U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe with Andy Roddick.
© Ron Angle
As the U.S. Davis Cup team continues its title defense, Captain Patrick McEnroe shares his thoughts exclusively with USTA.com. Before the semifinal series begins, during the heat of the battle and after the team's showdown against Spain at the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, Sept. 19-21, read McEnroe's exclusive analysis of team practice and preparation, the series outlook and the challenges ahead.
Entry No. 4 – Sunday, Sept. 21
I thought, overall, it was a great weekend. I think that both teams played very fair, played very hard, but with respect for the opposition.
I think that’s very important because I don’t think you need to play games to play hard and play well. I think both teams did that. We did that last year when we beat them at home, and they were respectful of the situation and we were respectful of them doing what they did here.
But for our team, I think we’ve made progress on clay – I think we played some good clay-court tennis here in the singles and the doubles.
Obviously, Spain is maybe the best team in the world on clay, so we acquitted ourselves quite well in every match. We had chances in every match except for first match today. So, overall, I think there are a lot of positives for us.
I sure hope that we’re back in the Davis Cup final again. I think a lot of it has to do with the draw, and getting some important home matches.
Certainly, I’d be surprised if it’s 12 more years before we win again. With the guys that we have on the team, and Sam joining showing us the way that he’s capable of playing in big matches, I won’t predict how long, but it’s not going to be 12 years.
I plan to be around as Davis Cup captain for a little bit longer, that’s for sure. I doubt I’ll be around for 12 years so I hope we can get another one off while I’m still around.
A lot of people have asked me about my coaching relationship with Andy Roddick. I’ll always do whatever I can to help him just as I would do with any of these guys if they ask for my advice or counsel. I think Andy has some ideas about looking for a coach.
Maybe not full-time, but part-time I can help him as a coach when he comes to New York or some events.
But obviously with my other responsibilities, it would be hard for me to be a full-time coach. I don’t think my wife would go for that anyway! That’s the most important, and I think he understands that.
We’ll continue to exchange thoughts, but Andy always knows what’s most important for what he needs and what he wants. I think Andy needs to commit to a certain style, and if he does, he has a couple of really good years ahead of him.
Entry No. 3 – Saturday, Sept. 20
Well, nobody can say that our guys don’t play their guts out for their country. Win, lose or draw, I couldn’t be happier with the effort this weekend.
I just want to say that this was just an awesome forum for these guys. For Mike to go out and play without his twin is difficult, and was I’m sure, quite emotional. And for Mardy to come in and have to replace Bob – if he had gone in and played the match of his life, people would say that it was Mardy’s fault.
I’m just really happy for them, especially the way that Mardy stepped in and played awesome. They’re a great team and communicated well. I think it says a lot about these guys and overall, the team.
We played very well yesterday. Like I told these guys, just go out there, play your butts off, have some fun, and we’ll see what happens. We had to win one match today; that was all we needed to do. Now, let’s try to win the first match tomorrow, which will obviously be difficult. I think with the conditions here that we have a chance.
As far as the potential fifth match goes on Sunday, I think the way Sam played yesterday there weren’t too many players that would have beaten him. We feel pretty good about him if we can get it to two-all.
All you U.S. Davis Cup fans should also know that although they’re not with us this weekend, Bob Bryan and James Blake have been in constant communication all week.
Bob and James have been texting the guys non-stop, and Mike got a text from Bob about 5 minutes after the match ended today. Andy was texting Bob during the doubles match, and now he’s at home watching it on Versus.
Entry No. 2 - Thursday, Sept. 18
It’s a privilege to play in a match like this. To see a bullring that’s going to be filled with over 20,000 people is just like it was at the 2004 Davis Cup Final in Seville. We kind of take that as a compliment – that there’s that many people in this country that come out to see our team play in the last two times that we’ve been here. I think that says a lot about the rivalry that we have with this team and this country and the respect that they have for us.
You need to adjust your game to the clay, but you need to deal with the other elements. The crowd – whistling between first and second serves – they would never do that in Spain, I know that would never happen – but you just need to be able to deal with things that might be unsettling. You just have to sort of keep your head down and understand that that’s going to happen.
I actually think it’s good that Sam’s playing first. He doesn’t have to sit in the locker-room and hear 20,000 peopling screaming. Andy’s heard that many times before so he’ll be prepared for that. And again, our guys just have to expect crazy things are going to happen, and concentrate on playing their game.
As Sam said, we need to serve well and be as aggressive as you can. These guys from Spain are too good in the back of the court to just try to out-rally them point after point. We think with the conditions here – the altitude and the way that the guys are hitting the ball and serving, and if we can use those weapons, we have a chance.
I'm the luckiest Davis Cup captain there is because we have a tremendous group of guys that will play no matter what the circumstances. Mardy is a perfect example. I mean, he and I were talking, when it was apparent that James wasn't going to be able to come, about him maybe playing singles, as well. When I made a decision that Sam was going to probably play the singles, you know, Mardy was just so incredibly understanding. Then a day or two later I say, Hey, we need you to possibly play doubles. Right from the start, he was, Whatever you need. I can come and be a practice partner. I mean, this guy just got to the quarters of the US Open and is back in the top 25 in the world.
So I've been so lucky. I give the guys a lot of credit. Andy has been first in line over the years to say, Hey, we should bring this guy or that guy and have them be part of the team. So they deserve a ton of credit for all their support. None of these guys have ever said, I need to come, I need to play singles, I need to do this. It's just like, Whatever is best for the team.
I think that sets an example for our younger guys coming up, too, that you basically do what is best for the team. Obviously at the end of the day I have to make some real tough decisions about that. But I've been pretty lucky with these guys.
Entry No. 1 -- Tuesday, Sept. 16
Welcome back, Davis Cup fans, to what should be another fantastic series against Spain. We played Spain last year in Winston-Salem, N.C., and were victorious, but this is a totally different situation. Rafael Nadal is back in a Spanish uniform, and our hosts have made the conditions as difficult as possible. We’re playing on red clay in front of over 21,000 fans in the middle of a bullfighting ring in Madrid!
As most of you know, Andy and I worked together recently at the US Open. We’ve always gotten along well, and I think we respected each other. We didn’t always agree on everything, but it was fun for me to be there with him at the Open and try to help him. I thought he came around and had a pretty good tournament and played well. So I think he feels pretty good about where his game’s at. I’ll always be there to help him when he needs it. Obviously, it would be tough for me to be his full-time coach, but we had a few good weeks together, and we’re sort of continuing it here.
Meanwhile, James has had a rough summer. He played a lot of tennis, and I think he was just honest with me, which is all you can ask of your players. He just said to me, ‘Listen, I just don’t think I’m the best guy to go over there. I’m physically and mentally spent.’ When you hear that from one of your guys, you just have to respect him for being honest and tell him that you understand.
But at the same time, I’ve told the guys since I took this job that I want the guys who want to be there, and obviously James has done that over the years. James looked at himself in the mirror and knew that he had done a bunch of traveling and played a ton of tennis. I think you could even say that at the Open he was a little bit spent. To come over here, he knew that he was going to have to be physically ready to play on clay and that it would be difficult. This doesn’t affect the way I feel about his future on the team.
At the same time, I’m excited about Sam and Mardy being here. Mardy has been a great soldier for us. He’s been there but not playing, so this is a great opportunity for him, too.
It’s obviously going to feel different on Saturday without both of the Bryan brothers in uniform. But we’re still going to put out a real good team. As good as Bob and Mike have been, people say it’s always been an automatic point, but it’s never an automatic. You’ve got to go out there and do it and prepare and practice. We’re playing a good team, most likely, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco. They’re excellent, playing the Bryans tough before. If it’s Mardy out there with Mike, it’s a great opportunity for them to go out there in a big match and play well. I think if Mardy can focus in on the doubles but also be available for singles in case we need him, it’ll work out quite well.
The camaraderie with this group of guys is great. The Bryans and Sam were down at Andy’s place in Austin, Texas, before they came here, playing exhibitions and practicing together.
When we found out that James and Bob definitely weren’t coming, I called Mardy, and he was great, saying whatever we needed him to do, that he’d be there and ready to step in. That makes my job a lot easier to know that the guys are willing to do whatever we’re asking them to do. Mardy has a lot of things on his plate, with the wedding coming up, so that means a lot to me and the other guys on the team.
It’s always nice to have more options. As I’ve said before, we’ve been lucky to have two great singles players and a great doubles team. Obviously, that helped us win the Cup last year. But it’s hard to do that match after match, so it’s nice to have other guys that you can call on. This weekend is a great opportunity for some of the other guys to get out there and show what they can do in this atmosphere.