Those early Davis Cup photos are precious.
Thanks for those, Cat. They all look so young, they were just babies.
The accolades from the media keep pouring in.
U.S. Tennis Team Shows Ego Doesn't Rule the Day: Scott Soshnick
By Scott Soshnick
Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A bunch of tennis players, a team, a family -- literal and figurative -- assembled this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, and accomplished something special.
This was about the journey, not the destination, which just happened to be the winner's circle. It's a lesson of losing, learning and, in the end, the last laugh.
The realization of dreams deferred is extra special, which goes a long way toward explaining the hugs, high-fives and talk of togetherness emanating from each member of the U.S. Davis Cup team.
They are champions. Finally. Andy Roddick. James Blake. And the real-life Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, who fittingly were on court when the U.S. beat defending champion Russia two days ago, ending a tears-and-cheers journey that for Roddick began as a 10-year-old witness to greatness.
Their victory is a testament to the collective, which is amusing when you consider that tennis is, on most days, a sport of individual accomplishment. Me versus you. Not us against them. And yet, here they were, putting aside ego, conflict and anything else that didn't jibe with winning.
"We've been the ultimate team," said Roddick, who as a kid sat in the stands and cheered for some of the greatest players in history. Back then, even casual tennis fans knew the surnames --McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi and Courier.
"It's a different feeling," Roddick says of Davis Cup play. "It's something that gets inside you. You're not just playing for selfish motives."
This generation of U.S. men's tennis has taken its lumps for not being as good as those who came before.
Living in a Shadow
Perhaps no one understands living in a shadow like the U.S. team captain, Patrick McEnroe, who replaced his ultra- accomplished big brother, John, when he didn't want the headaches anymore.
Credit this coach and his players for sticking with it, even though all the extra work comes with little reward. Not money. Not glory. Not endorsements. In tennis, those spoils are heaped upon Grand Slam winners.
Roddick and Blake have been at this Davis Cup thing since 2001, trying, again and again, in spite of a ludicrous schedule that affords them little downtime in which to rest and recover.
Why do they do it, then?
Blake answers with a wide smile and stories about creating memories and bonds that last a lifetime.
It was Blake who called this past Friday's win over Mikhail Youzhny a career-changing moment, a life-altering moment. Fame and fortune have nothing to do with it.
'I'll Never Forget'
"My mom was here, my brother was here, and I got to share it with them," Blake said. "Being able to share those memories with my family, with my friends, with my teammates. That could make it a life-changing experience because this is a memory I'll never forget."
Blake has never won a Grand Slam title. Roddick has done it once -- at the 2003 U.S. Open. Both have the misfortune of playing at the same time as Roger Federer, who is to tennis what Michael Jordan was to basketball.
So, no, this generation of American men's tennis players will not accomplish what their predecessors did. They won't even get close. Perhaps their lack of Grand-Slam success explains why American sports fans seem more interested in the whispers of match-fixing than what happened on the Memorial Coliseum court over the weekend. This group deserves better, even if it's just a tepid acknowledgement of their willingness to sacrifice year after year.
Roddick and Blake
Roddick talks incessantly of how proud he is of Blake. And Blake runs out of adjectives when asked what makes the Bryan boys so good. McEnroe, meantime, gushes about Roddick, even though the two have had, to use the player's words, "heated conversations" in the past.
"I feel like this cause is bigger than that," Roddick says. "It probably wouldn't have affected me participating or not. But the fact we have kind of grown together has made us a better team."
After they clinched, the entire U.S. team, even those who only served as practice players, joined the stars on the podium. They brought with them unadulterated joy and the stench of beer. They whooped and hollered and shared inside jokes.
No ego. No jealousy.
The best team won.
To contact the writer of this column: Scott Soshnick in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
More PMac love
Youngest McEnroe Sets Quieter Tone for Davis Cup
By HARVEY ARATON
December 2, 2007
Portland, Ore. — When the championship winner was struck, Patrick McEnroe played it cool and classy, just like Joe Torre. He stood to applaud. He stayed back while his players rushed the court. He remembered to shake the hands of the losing Russians and the chair umpire, too.
“These guys made it happen,” he said of the players after finally joining them for a group hug.
The youngest McEnroe brother was no tennis savant like the first-born of three. But unlike John, Patrick had the benefit of advanced parental know-how, the residue of hard lessons learned when mother and father didn’t know best.
“People for years have asked us if we ever gave John hell when he really needed it,” John P. McEnroe, the father, said yesterday from a seat inside Memorial Coliseum. “My answer to that was always, in kind of a joking way, well, John is the way he is because we were too strict with him.”
No doubt you could raise the question about the tendency to pull too tightly on the first child’s reins, conduct a poll about overreactions and errors of commission, and get an honest show of a few million hands.
“By the time Patrick came along, we had a different outlook in our minds, as parents,” John P. said.
Maybe the outcome would have been the same regardless — John spontaneous and volatile and artistically irresistible, and Patrick more circumspect, the patient one, less demanding of perfection but perhaps more devoted to a cause.
In his lucky seventh year as United States Davis Cup captain, a job John campaigned for and walked away from after one calendar go-around, Patrick rolled a pair of bouncy Bryans, Mike and Bob, at the Russians yesterday. Their straight-sets victory ended a 12-year American drought in the Davis Cup.
After the United States took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-five-match final, there were John P. and his wife, Kay, facing each other in their lower-stand seats for a kiss. They go to Paris this week, their 50th wedding anniversary coming, to celebrate the first championship captaincy in the family’s long tennis history.
“Patrick is blessed to be John’s brother, but in tennis, it was never easy for him,” John P. said. “This, winning the Davis Cup as captain, is great because it has nothing to do with John.”
You could also argue that the American tennis community’s fascination with John opened doors for Patrick: first when he followed John, who has a genius for gab, into the television booth, then when he succeeded him as the captain in 2001.
The small band of reporters that followed John during his brief captaincy can never forget his debut in Harare, Zimbabwe, when he coaxed a decisive fifth-match victory out of a jittery journeyman named Chris Woodruff. In the next round, he had Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi for a home-soil victory against the Czech Republic. By the semifinals, Agassi and Sampras were too tired or busy and McEnroe had one foot out the door before he landed in New York after a 5-0 stomping in Spain.
“John was so frustrated by his inability to motivate the players to play or communicate with them,” John P. said. “From Day 1, Patrick started with the young kids, building a team.”
He nurtured relationships with the emerging Andy Roddick and with James Blake. He managed to walk a fine line as commentator and captain, and not without the occasional slip of the tongue that created some trouble.
“If we’re calling a spade a spade, Patrick and I have had our disagreements,” Roddick said. “We’ve had very heated conversations, and he’ll tell you that. But I think the one thing that has made our relationship stronger is just that we’ve always been able to confront it and talk about it.”
The results — especially with Roddick, who has played in every competition but one (because of an injury) — speak for themselves. For all of his Federer follies on tour, Roddick became a dominant Davis Cup player, unbeaten this year after his power-serving, straight-sets victory over Dmitry Tursunov on Friday. That match preceded Blake’s refusal to allow Mikhail Youzhny to drag him to a fifth set.
Clearly, Patrick cracked the longevity code that John and other great players-turned-coaches in any sport invariably have trouble with: knowing first and foremost that it’s not about them.
Captain John figured to flame out fast, and he did. Patrick’s personality was made — assist to mom and dad — to last. John won seven Grand Slam singles titles. Patrick won 16 doubles titles, including the French Open.
“Your best moment ever in tennis?” someone asked Patrick at yesterday’s news conference.
“It’s not about me,” he insisted. “It’s about this whole group of guys.”
Several of whom proceeded to shout, “Say yes!” But he wouldn’t, not there, not until later.
“What I did as a player was marginal,” he said when alone. “I had a couple of moments, but it’s bigger than anything I accomplished on my own.”
Spoken like a Torre-in-training, a natural-born leader.
Give Credit to McEnroe
America's Fantastic Four
Journey Men Reach Their Summit
Answering the Questions
Plenty left for Roddick to capture
by: Tom Perrotta, TENNIS.com
December 5, 2007
If you're tempted to view last weekend's Davis Cup as Andy Roddick's ticket to tennis greatness -- his defining moment -- not so fast. Don't be surprised if Roddick wins another major or two in his career. I'd be more surprised if he doesn't.
Crazy, you say? It's understandable why you might think that. Roddick can't beat Roger Federer -- he's now lost to the world's best player 11 straight times and 15 out of 16. Rafael Nadal, whose fast-court game improves every year, beat Roddick in their last meeting on hard courts. So did Novak Djokovic, the 20-year-old Serb who passed Roddick in the rankings this year. Andy Murray has a winning record against Roddick, too (4-2). Against his best competition, Roddick hasn't been terribly impressive. So why the bullish outlook?
Several facts fall in Roddick's favor. He stays in shape and doesn't suffer many injuries. He doesn't beat himself (Roddick may not excel at as many shots as his fans want him to excel at, but he's rarely guilty of stupid mistakes). The most important reason, of course, is that a great serve tends to hold up longer than fast feet or superb defense. Pete Sampras, five years into retirement, just showed us what a great serve could do for a 35-year-old in his exhibitions against Federer. Goran Ivanisevic didn't win Wimbledon until 2001, when he was 29. Roddick's serve compares favorably to both of these men.
While most aficionados consider Sampras' serve the best in history, one can easily make a case for Roddick's. He has consistently matched or topped Sampras in percentage of service games held, first-serve percentage and break points saved, despite having a weaker forehand and far less skill at the net to back him up when his opponents do return the ball. Roddick has done this despite the fact that most players, including Sampras, say today's faster surfaces, from the lawns of Wimbledon to the pavement of Flushing, are slower than they once were.
Roddick, who celebrated his 25th birthday in August, has at least five years of top-level performance ahead of him. A lot can happen in five years; other players can slump, get hurt or lose motivation. When Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open, everything broke his way -- Federer lost early, he had a favorable draw and David Nalbandian hurt himself after taking a two-set lead in the semifinals. Andre Agassi won several majors by staying in shape and hanging around while things went wrong for other players. Roddick can do the same.
One last thing that people tend to forget about Roddick: Of all the players who are suffering through the Federer era -- the most dominant period in the sport's history -- not one has suffered as much as Roddick. He could have six major titles right now: two at the U.S. Open (he lost to Federer in the 2006 final), three at Wimbledon (he lost to Federer in 2004 and 2005 finals and the 2003 semifinal), and one at the Australian Open (he lost to Federer in last year's semifinal).
If someone else takes care of Federer -- it's bound to happen one of these days -- Roddick's second major won't look so out of reach.