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Patrick McEnroe: Legg Mason Tournament, U.S. Davis Cup and American Tennis Development

United States Davis Cup tennis team captain Patrick McEnroe, right, talks with reporters during a press conference in March before the U.S.'s Davis Cup match with Switzerland.
United States Davis Cup tennis team captain Patrick McEnroe, right, talks with reporters during a press conference in March before the U.S.'s Davis Cup match with Switzerland. (Dave Martin - AP)
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Patrick McEnroe
U.S. Davis Cup Captain
Friday, August 7, 2009; 2:30 PM

U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe was online Friday, Aug. 7 at 2:30 p.m. to take all your questions about the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the Davis Cup and athlete development in U.S. tennis.

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Complete Tennis Coverage

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Patrick McEnroe: Great to be back in DC! Good first match today with Gonzalez-Haas. Looking forward to Roddick tonight!

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Arlington, Va.: I love the tennis group on ESPN2, you guys are entertaining even when the match isn't!

My question is about Andy Roddick. I was one of those who had written him off and was pleasantly surprised by his showing at the French and then Wimbledon. I was really pulling for him in the final of Wimbledon and to lose in such a long, close match must have been devastating. Do you think that match will be the beginning of something special for Andy, or was that his last chance for another major title?

Thanks!

Patrick McEnroe: Wow big question. let me start by saying thanks for the kind comments. We at ESPN2 have a great time together and greta camaradie. and we're really looking forward to covering the U.S. Open for the first time!

I will say the same to you that I siad to andy himself the night of his loss at the WImbledon final. I really believe Andy made more fans and easrned more repsect with that one loss than he did with any of his prior wins in his career.

I think we saw the full maturity of Andy Roddick in that epic final as a player, persoan and competitor. And if firmly believe he will have more opportunities to win another Grand Slam.

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Samurai tennis: Thanks for doing the chat. While I love James Blake and he is one of the best guys around, he hasn't been playing a lot of decent tennis this year. So, is the vastly improved Sam-I-am Querry going to get a call for Davis Cup anytime soon?

Patrick McEnroe: Well Sam has made great strides no doubt. and James has certainly had an inconsistent year. Our next Davis Cup match is not until March 2010. A lot can happen between now and then. But im very optimsitc about Sam's porgress and think in the not too distacne future he'll certainly be playing a larger part in Davis Cup.

But I must say James Blake has answered the call every time he has been asked in singles doubles and as a practice player and has been doing tat for 10 years adn we should all thank him for his dedication to the Davis Cup effort.

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Boston: Patrick -

Thank you so much for doing this conversation. I'm a fan - you and tennis! Any idea who is going to win Legg-Mason?

Patrick McEnroe: Well, the defending champ Del Potro has a great chance. If I had to bet Id bet on a Roddick del Porto final. Little tough to predict this first tournament back for both guys. Wouldn't surprise me if Karlovic or Isner snuck through to the finals.

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Newton, Mass.: If you are willing to respond to this one: who of your Davis Cup players has been the easiest to coach? Who has been the most challenging?

Patrick McEnroe: I dont think any of them are easy becasue tennis players are so used ot doing their own thing. Part of the job of being a captain is to understadn the personliaty of each player and they vary considerably.

The Bryan Brothers are about as easy as you can get because they kind of coach each other.

I'd say both Roddick and Blake can be easy at times adn challenging at other tmes.

How's that for straddling the fence?

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Old Town Alexandria, Va.: Patrick,

Do we have any young guns in the US on the horizon? Does everyone get taught the two-handed backhanded now? And will there ever be a resurgence of Serve 'n' Volleyers, or is it a function of too-heavy topspin groundies/superior racquets/whatnot

Thanks

Patrick McEnroe: That's a lot fo questions in one. W do have lots of young guns. Youre seeing one in Querrey. isner has a very good chance of finishing in top 30; we have a young kid named Ryan harrison who spent time with the Davis Cup team as practice partner in Croatia. Look out for 6-6 Alex Domijian.

On the backhands, no. Obviosly, many of the top players have two ahnded backhand. but from my perspective you let a players do what they do naturally and teach them the stroke.

Many players are more comfortbale with two hands because you can generate more power and place. But federer has a one handed backhand thats quite a weapon. Many who possess two handed backhands can also hit a one handed - Djokoiv Nadal and Murray do both

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New York, N.Y.: How is your own tennis game these days? Do you get to play much?

Patrick McEnroe: Between my three girls under 3 and a half and my job with the USTA and tennis TV commentating I dont have as much time to play as Id like. But i sitll think i could beat most of you following this chat. :-)

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Washington, D.C.: I understand you and your wife are the recent parents of twins! Congratulations!

Along those lines, what advice would you give Roger Federer in the months to come? What's in store as the game's greatest player juggles a new family of four with tennis?

Patrick McEnroe: Ha ha . Here's one word when it comes to twins. Schedule. schedule and schedule. You need to get the twins on the same schedule. they need to sleep at the same time, eat at the same time. Our babies sleep at the same time.

somehow Im not so sure Roger will be changing as many diapers as I have. But he is a pretty sensitive guy. So you never know

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Washington, D.C.: The Israeli Davis Cup team has been the surprise of this year's event -- do you give them any chance of having lighting strike twice and making it into the Davis Cup final?

Thanks.

Patrick McEnroe: Its been awesome to see Israel get to the semifinals. thats a huge accomplishment for the country. But considereing they playing Spain in Spain, and Nadal has said he's playing, I dont like their chance. take it from someone who had the same experience last year in the semifinal.

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Rockville, Md.: What are your thoughts on Wimbledon admitting that they showcase attractive women over the higher seeded women? Is the ratings difference actually that much higher? My opinion of this tournament has gone way down over this one.

Patrick McEnroe: I'd agree. I was shocked that someone from the All England Club said that. I thought that was outrageous.

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New York, N.Y.: What is up with Nadal? When is he expected to return?

Patrick McEnroe: He's in Montreal, so he has already been practicing for the big event up in Canada next week. And we're all hopeful he will be able to come back as strong as ever. he's great for tennis.

The fact that he wasnt able to defend his Wimbledon title was such a tremendous disappointment. Most of all to him, I'm sure

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Years ago my son was a ballboy for a doubles match you were in at the Legg Mason here in Washington. He was most impressed by you, thought you were most courteous and considerate to the ball boys. It was the only professional match he did and he's never forgotten you.

No question. Just a comment and thanks for his memories.

Patrick McEnroe: Wow. Thank you very much!

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Florham Park, N.J.: Is Melissa still singing on Broadway?

Patrick McEnroe: At present she's not. She's working on a couple of records and concerts. But when our twins grow up just a little bit more, I'm sure she'll be ready to go back to Broadway. And I'll go back to my favorte job, as a Stage Door Johnnie.

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Vienna, Va.: I've always wondered what percent of TV viewers of tennis are recreational players themselves. I've assumed most. What do you think? And how does that effect your commentary?

Patrick McEnroe: That's a great question. I think most viewers of tennis are diehard tennis fans/players. And its mostly at the major events where you can attract the more casual sports fan. But you certianly keep in mind that the average tennis fan is extremely well versed in everything going on about tennis. And we thank you for your passion for the game.

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New York, N.Y.: I was a big fan of yours when you were on Imus. Why did you leave the show? Did you get along with Don Imus and Charles McCord, and was all that banter friendly or were there some vicious undertones behind it?

Patrick McEnroe: No, I had a great time on Imus. They're a great crew. And all of that banter is done in jest and good fun. I only left because I had too many other things to do.

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Newton, Mass.: Who would be your favorite co-analysts in your TV work? Do you think viewers lose because of the absence of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and other champions?

If I may be candid: I become very annoyed at many of the current TV folk talking during points, and doing more gossiping about personal concerns of the players than offering observations about technique, strategy, strengths and challenges - bring back Tony Trabert!

Patrick McEnroe: Well, Tony Trabert is and was a class act on many levels. And us commentators - we all have our own personality. We all have our own unique style.

I like to live by a couple of mottos: Entertain and educate. And have fun.

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Falls Church, Va.: Patrick:

I am a big fan of your work on ESPN and CBS. If Nadal wins the U.S. Open over Federer, who deserves the Player of the Year? Rafa or Roger? I would argue Rafa since he has the head-to-head edge in the majors.

Thanks!

Patrick McEnroe: I would agree. I htink if Rafa beats Roger in the US Open final, youd have to put him as No. 1

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Fairfax, Va.: Got any thoughts about the three local juniors (Junior Ore, Denis Kudla, and Mitchell Frank) who played in the Legg Mason qualifying this week, with all of them performing impressively and one of them taking a set off a pro.

Patrick McEnroe: Ive seen all of them quite a bit. they each have their different style of play. All good hard workers. All train at the Center in College Park. By the way its become one of the USTA's regional trainer centers becasue the coaching staff there does a phenomenal job.

All three of those kids have potential to be very good players. But they're sitll quite young.

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Newton, Mass.: What characteristics do you seek in a Davis Cup team member? I'm wondering if it is just those willing to do so, make/take the time.

Thanks

Patrick McEnroe: Obviously the most imporant one is performance. Without --noe one can be a good coach without great players. Beyond that you want someone that is passionate and physciall and mentlal tough to be able to handle best of five set matches and the unique environment that is the Davis Cup setting. It's very taxing emotionally

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Herndon, Va.: Just based on calendar year 2009, can you argue Roddick is the No. 3 player in the world given Djokovic's and Andy Murray's subpar Grand Slam performances?

Thanks.

Patrick McEnroe: Umm, I think you could be pretty close to making that. He's certainly in my mind ahead of Djokoivc. Murray is a little tougher to argue becase he has played so well in the other tournaments.

But Roddick has clearly played his way back into that dicussion. And I think Roddick has a greta chance at the U.S. Open

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East End, Washington, D.C.: It used to be that American women were the absolute top of the sport ... what happened?

Patrick McEnroe: Well, a lot of things happened. The world caught up. And we need to do a better job of finding more athletic young girls to play tennis. We need to do a better job of coaching them properly. And thats what I'm concentrating most of my tiem with now, with the USTA Player Decvelopment program.

Weve got some young girls coming up, so stay tuned.

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Los Angeles: Why is it the USTA opts to spend the majority of its development money on a few select kids who are recognized as talents at age 10 rather than spread the money out over a larger group, help develop more talent, and let the cream rise to the top. Spending thousands to send kids to train on clay courts in Spain seems like a waste of money. Let the U.S. build some good red clay courts and let "everyone" train on them!

Patrick McEnroe: We're doing all of that! Thank you for your interest and passion. We give out grant money to large numbers of kids. Were holding more and mroe training camps for kids 9-13 than ever before. Yes, as the kids get older, their late teens, we will allocate our resources to fewer numbers. but we use more of our resources and spread them out more when players are younger so we cna increase our pool.

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Madison, Wisc.: In the 90's the top American male players attended college for at least a year then turned pro; Russell, Kevin Kim, the Bryans, Gimelstob. All have had respectable careers, despite going the college route for a a year or two.

Now, it appears the top American players all go pro, yet many do not have the physical maturity to dominate as an 18-year-old. Unless you are an Andy Roddick or built like Marat Safin, it's difficult as a 18 year old to compete on the tour. Isn't it advantageous for these American players to go to college first then go pro?

Patrick McEnroe: I am fully encouraging 99 percent of our players to go to college for some periofd of time. Look at the success of John Isner, Bobby Reynolds, Devin Britton who won NCAA sas a freshman. I think it's a great idea to go spend some time in college, unless it's a no brainer that youre going to be a top 50 player in the world like a Roddick or a Querrey.

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New York, N.Y.: Patrick,

Can you talk about why you felt Jose Higueras was a good hire for the USTA? What about his coaching philosophies will help our young players?

Patrick McEnroe: Number one Jose is extremly passionate about the game of tennis. He's mayeb a better person than he is a coach. and he has a philosphy about movement decision-making and fitness that I think is crucial for our young kids and coaches to learn. And he has blown me away in his now, just about a year on the job, with his commitment and passion for helping our kids.

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Philadelphia: When a tennis player loses his temper during a match, is it usually part of a planned strategy to put the opponent off balance and to shake up the referees should they pay closer attention to their calls? Or, is it usually just that the player is upset?

Patrick McEnroe: I would say 99 percent of the time the player is just upset. I think it's very rare that someone would consciously -- I'm going to get upset now to rattle my opponent.

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Patrick McEnroe: Thanks to everyone for sending in the questions. Sorry I couldn't answer all of them.

I hope you'll keep following tennis all summer on ESPN2. And I'm really looking forward to the U.S. Open.

And support your local newspaper!

Patrick

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