Oh no, here we go...article critical of Mark for avoiding press conference questions and of John Fitzgerald for protecting him. Keira (I think ) was probably right about them not looking too happy in the press conference pics.
Fitzgerald shields the Scud
By Michael McGuire
February 4, 2004
MARK PHILIPPOUSSIS turned 27 in November, a grown man by anyone's definition, but it doesn't mean he's allowed to speak for himself.
In the closeted world of sport, and tennis in particular, it's out of bounds to ask about anything that doesn't directly reflect an athlete's on-field performance.
Therefore, just because Philippoussis has been heavily criticised by a former great of Australian tennis in Pat Cash, who also accused him of threatening physical violence, and by team-mate Todd Woodbridge, it doesn't mean he should be allowed to defend himself.
Davis Cup babysitter John Fitzgerald came down hard on anyone who tried to raise either topic at yesterday's question-and-answer session with the team that will play Sweden in Adelaide starting on Friday.
"I'm happy to answer anything if you want, but I'd prefer if we'd stay on Davis Cup," Fitzgerald, a part-time commentator for Channel Seven, said in answer to a question directed at Philippoussis.
"We're not really interested in anything that angles towards tabloid journalism, I don't think. It's not what this team's about."
The babysitter even played the old "blame the media" card when Philippoussis was asked about the less-than-complimentary comments of doubles specialist Woodbridge, who also happened to be sitting next to him at the press conference.
Although the media can, just occasionally, be guilty of the odd beat-up, with Woodbridge no further amplification was necessary.
Woodbridge said on radio that his team-mate, with whom he won the Davis Cup only two months ago, was "the type of guy who has been happy to give 70 per cent".
To that he added on the presence of teenage pop star Delta Goodrem in the Philippoussis entourage that: "I can't answer that for him, but if it was me, Pat Rafter or Roger Federer for that matter, then I don't think you'd see them doing that".
"There are times for fun, there are times for partying and there are times for other stuff, but there are also the times of focus and complete dedication," Woodbridge said.
Game, set and match to Mr Woodbridge.
But not according to captain Fitzgerald, who said team morale was not under threat.
"This team is a very solid unit," Fitzgerald said.
"I have already answered it once, a very solid unit, and we are not interested in developing a story that we don't think there's anything in.
"It has been overplayed absolutely, to the point of the ridiculous and these guys are all here fighting together as a combined unit."
Well, the fighting bit is probably right.
The only thing Philippoussis had to say about the whole imbroglio was at the Adelaide airport earlier in the day when he said in regard to Cash that "I just laugh at things like that".
"I have got more important things to worry about like the Davis Cup and that is what is on my mind, nothing else."
Philippoussis also said that he was well prepared for the tie against Sweden despite missing Australia's first two training sessions in Adelaide because he was in Sydney fulfilling business commitments.
Philippoussis, along with Lleyton Hewitt and doubles player Wayne Arthurs, practised in Melbourne for three days before heading to South Australia.
"This is a Davis Cup tie and just as I did in the other ones I'll give it 110 per cent, go out there and win it for myself, the team, the captain, coach and the country," Philippoussis said.
It could also be a big weekend for Hewitt, who if he wins both singles matches against Sweden, will set an Australian record for Davis Cup wins, beating the mark set by Adrian Quist, who first played in 1933.