U.S. Davis Cup Team: It Could Have Been Worse

Rob YorkSenior Writer ISeptember 21, 2008

MADRID — In a press conference following their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Spain, the defending champion U.S. Davis Cup team sought to emphasize the positives.

“Hey, it’s one more than John got in 2000 when they went to Spain,” said captain Patrick McEnroe, referring to his elder brother, who as the Davis Cup skipper was on the receiving end of a shutout against a Spanish team equally adept on the clay surface eight years ago.

Even when compared to the 3-2 defeat they endured against in the 2004 finals, the younger McEnroe and team stalwart Andy Roddick found reasons to be optimistic.

“In the first three singles matches of this year’s tie, we won a total of three sets, which is two more than we won at that juncture four years ago,” McEnroe pointed out.

“Yeah, and I doubled my sets total,” Roddick immediately added. The 26-year-old American stressed how tough it has been to recover momentum following his mid-season injuries that kept him out of Roland Garros.

However, he had more difficulty when asked more detailed questions, such as how he let his five-set tussle with David Ferrer on Friday slip away, a win that could have even the score at one-apiece. He was equally tested in naming the positives he could take from his blowout loss against Nadal on Sunday.

“Well ... considering Ferrer blew me off the court in Shanghai last year, I thought it was a pretty good result,” Roddick said. “And Nadal? I mean, come on ... it’s Nadal. On clay. You guys remember the French Open, right?

“I got more games from him than (Nicolas) Almagro and (Fernando) Verdasco did put together in Paris.”

At this point, Roddick’s teammate, Sam Querrey, a late substitute for an unavailable James Blake, interjected.

“Hey, did you guys write about how I won a set off Nadal?” Querrey asked the gaggle of reporters assembled.

“Yeah, Sam, thanks for warming Rafa up for me,” Roddick responded. “I wouldn’t have wanted him to have been under par or anything.”

Mardy Fish, another late substitute — he for Bob Bryan — teamed with Mike Bryan to score the Americans’ only point of the tie, a five-set victory over Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez. This was perhaps the reason why Fish’s enthusiasm at the post-tie press conference appeared the most genuine.

“Maybe doubles is where I should have been playing all along,” said Fish, whose singles record in Davis Cup is just below .500.

“I mean, not that Bob is going to start getting injured more often in the future. And not that I would have anything to do with it if he did ..." he said, his voice trailing off at the end.

McEnroe then asked those present at the conference if they could recall a time — “any time at all,” he said — in the past decade or so in which the Spanish Davis Cup team had lost a tie at home and on clay.

“Exactly my point,” McEnroe said after several moments of silence. “Asking us why we can’t beat Spain on clay is a bit like asking us why we can’t beat the Red Wings in Detroit. On their field of choice, it’s like playing an entirely different game.”

McEnroe hoped to use his remarks to preemptively silence those who will question why the Americans can’t win seem to win latter-round ties on clay, often faltering against nations such as Spain and Russia on the surface.

Last year, having drawn both of those nations at home in the United States, the Americans swept to their first Davis Cup title in a dozen years. Though they would face the Spanish team at home should they play next years, an away match with Russia looms again, as would one with Argentina should the two teams play one another.

Having relied on mostly the same squad of Roddick, Blake, and the Bryan brothers in the past several years, McEnroe declined to comment as to whether there would be any lineup changes after the strong performances of Querrey and Fish during the weekend.

He also expressed confidence in the next Davis Cup season, regardless of any hypothetical showdowns with a clay-loving team. When asked if American tennis fans would have to wait another 12 years for the next U.S. Davis Cup triumph, McEnroe said, “Naaaw, of course not.”

“Ten at the most.”