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As the U.S. Davis Cup team continues its title defense, Captain Patrick McEnroe will share his commentary exclusively with USTA.com. Before the series begins, during the heat of the battle and after the team's quarterfinal showdown against France at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. April 11-13, read McEnroe's analysis of team practice and preparation, the series outlook and the challenges ahead.
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Blog #4 – Sunday, April 13
|Andy Roddick 225 |
What a way to end the series. Ties here in Winston-Salem just keep getting better and better. It’s a love-love relationship.
This was my third series as captain here in North Carolina. The people here have been incredibly supportive and create a great atmosphere for the guys. The guys really enjoy playing here, and the fans enjoy rooting them on, too.
Today, I thought Andy played one of his best matches in a United States uniform. He was aggressive when he had a chance to be, he was smart when he needed to be – changing the pace, using slice – and he played excellent defense when he had to.
I just think that he put it all together. Again, he kept playing a smart guy and never tried to force the issue playing a shot that wasn’t there. Overall, it was one of his best matches – I’ll take that kind of match every time from him.
It’s a long time away, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge of going back to Spain. We played them and gained a lot of experience in the 2004 Final.
I was hoping that we would get a chance to play them over there – it’s the ultimate challenge for us as a team. To play Spain in Spain – the best country alongside Argentina in the world on clay – is a wonderful opportunity.
Look, we’re the defending champions. We’re going to go over there with nothing to lose. Our guys are going to give it their all.
It means something to be the defending champions. I think it really says something that we’ve made the semifinals. It says to me that all of the guys on the team are still really committed and want to be here.
Instead of acting like we have nothing to prove as champions, the guys came here with the same intensity and motivation to succeed. I think it speaks to the close-knit nature of the team, that the guys really enjoying being together for these Davis Cup weeks.
To make the last four is a great accomplishment, but at the same time, we have a great opportunity to keep going.
But it’s a long time to go before September, almost five or six months, which I believe is the longest break ever between the Davis Cup quarterfinals and semifinals.
There’s a lot of tennis to be played, but I’d love to see the guys post some good results on clay. Obviously there’s all of the grass court tournaments and the hard courts and the Olympics and the remaining three Slams to go.
The number one thing is for all of the guys to stay healthy and to take care of themselves. After the US Open, we’ll get some clay-court time to practice and get ready to roll.
As for me, my new job as the General Manager of USTA Elite Player Development starts very soon. About a month from now I’ll start full on, spending a lot of time in Florida at the USTA Training Center.
It’s a great challenge that I’m looking forward to. I can’t wait to work with all of the coaches and developing players in the country. It’s an exciting time.
Blog #3 – Friday April 11
|Patrick McEnroe 225 |
Today was a day that the entire team has looked forward to for a long time. It was really an emotional moment getting our rings, and to be able to do it at home in front of the U.S. fans was great.
It was fun re-living the championship run, but more so, it was a continuation of what this whole team is about – that we’re still here, and that we’re still trying to win the Cup again.
We’re Champions, and like James said today, it’s something that we’ll always have. The guys all felt really proud to be celebrated like this, and felt thankful to the USTA for recognizing the team like this. The rings are pretty awesome – very cool.
I know Andy said after his match that his ring fit a little snug, but mine feels great. In fact, I’m thinking about wearing it out to dinner tonight!
A big part of our long-term success has been the continuity that we’ve enjoyed – the same dedicated group of guys playing together. This weekend marked the tenth tie in a row that Andy, James, Bob and Mike have played, a truly incredible feat.
It’s interesting because we play so many other teams that don’t have that. This weekend, Guy Forget lost Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, so health plays a big part, too.
But as long as we’re winning, I’m happy with our formula. Believe me, I’ve been in that other situation before, too, with maybe too many options.
But I think what works for us is that everyone on our team is very comfortable with their role.
Physically, the guys take good care of themselves and that gives me a lot of security knowing that unless something drastic happens, they’ll be able to handle a best-of-five set match like James today against Mathieu. Andy and James can concentrate on getting themselves ready and with the Bryans, the same for the doubles.
Looking ahead to the doubles match on Saturday, I’m expecting a great match. Obviously, Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra played the Bryans in the Wimbledon final last year.
They’re both great teams and I think that we can expect a lot of quick points with the nature of the surface – a lot of bang-bang tennis and maybe a couple of tie-breaks.
Blog Entry #2 – Wednesday April 9
|Patrick McEnroe recently received a three-year extension as captain. (GABRIEL BOUYS/ |
The big news of the day, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France was forced to withdraw from this weekend’s series. We heard that he was having some trouble and not practicing that much, but I think it’s disappointing because he’s such a great, charismatic player.
To be honest, I was excited to see him play in this country, so I think it’s too bad. At the same time, we’re obviously going to have a great crowd.
We ran into the same sort of thing last year against Spain with Rafael Nadal pulling out. I’m sure Tsonga would have loved to play considering that he was already here for a few days. I think it makes it a little bit tougher for their team and captain.
But our guys are feeling really confident and liking the conditions so we still expect a very tough match.
We could very easily see Michael Llodra in singles, who is their third-ranked player. He’s had a great year, he's got a great serve, and looks like he’s pretty comfortable on this surface.
I wouldn’t expect to see Arnaud Clement play singles, but I certainly think we’ll see him in the doubles. Between Paul-Henri Mathieu and Llodra and Richard Gasquet, they’ve got three excellent singles players.
So my guess is that we may see each one of them at some point, which would be no surprise for us. All we really care about is our guys playing well and playing their games. We’ll see what happens tomorrow at the Draw, and then we’ll prepare the guys mentally for whoever they play on Friday.
Today at practice, the guy that really stood out was Mardy Fish, who hit with Andy Roddick in the morning and James Blake in the afternoon.
To have Mardy here again says so much about him and about our team – not just the four guys that are playing this weekend. Mardy’s coming off the best week of his career. He’s beaten Roger Federer, Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt, and Igor Andreev. Here he is sort of as our backup guy, so that’s a pretty awesome statement about American tennis
Both Andy and James have really been sharp. We really haven’t had to practice too much because the guys have played so many matches. I’ve tried to keep them pretty fresh this week and just get them used to the conditions and have one good session a day. That seems to be working well. I think they’ll be really energized come Friday and good to go.
Looking up a few times during practice at the rafters inside the Joel Coliseum, the guys and I saw the individual U.S. Davis Cup championship pennants. The guys were joking around a bit, debating if the 1937 team could beat the 1954 team and so on.
Having won the Davis Cup last year, I thought it made a lot of sense to put them all up there because it would’ve been tough to do that without winning it with this group of guys in Portland. It’s pretty special that these guys have joined that company in the history of Davis Cup in this country.
So I think the USTA continues to do a real good job of promoting us and making these events as good as they can be. The guys and I all got sized for our championship rings – we’re really excited and looking forward to it.
Winning last year meant so much. I said at the end of last year that I was really hoping we could get this home tie to celebrate what we did last year, and of course, try to defend as champions this year. So winning that first round in Austria was big, but now we have a tough task ahead of us.
We’ll have a few minutes to remember what we did, and hopefully that’ll inspire us to win this match.
Blog Entry #1 – Tuesday, April 8
|Patrick McEnroe 225 |
Welcome back to the Davis Cup Captain’s Blog. I hope you enjoyed my postcards from Austria during the first round.
Two months have passed since our big win in Vienna with new challenges ahead for the team – and for me.
The decision to come back to Winston-Salem was an easy one, both for us as a team and the USTA as the organizers of the Davis Cup event.
Winston-Salem treated us so well last year when we played Spain. The city immediately stepped up and made it known that they wanted us back this year. They wanted the final last year, too.
Talking to the players, they were really excited about the prospect of coming back to play here in North Carolina. It’s always a combination of making sure the guys are comfortable and having the right environment and playing surface.
Touching quickly on one of our guys, I’ve been pleased with James Blake’s play of late. He’s had two good tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, with two tough losses to Rafael Nadal. For him, it’s just about staying sharp.
He’s already played a lot of tennis this year, but I’m really happy with where his game is. He’s playing with more maturity match in and match out, but still playing his aggressive style of game that he likes to play.
Switching topics, as you may have heard, I will join the United States Tennis Association in a newly-created role soon as the General Manager of USTA Elite Player Development.
The creation of this new job is part of a new strategic direction for the development of future American champions. This initiative will provide a greater focus on top American junior players and young pros – like many of our Davis Cup practice partners – in an effort to achieve championship status.
We’re always looking for the next young talents. We’ve got a few possibilities out there – we’ve had some that have come up through the Davis Cup ranks like Donald Young, Sam Querrey, and John Isner that are doing well. And now we’ve got Michael McClune (2007 USTA Boys’ 18s champion) here who’s been playing well so far this week.
I’ve also got to take care of the women, too. We’ve got to start paying attention to them a little bit more. So I’ve got to get up to speed on the men and the women before the job starts.
There’s always work to do for these future stars – that’s part of the fun in this whole process. But I’ve certainly been pleased with Young, Isner, and Querrey. Sam’s taken a big step up physically. He’s done a lot of off-court work in the off-season and had a big win in Las Vegas at the Tennis Channel Open.
Both Isner and Young have had some good results, particularly Donald. But I think both of them need to get stronger and keep working and keep upping the ante. Donald’s wins have moved him into the Top 80 and I think the sky’s the limit for him.
Although I haven’t officially started the new job yet, I’m excited about it. It’s a big challenge – there are a lot of great people out there trying to help tennis and find the next great players. I’m honored to head up that process. I’m looking forward to working with a lot of great people and bringing it all together.
As far as my other career as a TV tennis commentator on ESPN, I’m probably going to do a little less than I’ve done, but hopefully, stay with the Grand Slams and do a couple of other little events here and there. But overall, I’ll probably have to cut back on some of my TV commitments.
Finally, addressing the burning question of the week, my father, John McEnroe, Sr. will make his return to the stands this weekend. He’s back in the saddle and ready to go!