Here's an interview with PMac about Mardy being picked, among other things. he says a lot of things about Mardy's mental and physical issues and stuff...very interesting read, methinks
Tennis Week: I want to ask you about your reaction to Vince Spadea's letter. It seems the core of his argument is that performance typically dictates results in sports: if the Knicks outscore the 76ers, the Knicks win. If Roddick wins more sets than Ferrero in the U.S. Open final, then Roddick wins the U.S. Open title. Spadea is saying: "With that in mind, I'm ranked ahead of these guys, I've got more wins this year, so why am I not on the team? Isn't that the way sports work?"
Patrick McEnroe: Well he has more match wins and he also has 10 more losses than Mardy. First of all, let me say I have tremendous respect for what Spadea has done. I know from getting to my highest ranking when I was in my late 20s that it's very tough to do that.
Tennis Week: Your career as a player was similar to his: you both had your best years late in your career.
Patrick McEnroe: Right. My best years were late so I have a real understanding of what he's been able to do, particularly with not having all the natural game. He's a workhorse and so I have a lot of respect for what he's done. First of all, I believe Mardy has the best chance to win the match, based on his ability, based on his experience playing Davis Cup, based on the fact he's played well in the Olympics, he's played well in some big, big matches for us. I still believe Mardy's got a tremendous upside as far as his career goes. And I think he's got a lot of game. I don't think he's lived up to his potential yet. In saying that, that's not really the reason why I'm picking him in this match. Mardy won probably, at least in my tenure as captain, the biggest single match we've had, which was winning on clay (Fish scored a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Karol Kucera in the World Group Playoff tie in September of 2003) away, in front of a hostile crowd, down 1-0. Roddick had just lost.
Tennis Week: And if Fish loses that match, you're pretty much done?
Patrick McEnroe: If he loses that match then you've got the Bryans, who are obviously favored, but you know they hadn't played a match yet in Davis Cup. So you know, down 0-2 with the crowd (against us), we're in a tight spot. So Mardy stepped up and won a big match, he's also had some poor matches, but he did it on clay. I made a decision, Richard, four years ago, to go with the younger group we had. The only way that I could justify to myself putting in someone that hasn't been part of the team, they'd have to be so far clearly better (than the current players)...
Tennis Week: You mean if it was Agassi...
Patrick McEnroe: If it was Agassi then you make an exception — and this is in no way meant to disparage Vince Spadea — because he's Andre Agassi. There's only one Andre Agassi. He's won eight Grand Slams, he's one of the greatest players ever, he's Andre Agassi.
Tennis Week: I don't think Spadea — or just about anyone else for that matter —would have a problem with Agassi on the team.
Patrick McEnroe: Well I'm not making the decision based on the fact Vince is older. The primary reason is I believe that Mardy has the best chance to win a match. I believe he's got a game that can frustrate those guys. Obviously, it's clay so it's a different situation. But the key for me, in my mind, is that Mardy works his butt off these next few weeks, which obviously I'm on him about doing, so that he's in great shape. And I think if he's in great shape, then I think he's got a good chance to win a match.
Tennis Week: How do you respond to people who say: "Fish has played only one match on clay this year?" Spadea had better clay-court results this year and last year?
Patrick McEnroe: Well, Fish was injured this year during the clay court season. Obviously, he's had better results on fast courts. Spadea's had better results on hard courts than on clay this year. He's had better results than Fish on clay, but this isn't a clay-court season. We're playing one match. I'll say it again: in my mind, in my opinion, Mardy has a better chance to win a match (than Spadea). Does that mean that he's necessarily a guy who's going to win more matches (than Spadea) on clay throughout the course of a two month season? Well that's debatable. I'm asking him to try to go win one match. And if you put Vince Spadea — or anyone — in their first live match in Davis Cup in the Davis Cup final in front of 25,000 people who are going crazy — and I've been there for Roddick's first Davis Cup match, for Mardy's first Davis Cup match, for James Blake's first Davis Cup match, for Ginepri's first Davis Cup match, down two sets to love, the whole deal — that's very tough. We can't afford that in this big a match. And as I said, as solid a year as Vince has had, he hasn't done great in the majors. He hasn't had great results in Slams, which leads me to think that in five-set matches, it's one thing if the guy's unbelievable in five-set matches or if the guy got to the semis of the French. Yeah, he's had better results than Mardy on clay this year. He hasn't had the results that to me make it a no-brainer that he is the obvious pick. To me, Mardy has a better chance to win a match, he's been part of the team. If everything were exactly equal between the two guys, yeah, that counts. Team chemistry counts, with this group especially because they get along so well, they push each other, they prod each other, they get on each other's case and that's all good. That's the thing that I tried to start building four years ago, so to think they when we make it to the finals that I'm going to go against that would not be fair to the goal that I set and it wouldn't be fair to the team.
Tennis Week: You mean in the sense that you're asking Fish for his loyalty and commitment to Davis Cup and then when it comes time to play for the Cup if you said: "thanks for helping, but see you when we get back..." I mean, I can see it both ways: if you bail out on Fish at this point, after what he's contributed, after he's been there for you, understandably he's not going to feel that's fair.
Patrick McEnroe: Right. Mardy was there for us in (the first-round tie against Austria in) Connecticut when he didn't play and he knew he wasn't going to play. I believe in Mardy. I believe in what Mardy is capable of doing.
Tennis Week: So you're saying it's more pro-Fish than anti-Spadea?
Patrick McEnroe: Oh, completely, clearly, no question.
Tennis Week: Well then how do you respond to Spadea's situation? Vince is saying: "I've done what they've asked, I've produced the results and rankings and now I'm in a Catch-22 because experience counts, but how can I get experience when nobody picks me?" You know, how can I gain Davis Cup experience if no one picks me to play Davis Cup?
Patrick McEnroe: I wasn't the captain when Vince Spadea was out on the tour for 10 years. If you get to be ranked high enough you're going to be chosen to play early in your career. It just so happens that now he's ranked higher than those other guys, but throughout the year that hasn't always been the case. As I said, I have tremendous respect for what he's done. But you gotta prove it more than just having a good couple months. And he's had a good year — I'm not taking anything away from him. To say that he wants it on his record to play Davis Cup, well first of all, he's played Davis Cup, number one. He was on the team and you know my goal as the captain is not to fulfill someone's personal dream. You know, I would have wanted to play singles in Davis Cup too, many players would. I mean as much as I respect Vince for his desire and for wanting to play and for doing what he's done, when I came on as captain, I think he was ranked 200 in the world. OK. So it wasn't like I brushed off Vince Spadea for four years. I mean, he wasn't even in the mix, as far as even a possibility, really, until this year. And I believe in the young guys we have. I believe in working with them. I believe in sticking with them. And I think they need to be pushed and prodded and I'm going to keep doing that.
Tennis Week: What do you think about Spadea's point that we should revise the selection process. Let's just make it cut and dried, merit based, let's just go right to the rankings and go with the highest-ranked players first. Do you think that will ever happen?
Patrick McEnroe: No, that's absolutely never going to happen. Absolutely not. It will certainly never happen as long as I'm the captain.
Tennis Week: Why not?
Patrick McEnroe: Because I have to pick guys who I feel are best prepared to play on particular surfaces. The morale of the team is important. Match-ups, the fact that Mardy has matched up well with these guys, on different surfaces, but I watched him play Moya at the Australian and that was pretty slow conditions. I watched him play Ferrero at the Olympics. I mean, that's not a guarantee that he's going to win, but that helps. So in other words if we had this system where as Vince says we went strictly by the rankings, I mean that's just not going to happen. What if someone's hurt? When I put Ginepri in he wasn't ranked the highest at that point; when I put Blake in over Todd Martin in North Carolina, he wasn't ranked higher than him. So you have to have some flexibility. I completely disagree with going in that direction.
Tennis Week: How seriously did you consider Vince for a place on the team? Did you consider him at all for this tie? I know you contacted Agassi so when he declined what was the thought process that led you to this team?
Patrick McEnroe: I certainly considered Vince seriously. I certainly follow all the results from Europe and thankfully I have the Tennis Channel so I watch a lot of matches. I watched his match against Nadal, I watched Mardy beat Ancic and Andy lose to Mirnyi so I see a lot of tennis. Obviously, the case of Agassi is the exception because he's Agassi. Without having him available for this match, unless Vince did something extraordinary, like winning Madrid or doing something outrageous, I was pretty comfortable that I was going to stay with Mardy. He's got us here, he's won some big matches for us, he's got the experience of playing. You can't just say "Vince is in the Catch-22 because he wasn't picked before." I'm not going to put someone in there just to give him experience — especially when we're playing in the final for the Davis Cup. I mean, I'm going to throw him out there in his first live match when we're playing for the final? I have always thought — and this was as a brother, as a player, as a practice player, as a commentator, whatever role I've been associated with in Davis Cup — I believe that team chemistry really matters and really counts. Not just for one match, but for the whole program and for what we're trying to do. And that was really one of my goals: was trying to turn around the mind-set of the program, to say every year we are going to be into it. We're not just going to hope "God, we hope we get Andre, we hope we get Roddick to play..."; we want to really have a cohesive unit of guys and that's why I've had Mardy there as a practice partner, that's why Ginepri's been there, that's why Blake came to South Carolina (for the semifinal victory over Belarus) when he was injured. All those things, I think, count, when you step out on the court to play. Would it count if Spadea were five in the world? Then of course, that's different.
Tennis Week: So you're saying the disparity (between Spadea and Fish) is not great enough?
Patrick McEnroe: Exactly. The disparity is not like saying it's Andre Agassi who has won the French Open and eight majors. I'll say it again without any negativity toward Vince Spadea: you make that exception for Andre Agassi — because he's Andre Agassi.
Tennis Week: Are you concerned you're leaving yourself short if there's an injury to Roddick or Fish and one of the Bryan brothers has to go out there and play singles against a former French Open champion like Moya or Ferrero on clay? Is that a concern?
Patrick McEnroe: Sure I'm concerned about it. I mean, I may bring someone as the fifth guy just to have there.
Tennis Week: What is the exact rule on the fifth guy's eligibility to play?
Patrick McEnroe: Once you make the call on Thursday, before you do the draw ceremony, that's it. Unless, like let's say we did the draw at noon and Roddick went out at 2 and twisted his ankle, then I believe you have a doctor right there and you could substitute at that point. There is a window, right after the draw, I believe.
Tennis Week: Well why not bring Spadea as the fifth guy then?
Patrick McEnroe: Well I may bring someone, but I'm not sure I'm going to bring him.
Tennis Week: Has anything Vince has said in stating his belief impact his potential future in being selected as part of the team?
Patrick McEnroe: What's going to impact it more is how he does.
Tennis Week: His results?
Patrick McEnroe: His results. Certainly next year is a new year and a new potential for a new team. But to say I'm going to throw him into the final...Am I discounting you just because you wrote some letter? I'm glad to see he's interested, I'm glad he's interested. Hey, the guy's passionate about it, he wants to play, and that's great.
Tennis Week: Has he come to you and say "Patrick, let's talk?"
Patrick McEnroe: No. I've left him a few messages and I've never heard back from him. Maybe he doesn't want to talk to me, you know whatever, but that's fine.
Tennis Week: Do you have a good relationship with Vince overall?
Patrick McEnroe: I have a good relationship with him. I mean, I don't know him as well as I know the other guys. Obviously, I don't spend as much time with him. He came to the Olympics and had a good time, I thought, there. I tried to be there and help him when he asked. I mean, he's 30 years old so he's more set in his ways. It's like when Todd Martin played Davis Cup, I'm not going to tell Todd Martin a million things. OK. He's been out there for 10 years. So it's a little bit different. I've known Robby, Mardy and Andy since they were 17, 18 years old. So I think I've been more mentor-like and been someone who's there for him or given them opinions whether they like it or not and have been there for them. With Vince, it's not like that. Certainly, if he came and asked me, I'd give him my opinion, which I've done before. But no, I don't keep as much in touch with him as I do the other guys.
Tennis Week: But the actual selections, is that a product of the friendships you have with Roddick, Fish or any of the guys or even the friendships the players have with themselves? You're saying that the friendships have nothing to do with it?
Patrick McEnroe: It absolutely has nothing do with why I'm picking the team. I'm picking the team because I feel that Mardy has the best chance to win a match. And all the other stuff that Vince points out, the friendships, etc., you know that's not it. If Vince Spadea beat Mardy Fish, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, then you throw friendship out the window. Obviously, the chemistry of our team is very good and it's been successful to this point. To turn around and change at this point makes no sense in my mind. You're certainly entitled to disagree and he's certainly entitled to state his case.
Tennis Week: I can see it both ways. If I was Fish and you came to me and said: "Sorry Mardy, I'm leaving you off the team for the final" I'd be upset. I would not be happy. At the same time if I was Spadea and I had the superior ranking and results and felt I'd earned the right to play and was not given it, yeah I'd definitely be upset and I can completely understand being pissed.
Patrick McEnroe: Look, just judging by our conversation it's a tough call. It's a tough call. There's no perfect answer. There's no easy answer and I've got to take all that into account.
Tennis Week: But getting back to your earlier comment about taking a fifth guy, who will that be? Who is it?
Patrick McEnroe: It could be Ginepri because he's been on the team before. He's been a guy who would be a good practice guy. I can do do that (pick the fifth guy) anytime I want. Basically once you name the four guys that day (the day of the draw) you're stuck, you're locked. So in other words, if Roddick goes out and twists his ankle the first game of the match, that's it, you're in trouble. That's the nature of the beast. That's more of a (risk of having a) doubles team as opposed to singles guys playing doubles. Obviously for us its worked, having a doubles team. They (the Bryan twins) are undefeated and haven't lost a set. They bring a very strong commitment to the team, they bring an energy, they bring an enthusiasm, they take pressure off the singles guys because they know these guys are going to be there on Saturday. They gear up for it, they want to be there and they win. And I think it takes some of the pressure off the singles guys. Andy knows going out there: "I don't necessarily have to win two matches", which he's been able to do, certainly at home. Would Spadea play well over there? Yeah, I think he could play well. I do, I think he can play well. But at the same time, I feel Mardy's got a bigger game, he's got more weapons and he's someone I feel I can work with him over the course of a match.
Tennis Week: Let's talk about the tie overall. On paper, Spain is an immense favorite with the two former French Open champions Moya and Ferrero. In fact, even if they went with Robredo and Nadal, I think they'd be favored. But at the same time, Ferrero has had an injury-plagued season, his confidence is not what it was. Moya has complained of shoulder problems and hasn't played recently. They seem like they might be vulnerable — or maybe I'm just reading too much into it with the injuries. What do you think?
Patrick McEnroe: Clearly, we're the underdogs. I don't think they're as dominant as they've been on clay. Clearly, Ferrero is struggling, he's trying out this new racquet. Moya's been out.
Tennis Week: What have you heard about their health?
Patrick McEnroe: I've heard basically what you've heard. I mean even Nadal pulled out and had some shoulder troubles in Madrid. I saw that match with Spadea in Madrid and he looked to be struggling toward the end. Robredo seems to be pretty fit. I think we can see any one of those four guys in singles. I don't think it's by any means a given that it's gonna be Ferrero and Moya playing all the singles matches. And by the way, they've also got (lefthanders Fernando) Verdasco and (Feliciano) Lopez, who they can also pull in. I'm not really looking too much as to who they're going to have. For us, the main thing is being in great shape and to be physically ready to go the distance. And if we do that, we can beat those guys. We're the under dog, but we're not playing Ferrero or Moya two weeks after they won the French. They're not quite at their peak point, but in saying that they're still gonna be practicing their butts off now and they're going to be as prepared as they can possibly be. But confidence means a lot and in a situation like that having had wins and success is important. I think it will be good for Andy to play Houston and Mardy played a bunch of tournaments and the Bryans have had a pretty good last two months, so I feel pretty good about them. My concern is that we're physically ready to go. I think the mental stuff — dealing with the crowd and trying not to get over excited — I think we can handle that. We want to play our game: we want to hit some big serves and be able to end points quickly, but we also want to be able to play 15 to 20 shot rallies here and there.
Tennis Week: Do you think Mardy is physically fit enough and has the stamina to play those type of demanding rallies in a best-of-five set match?
Patrick McEnroe: Well that's a huge question mark. That's a big part of what I've been working on with him and continuing to push him physically and to upgrade his fitness. Look, if he's not in great shape, he's gonna struggle. But if he's in great shape, he's got a chance. So I've told him that. I've talked to (fitness guru and noted trainer) Pat Etcheberry and I've talked to his people about it.
Tennis Week: How does Mardy feel? Does he feel he's in good enough shape to do it?
Patrick McEnroe: He feels he's working hard now. He's trying to lay a good base. He's working on his cardio, doing some running, doing some hills. He's got a few more weeks and I think that's enough. He's a good athlete. He's a natural athlete. He played five sets at the Olympics and he was fine, physically. He lost the match, but he was fine physically. What I'm saying is that I don't feel he has too far to go. I just feel he needs that push.
Tennis Week: I agree with everything you've said about Fish's athleticism, his weapons, his ability. The thing that concerns me is he occasionally seems to lose focus by getting cranky and caught up over a questionable call. Remember what happened in Australia after he beat Moya when he's up two sets to love against Ferreira? He just mentally loses it and only won five games the rest of the match. At those times you feel like yelling at him: "Dude, you've got game, you've got the ability. Just play the game and don't get caught up in the calls and lose it." Can you explain it? What's that all about?
Patrick McEnroe: First of all, let me say if you know you're in physically great shape, that makes a difference. You don't get as cranky. That happened to me a little bit. You look at a great player like Lendl and look at how getting into great shape changed him mentally. Lendl was known as being mentally fragile until he worked so hard physically that he was able to overcome it. Agassi used to flail at balls sometimes before he got into great shape. So I've worked on that a lot with Mardy in Charleston. As far as: "Listen, you're going to get some bad calls. The guy's going to hit a lucky shot. Forget about it." I remember in (the Davis Cup semifinals) Charleston at one point in the fourth set with Mirnyi he got a shaky call or he double faulted twice and then sort of got one bad call. All of a sudden, in his mind, that's why he lost serve; forgetting the fact he double faulted twice and missed an easy shot. So he got up and was doing his usual bickering with the umpire. So I said: "Mardy, listen when you get up (from the changeover) you can say one more thing to the umpire and that's it, it's over." Because you have to understand his mind frame, you can't just turn it off. So he got up, he made a little comment to the umpire, he turned and sort of smiled at me and that was it. Then he went on and played a hell of a fourth set. So get the last word and then just forget it.
Tennis Week: So are you saying if his body is in better shape then it's going to strengthen his mind?
Patrick McEnroe: No question. Absolutely no question. There's no doubt in my mind that will play a big part. Is it going to solve all his problems? No, but it's going to help a lot in his attitude, in his ability to move his feet every point. Because if you're a little concerned about your fitness, you think: "I'll save a little energy" then you get a little lazy, a little lackadaisical, a little irritated. All those things connect in some way. So the good thing about Mardy is that I feel there's still a big upside there. And I feel that he's had, not a great year, a little inconsistent. So I think it all does matter. I believe in Mardy. I believe in his potential.
Tennis Week: This could be a big moment for him. It could really help his confidence in his career, but I thought the Olympics would do that for him — that his performance there would propel him the rest of the season.
Patrick McEnroe: The thing with Mardy is that he needs to be constantly kicked in the butt.
Tennis Week: You've got big feet so you're the right guy for the job.
Patrick McEnroe: I do it in a loving way. I believe in him. Sometimes, I piss him off. I think he knows I'm trying to help him. That doesn't mean he always agrees with what I'm saying, but that's OK. I think he knows I have his best interests at stake.
Tennis Week: You look at Fish, Dent and Ginepri and I don't believe they've had the type of years that they wanted to have or that people expected. Why is that? What's it going to take for them to pick it up and reach their potential?
Patrick McEnroe: I could go on forever about each of them. I'll say in a general comment they each need to look hard at being more professional in whatever that means — whether it's a mental thing, whether it's Taylor Dent getting into better shape, whether it's Mardy in a combination of physical and mental — you know whatever it is for them it was not easy, but it was relatively routine to get from No. 200 to No. 50 to No. 30. To get to 20 from 30 and from 20 to 15 and to 10 is a lot harder. It takes a lot of dedication and incredible amount of hard work.
Tennis Week: Do you think they each have it within to get there?
Patrick McEnroe: Yes, I do.
Tennis Week: Do you think the desire is there?
Patrick McEnroe: I think it's in there somewhere. Is it obvious and right there on the surface? No, but I do think it's there and they all have it in different ways. But they've gotta realize if they want to maximize their potential, then they've got to do everything possible to get there. Because everybody else is. Everybody else around the world is killing themselves to try to get there.