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Écrit par Jerome   
19-09-2006

2000 DAVIS CUP
CZECH REPUBLIC vs. USA

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

April 6, 2000

An interview with:

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE,
ANDRE AGASSI,
PETE SAMPRAS,
ALEX O'BRIEN and
JARED PALMER

USTA: This is the second time in the history of Davis Cup that the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked singles and doubles players have been on the same team. So it's an interesting statistic. We'll start with questions and answers.

Q. What was the first time?

USTA: 1984 Semifinals, U.S.A. defeated Australia.

Q. Who was it?

USTA: Connors, McEnroe and Fleming.

Q. First question obviously is, Andre, can you bring us up-to-date on your ankle? I know everyone's concerned about it after your last match.

ANDRE AGASSI: Thank you. I feel so much love. (Laughter.) It's stable, which is really all I was hoping for by this point. I can -- I have to tape it pretty mildly, and I feel pretty secure on it. So while it's not great because I still have to think about it to some degree, it's in plenty good enough position to go out there and not worry too much about it.

Q. Andre, how are you feeling about your tennis overall these days?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, you know, I've felt better. I felt better in January and hasn't quite -- I haven't quite felt great yet again, but that's okay. It will get better.

Q. To both Pete and Andre. Guys, does this Czech team present any threat to you guys if you play well? Or if you play bad?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, absolutely. Anyone that is playing in the men's game is a threat. Even though they're not ranked as high as Andre and I, they're going to come out here with nothing to lose, swinging away and having fun. Our chances are good. I mean we've been -- we both have been playing well over the past month, and I certainly like our chances. But it won't be easy; it won't be a cake walk. These are, you know, experienced pros that have played Davis Cup before and are going to go out swinging away.

Q. Pete, are you concerned about Davis Cup in that you've had some serious injuries playing Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I have had injuries over the past six months, and Davis Cup is, for some reason, I have gotten hurt at Davis Cup. I don't know why. But I feel good, and this week I haven't felt any extra pains. It was a long week last week, but I pulled up good on Monday and have been hitting the ball fine. So hopefully I'll - knock on wood - stay 100 percent.

Q. How's the court playing? Pete, Andre?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a fair court. It's not too fast, not too slow. You can stay backcourt, come in, it's a surface that I like, and certainly Andre's going to play well on it, and the doubles team. So I think it's a great court.

Q. Does it play about the same as the Sybase court? It looks like it's the same court.

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe just a touch quicker. It's not quite as rough and the ball moves on the court pretty well here. It's similar. I mean it's not, like I said, it's not going to favor either a fast court player or a baseliner. It's pretty fair.

Q. John, in Zimbabwe you spoke about how this was suddenly, even though you'd played so much Davis Cup, it was a totally new world sitting on the sidelines, and you were going to have to adjust and so on. You came through it all right. But how are your thoughts now?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I think time helps. This is the next time, so, I mean, I think we're at a big advantage because we're at home and I think we're playing at the place that would give us the most exposure, at the Forum here in LA. There's a lot of positives to coming here. This may be the only match we play in the States all year. I think that, you know, like anything else, you try to learn from your previous experiences.

Q. Did you have a feeling afterwards that it was really a close call?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: There's no question. If I start seeing naked guys start dancing again, then I'll start worrying.

PETE SAMPRAS: This is LA though.

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Good point, we may. (Laughter.)

Q. Andre, for you, can you speak about when you put on the red, white and blue and there's an expectation to sweep this thing, how you deal with that pressure?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean, I got to say that, you know, expectation to go out there and just take care of business used to feel a lot more like pressure. I mean, when you've played Davis Cup for so many years, you kind of start realizing that regardless of what it says on paper, there's a job to be done and you have to put yourself in the position to do that as effectively as possible, and that means really boiling it down inside the lines and executing. So I don't -- I'm not kind of confused with anybody's expectation. I realize that these guys can pull off wins, and there's no better arena for those wins to take place, or more common. They happen a lot in Davis Cup, and I do not want them to happen here in our backyard. It's not something I want to happen. So we just work hard for it.

Q. John, you were mentioning learning from your mistakes from the first tie. What specifically do you think you learned from that first experience?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: It's just a question of finding a comfort level with the players around and the situation. And not, you know, being out there playing is something I'm not accustomed to. I'm accustomed to running around, getting some of the nerves out and also trying to be yourself without being in the way or being a positive force. So it's just those type of things, trying to make a positive difference instead of sort of becoming a distraction.

Q. Pete and Andre, being on one team together as your rival, what does it mean for you?

ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I mean this is more about the team and putting together the best possible team you can possibly put together, and there's no question that Pete and I, as of late, have established ourselves as worthy of this team, as well as Alex and Jared. So it's, you know, it's an opportunity to put together a world-class team that has the same goal in mind. And then, you know, there's an additional element of one day looking back at what has been a great asset in my career, having Pete as a rival, and looking back with some fond memories. And, you know, I think it's hard to ignore that we're in the process of making those now, and that we're pretty clear of. But the first and foremost is the team that is going to get the job done, and that's why all of us are sitting up here.

Q. Pete, other than John's presence, what's different about Davis Cup now? Why is it more the priority in your career now than it was five years ago?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you know, I just felt for years, you know, I was trying to stay No. 1. I felt it was hard to do both. It was hard to stay No. 1 and play Davis Cup. It was a big commitment, and the times that I've played Davis Cup over the years, it's kind of hurt me a little bit. But I'm to the point now where I've, you know, I've been No. 1 for a while and it's time to, you know, look into Davis Cup. And certainly being in my home and on my couch, looking at what happened in England, seeing what the guys did there and it gives you a lot of motivation, a certain passion that I found over the past year, and I'm obviously excited about playing this year and, hopefully, we can have a smooth way, you know, as far as the week, a good week and hopefully win this thing.

Q. How much impact has John had in you and your commitment to Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well it was, you know, when we talked when John, you know, got to be captain, we had some good heart-to-hearts about my career over the next couple years. There wasn't one thing he said that got me to play. It was, you know, it's where I'm at in my career, that I want to play, and certainly John brings a lot of attention to Davis Cup, not only as a player, as a commentator. The list goes on and on, and certainly Davis Cup needs the attention and he brings that. But I'm to the point where I want to play, and certainly this year I'm committed to playing and looking forward to a good ride.

Q. John, the Czech captain described your team as the best Davis Cup team ever assembled, if I understood him properly. How do you feel about that?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Well, I'm sure he's just trying to, you know, downplay his chances and make sure that there's as little pressure on his team. I've thought there's been a couple pretty good teams, this is obviously a good team. You're talking about two of the greatest players that have ever played the game. These guys are ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles right now. So, obviously, on paper we should win all the matches, but that's why we -- that's why sports is so great to me. Because at the end of the day you got to go out and do it. Paper doesn't mean a whole lot. Weird things happen in Davis Cup. So we'll see. But I mean having said that, I'm confident that we're going to win every match.

Q. Alex and Jared, while Andre and Pete each have two chances this weekend, can you comment on being a doubles team and having one chance, do or die, out there this weekend?

JARED PALMER: Well, I don't know. I think that, you know, we just have to put everything we can into the one match, you know, it's something that, you know, Al and I have each played four times, so we've had some experience with that. And, you know, we've been playing well lately, and all we can do is just go out and play hard and put everything into that one match.

Q. Andre, could you talk about your decision to play this year after not playing last year and how much John might have affected your decision?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yeah. Well, to me, what makes Davis Cup so special is that it's an opportunity not to just to play for your country but also for us to come together as a team. And, you know, I've played the Davis Cup for so many years and so many different occasions that when I felt like it really wasn't much of a team anymore, I struggled with it. And I felt like it wasn't a team because really the team wasn't making decisions on the elements that are most important to our success when we're out there in battle. When our team doctor was fired without anybody consulting the players, beyond him being great for our team and beyond him being a personal friend of mine, his father was a Davis Cup doctor for 30 years, for more. And I just had no desire to pour so much energy into something that was only, yet again, another match, another week, another, you know, time away from home, from resting and getting ready for your big events. And it didn't mean anything. But when Judy came in and said, you know, what do you want, what do the players want, I said well, I'll tell you what I want, I want our team doctor back to start with. I want to be able to make decisions with the team that are important to the team, and that starts with our captain. And so we all got together and we all decided who we wanted as captain. It was pretty clear at the end of the conversation, and the fact that we're now working as a team is what's inspiring. It's what makes it so special. It's why you want to be a part of it.

Q. John, have you found this steep learning curve at all humbling, and is there any coach or mentor's voice that you've been hearing in your ear during the more uncomfortable moments?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: Having kids has humbled me more than anything. That keeps my feet on the ground. And certainly, the fact that I probably would go by -- I had a few captains, but my first one, I felt like Tony Traybert was someone who was there, but he just would just do enough and ask you a couple of -- just like I would do with Pete and Andre, a couple things to keep them focused. It's not like these guys don't know how to win. It's more of, to me, a feeling of what Andre just said, you know, trying to get people together to feel like we're enjoying this and that this is a team, even if it's just spread out for four weeks, four weeks a year. I mean these things need to change. There's no question the scheduling needs to change. But while it's this way, that we enjoy each other's company, we're out there, and there's a comfort level and that's it's fun on some level. I mean it's not -- it's a great job, there's no question it's a great job to be a professional tennis player. We're all lucky to have that job. But there are times when you put a lot of pressure on yourself, particularly the bigger events, and I know that the players are going to put some pressure -- I'm going to put some pressure on myself as well to win this. But at the end of the day, as long as we go out there and we're rallying together as a team and give it our best shot, then we're going to be okay. You know, we can look back and say this is -- this is something we wanted to do and we're doing it for a good reason. Because I happen to believe that this is important for tennis.

Q. John, back to an earlier question, you said that there were a lot of good Davis Cup teams. Can you think of any Davis Cup team on paper that could give this team a real --

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I could think of a team that, you know -- but I'm biased here -- but the team that I played on in '92 with me and these two characters to my right and Jim Courier as a fourth player, I thought that was a pretty reasonable team. (Laughter.)

Q. If you went head-to-head --

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I'm not going to answer that question. I'm the captain now. If I was playing when you asked me that, I would have given you another answer.

ANDRE AGASSI: What was the question?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: What team is better.

Q. Is the amount of diplomacy you have that goes with the captain job sometimes a struggle to you considering your impulsive personality?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: You obviously haven't spent much time with me recently.

Q. No.

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I find it's part of the job, and it's good for me. But as I said, it's far tougher to sort of, you know I have six kids to raise and I find it a nice challenge, actually. I think that it's something that it made sense at this time to do. It's a challenge that I was aware was not going to be easy. It's not like I could walk in and do whatever I want. I haven't been able to do that much so far. So we'll have to give it time and wait and see what happens.

Q. John, we've heard a lot about the strength of the United States team. Would you give us some handicap of the Czech Republic team? How strong do you think they are? What do you think their strengths are?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I think the strengths are they're unpredictable. The fans out there don't know them and they're dangerous. They have both singles, a lazy style, they have what appears to be less than 100 percent intensity, but that's just sort of the style they play so they can sort of bring you down to this feeling where you don't feel like you're quite -- like competing against someone, like against Michael Chang, the guy's giving 120 percent. With these guys, they're sort of out there, their game is based on sort of -- sort of a relaxed style. And so you just have to be aware. Like what Andre said earlier, be aware of doing your homework. If you do that, they're capable players. A guy 40 in the world, if you're struggling, is going to give you some problems. Dosedel was in the quarters of the US Open and Novak reached around a 16. They can be dangerous. But if these guys, you know, are in the right frame of mind, they'll be fine.

Q. John, you had a first look at Andy Roddick, who everybody says is pretty much our best hope in a long time. What's your impression?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I'm not sure of everybody you're talking to, but I happen to agree with them. I think he's got a lot of -- he's got a lot of potential, no question. I mean he's bringing a lot to the table. I'd like to, you know, I'd like to be able to work with the guy. But, you know, he's -- he could be a very good player. He's holding his own against these guys, you know, at least broke a bead of sweat on their forehead a couple of times. He learns quickly.

Q. What do you like about his game?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: I just like the fact that he doesn't think he knows it all yet, like most of these other young guys. That's an important start, and that he's, you know, he's taken what these guys are dishing out to him. I feel like he's learning on the spot. You can't get a better education, he's been able to practice with these two guys. You talk about learning in a hurry.

Q. Brad Gilbert's hanging around. Are you going to chat with him about what's happening this weekend, bring him out to dinner with the team or anything?

CAPTAIN JOHN McENROE: He's probably right there right now, are you kidding? Brad is someone who's, you know, an asset because he -- if there's any question I needed to know about any subject, regardless if it's tennis -- (Laughter.) The Cisco earnings or whatever, I'll be okay. So, you know, he's at our beck and call. He probably is right out there right now, so he'll be around. No question.

USTA: Thank you very much.

 
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