days of practice we had during the week in Portland. It really allowed him to focus, whereas Andy is ready to go from the first day. For James, it was a mental match more than anything. Usually he’s a great competitor, so you know he’s never going to go away.

These guys really have a passion for Davis Cup. They love the process, they love each other. They love going out there and being part of a unit. It’s a different sort of mentality from when you had the great foursome of Agassi, Sampras, etc. They were competing more against each other for Slam titles. These guys have been close to the top but not quite as successful individually. To be honest, if they had been, I don’t think their attitude towards Davis Cup would have been any different because they genuinely love these weeks. They really look forward to them.

As for me, winning Davis Cup is a huge moment in my career. As a player, I was marginal. I had a couple of nice moments, but I love the team aspect of Davis Cup. I like being in a leadership position – I think it suits me – and I love being with these guys. I love college tennis and team sports, so this is certainly bigger than anything I accomplished on my own. I want this to be about the guys, though, because I honestly have very little to do with what happens on the court. It’s about their talent and their commitment. That’s why we won it.

I got a text from my brother John last night. He said he’s been watching and was really happy with the two wins yesterday. My phone has about 40 messages on it that I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, and I’m sure he’s one of them on there.

I hope this group of guys will continue to play Davis Cup together in the future. I haven’t broached the subject with any of them yet, but you can just see how much they care about it. I think it’s certainly more important than almost anything else to them, so I would hope that it continues. Obviously, the schedule next year is tough because right after the Australian Open, our first round is in Austria, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I’m certainly expecting and hoping that they’ll be back.

It’s tough to win multiple Davis Cup titles, but I think we have a chance. I’ve always said that our goal is to be in the mix and to be in the hunt, and I think that if we can get through the first round next year against a pretty good Austrian team on clay, then we have as good a chance as anybody. There’s no one team that I think will dominate year in and year out. It’s just too difficult. There’s too much parity, too much depth. There are too many surface scenarios. But certainly looking at it on paper, we have as good a chance as anybody.

These guys that were here with us this week have been great. Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri played a big role for us. They practiced their butts off. Robby had a couple days in which he was on the court four or five hours straight. He’s been working hard and really playing well, and Mardy was the same. They were saying, “Hey, whatever you need.” They were out there picking up balls when they had just been out there practicing on their own for three hours, and that’s pretty awesome. That means something.

I think Robby is really going to have a great year next year. Donald Young is showing a lot of promise. He could be a potential player for us relatively soon with how quickly he’s progressing. Physically he still has a lot of work to do, but game-wise he’s coming along pretty well.

These guys just have great camaraderie with each other. They party together, play cards together, play fantasy football together and go to each other’s houses. I think the big thing is that when they’re on the road at regular tournaments, they’re supporting each other. I know that wasn’t something I had when I was a player. I had friends who were American, but we didn’t have that same sort of “Hey, we’re a group” thing that we always talked about the Swedes having, or the Australians, whenever there were a lot of them around. The Spaniards have sort of had that, too. So I think our guys have that, and I think it makes it more fun for them when they’re on the road, but I also think it helps push them along and keeps them working hard.

Anyway, this has been a great day. Winning Davis Cup has been awesome, and I’m just so happy for everyone involved. Tomorrow will be really special for everyone, too, because since we clinched on Day 2, we didn’t officially get to hoist the cup. After the final two matches are completed tomorrow, we’ll finally be able to touch the cup and celebrate with it. That will be fun!

Blog No. 2: Friday, Nov. 30
After Andy Roddick and James Blake won their matches to put the U.S. up 2-0

-- I thought the crowd was pretty darn good today. I thought when Andy had match point and everyone stood up was kind of a cool moment. I think Andy was sort of enjoying it himself. I thought they seemed like a pretty savvy tennis crowd. I think they got into it at the right moments with James as well. It is always tough when you have a couple long matches to keep the energy up throughout for everybody but I thought they were pretty into it and fair as well. I always want our home crowd to be fair.

In my job, you have to deal with the cards that you have so for someone like Shamil Tarpischev he has a few more options but I like the situation we are in. We have pretty defined roles on the team and obviously it means we have two clear-cut singles players and when you have a team like the Bryans you put them out there. So I think the guys like their roles and going into tomorrow being up 2-0 is certainly a good position to be in but we certainly do not take anything for granted. The Bryans have to come out and be pretty focused and excited about the chance to close it out.

There are not too many tricks Tarpischev can pull. Whoever he puts out there, the Bryans are going to be up against it. We are not really too worried about who they play. The guys are prepared for all different variables so once we find out exactly who we are playing an hour before the match the guys will mentally focus in. But if they play well and play the kind of game they can play, we like our chances against anybody.

The Bryans are already back at the hotel, they have been there getting ready and focusing all day. They know the job they have to do and for the rest of the guys they can relax a little bit and we’ll all be at the hotel and just sort of gear up. Usually the brothers have a little trouble sleeping the night before the match so hopefully we get them to bed early. It is always fun for James and Andy to come out on Saturday and know they can sort of relax and watch the Bryans do their thing and now with a chance to win it, I think there will be a little extra excitement tomorrow when we all wake up.

We still have three more sets to win. We’ve won six and the goal is to win nine. We have three more to go and now it is just about really focusing on every point tomorrow and the Bryans are great about that so we won’t get ahead of ourselves. There will be time for reflecting on what the team has accomplished and hopefully that will be around 2:30, 3 p.m. tomorrow - that is what we hope.

I’m sure the boys have a few thoughts in their heads for celebrating and we’ll let them decide on it but we still have one more match to win. I’ll probably get a little celebration in. We’ll have some fun for sure but we still have some business to take care of.

Blog No. 1: Thursday, Nov. 29

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Well, it’s the day before the Davis Cup final is set to begin, and I’m sure I’ll probably be a little edgy tonight when I go to sleep, but I’m really excited for the weekend, and I’m sure the guys feel the same way.

Andy usually gets pretty nervous the night before a Davis Cup match, too, and obviously we’ve all been through a lot together as a team. That’s really the biggest thing. We’ve been to Bratislava and to Spain, among other places, and this year to Sweden and Ostrava. We feel we’ve had a long road with plenty of positives, and a few negatives, as well, but this is the opportunity we’ve all been waiting for – to play the final at home. Overall, I’d say we’re excited more than anything else.

The team’s focus this week in Portland has been really good. Obviously, it’s the end of the year, and these guys have all played a lot of tennis, but I think there’s a little extra pep in the step for everyone. They know it’s going to be a rockin’ stadium and a rockin’ house, and I think that will inspire them.

The final is different than other ties, and I don’t think the guys are afraid to acknowledge that. At the same time, though, we’ve basically gone about our business like we have in the past – for instance, keeping our practice schedules the same as we always have. I certainly would be lying if I said there wasn’t a little extra anticipation knowing that this is the final on our home soil.

Andy, James and the Bryans – these guys have all been through big situations before, but as captain, I try to keep things as loose for them as possible. Tonight, for instance, it’s just the guys going out for dinner, instead of all the coaches, the whole support staff and me joining them. I just wanted all eight players, including the practice guys, to go to dinner on their own. I’ve done that over the years -- usually once during the week -- to help the guys bond. They’re already such great friends, so they enjoy that, and it’s good for them, too. Someone like Andy is so hyped up, and he likes to get out. If he just sits in his room and stews, he gets even more nervous and more excited, so it’s good for them to get out and about and do their own thing. And it gives me a chance to do my own thing, too. My wife and my baby are here, so I got to spend the afternoon with them. It gives us all a chance to take a couple deep breaths and be ready for what we know will be a super intense weekend.

By the way, as I’m writing this blog, my wife Melissa is hard at work performing a sound check here at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. She’s going to be singing the national anthem on Saturday. She’s sung it before a bunch of times at the Open and at Davis Cup, and Andy – as everybody does – loves the way she sings it. I was really thinking she shouldn’t sing so she could just relax and enjoy the weekend, but Andy really wanted her to do it, so she had to step up. He’s pretty superstitious, so she decided she had to do it for him.

The draw was held earlier today, and Andy is set to play the first match of the final, which is nice, but at the end of the day, it’s always all about winning three points. I’ve been through so many different scenarios in which I thought we had a good draw, and then it turned out to not go the way I expected. But we’re excited. Andy has the kind of personality in which I think it’s good that he plays first. At the end of the day, though, however we get three points is all that matters.

Overall, it’s been a great season for us. Looking back, I think playing an early-round match on the road was a good thing for us because, in the past, we’ve lost twice in the semis and once in the final with this same group of guys, and all those matches were on the road. I remember Andy saying something early on, like, “It would be nice to get a road win early in the year, and then maybe we can get lucky towards the end.” And here we are in the final.

I think our win at Ostrava was really big because we beat a pretty big Czech team on clay. Andy really stepped up for us there and won two matches and, in my opinion, played one of the best Davis Cup matches of his career. To beat Berdych on clay was a great win. And then obviously to play against Sweden, we got a little bit of a break because if Argentina had won, we’d have played them in the semis in Argentina, which would have been a difficult task.

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We’ve won two matches on away soil this year, and that’s not easy to do. You have to get something to break right here or there to win it because there is so much parity and there are a lot of teams that can field winning teams, so to be able to get to the final here at home is a big bonus for us. We hope it’s enough to get us the cup, but we still have to play well all weekend.

Being the U.S. Davis Cup captain since 2000 has been the ultimate dream job for me as a professional. I’ve always dreamed about this job, and it actually came my way a little earlier than I expected, with my brother stepping out after a year. It’s been an awesome experience and so much fun, and one of the biggest reasons is because these guys have been so committed. It’s not really a personal achievement for me. It’s more that we’ve done it as a team, and we really have.

Andy has played every single match since I’ve been captain, with the exception of one, when he was injured. James has been there through and through, and the Bryans, since 2003, have been just awesome. I look at it more as a group effort and a team effort, and this job has been nothing but great for me.

The journey has been a lot of fun. Even the losses. You feel them, and they’re tough, but the experience with all these guys has been an awesome ride. So to win it all, I can only imagine what it would feel like. We’re obviously not there yet, but if it does happen, it will be something that we can all enjoy together.

U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe will be contributing an exclusive blog to USTA.com from Portland each day during the 2007 Davis Cup Final.



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