JMG opted out of Davis Cup, he was too "scared" he might get injured playing on greenset
Gambill turned down Davis Cup, cites fear of injury
Toughest decision is 'not a cop-out'
By Matthew Cronin
American Jan-Michael Gambill turned down a spot on the U.S. Davis Cup team because he fears a season-ending injury on the Green Set Trophy surface, which he says he's been injured on four times over the past four years.
"It's ironic given with what happened last year with me not playing that I got the call from Patrick and I wanted to play, but the tie happens to be on this surface which my body cannot take," the No. 34-ranked Gambill told tennisreporters.net.
"Every time I've played on it I've gotten hurt and I can't afford to take that risk and possibly be out the rest of the year."
After Andy Roddick was diagnosed with severe tendonitis in his right wrist and was unable to play on the U.S. team against Croatia, February 7-9 in Zagreb, U.S captain Patrick McEnroe called Gambill at 4:30 a.m. in Hawaii and asked him to come aboard, despite the fact that he and Gambill clashed last year over McEnroe's decision not to name him to any of the Cup teams. The request Gambill made of McEnroe before signing on was that he call Zagreb and verify the surface.
"Once Patrick called me back and told me what it was, I had to say no," Gambill said. "That surface has absolutely no give. It's like a hard plastic. I would end up tiptoeing around on it anyway so it's probably better I'm not on the team."
Later that morning, McEnroe named James Blake, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent and Robby Ginepri to the squad.
Gambill, who is ranked well above Fish, Dent and Ginepri, likely would have played second singles, given that he reached the singles final in Doha earlier this year and is a much more experienced big match player than either Fish or Dent, one of whom is likely to now see singles duty.
"I know that it's Davis Cup and Davis Cup has always been very important to me, but I can't see taking that kind of a risk so early in the year when I've been playing so well," Gambill said. "Patrick was a little disappointed, but he understands what it is to have injuries; he's no fool. It's one of the toughest decisions I've ever made. It's not a cop out."
A USTA source told tr.net that McEnroe was clearly disappointed. When asked about his discussion with Gambill on Tuesday, McEnroe wouldn't' elaborate on his feelings, but the tone of his voice indicated a fair amount of irritation.
"It was such a last minute thing that it didn't work out," McEnroe said. "We had discussions and it just didn't work out at the end."
The 25-year-old Gambill calls indoor carpet "my nemesis" and says that he was injured playing on the surface for four straight years during the fall European swing. In 1999, he hurt his knees in Lyon; in 2000, he injured his back while playing Basel and the Tennis Masters Series Paris, which caused him to later withdraw from s second round match in Stockholm; in 2001, he hurt his back again in Basel and was forced to retire in a first-round match; and last year, he retired at TMS Paris after injuring his shins.
Gambill said that before Roddick was injured, McEnroe made a prior call to him and said that he might be asked to be a "fifth player on the team," and to await another call. Gambill said that at the time he felt like he deserved one of the top four spots anyway, but was willing to hear McEnroe out and awaited his final call. Gambill said that while the two aren't best friends, he respects the captain.
"I don't always agree with what Patrick does, but I admire him for doing things the way he wants to do them," said Gambill, who has only won one live Davis Cup match and is 2-6 overall. "I may not agree with his rules about not having private coaches in the first four days, or that he waits so long to decide on who's playing, but he's been successful building a team atmosphere and I respect him for that."
Gambill added that the U.S. team is capable of beating Croatia, saying, "James has been playing very well and Mardy played well in Australia. He's confident and I think we can pull out the doubles, too."
The Spokane resident said that he hopes to be asked to play on the team again and wouldn't count out the young U.S squad from winning it all this year.
"Funny things happen in Davis Cup," he said.