May 27, 2017

On The Call: ESPN / Australian Open Conference Call with Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe

Patrick McEnroe

(January 11, 2017) ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert and Patrick McEnroe spoke with media Wednesday about the Australian Open, which starts Sunday, Jan. 15 (Monday in Melbourne), with 100 live hours over two weeks including the usual marathon overnight telecasts on ESPN television and 1,400 on WatchESPN that includes every match – singles, doubles and juniors, culminating with the women’s and men’s championships.  Highlights of the call, followed by the full transcript:



On:  The State of Serena

  • This is a woman with pride and ego and used to being No. 1, used to being the queen at the top. I’m sure that’s going to be motivation for her, not liking to see another name up there…I don’t think it’s a matter of if she’s going to win another Grand Slam, I think it’s when, and I think it will happen this year.” – Evert

On: The State of U.S. Tennis.

  • At one point we had hardly any American players in the top 100. Now women-wise anyway, we have 17. I think that’s more than any other. So we’ve got the depth. Congratulations, U.S. tennis. We have the depth, but where is that Grand Slam champion?” – Evert
  • There’s a group of seven or eight players, American men, 21 or under, that can be legit Grand Slam players.  Out of that group, none of them are ready to be a Grand Slam winner or compete for a title at this point, except for maybe (Jack) Sock. I think within the next two years, it is finally realistic to say we might have someone come out of that group that could do it.” – McEnroe


On:  Which is the bigger issue in tennis, PEDs or match fixing?

  • I’m going to say unequivocally match fixing is a big threat to any sport, not just tennis, but the integrity of that sport. That’s not in any way to minimize PEDs, what they can do…I think tennis generally has a better handle on the PED situation with the testing that’s done….The match fixing thing clearly is a huge problem potentially, but I don’t think it’s a huge problem at the highest level of tennis. I think it’s proven to be a problem that definitely is significant at the low levels of tennis, the minor leagues, so to speak, the challengers, et cetera. That has to be gotten more under control.” – McEnroe


On:  What’s the one thing you would change about tennis?

  • Because I’m a TV girl now, I think more access to the players. I still don’t think it’s a bad idea to interview a player after a first set or after a second set. I think that’s very do-able. I think it’s progressive thinking.  We’re really kind of in the Dark Ages when it comes to getting the players out there, just having a little more buzz about the players. I think on TV I’d like to see more coaches being interviewed.” – Evert
  • When we say the match starts at 7 p.m., it’s actually going to start at 7 p.m., not 7:13, which is basically what happens because the officials don’t have the gonads to tell the top players what to do.” – McEnroe


  1. I’ll start with some big names. What are your expectations for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for this tournament? They both said they want to play two to three more years. Patrick, do you see that happening? How long do you see both those players playing? What do you see from those two? What are your expectations? How long do you think they’ll keep playing?
    McENROE: Let’s hope they keep playing like 20 more years because they’ve been unbelievable for tennis. They’re two of the all time greats, two of the all-time class acts in men’s tennis.

    Let me address the first part of your question.  I don’t realistically expect either of them to be holding up the trophy at the end of the tournament. I think probably if they took a truth test, they’d probably agree with that. But being as great as they are, I would guess three, four matches, wins under their belt, they’ll think they have a chance to win it.  I think realistically getting to the second week should be their initial goal. Obviously seeing how they’re doing as they progress, the expectations would rise for them. I don’t expect either of them to be able to hold the trophy, particularly when you look at just the way Djokovic and Murray have looked in the last couple years, and have also started out the year.  They played a great match already against each other in the Middle East. I’d really have to convince myself that they could pull something extraordinary to beat one or two of those guys in best-of-five sets, not to mention the rest of the field and the other players, the younger guys coming up like Thiem, Zverev, guys like that. I think it’s going to be tough for them to do that.

    I think it’s realistic for both of them to play two, three more years. Obviously for Roger it’s a little more precarious because of his age. Overall he said he had the surgery so he could give himself the opportunity to do that. As long as they’re playing at a relatively high level, and I think that’s really the key for those two guys, if the next year neither one of them makes the semis of a major, would they be willing to continue to play if they’re not a top five or even a top ten player. I would probably say that Roger is more likely to continue to play because he just loves to play so much. That’s something only they can answer personally.

    Q. We head into 2017 with the old question. We’re talking about players who aren’t American. Is there anybody on the horizon that looks like they could be somebody that we’re going to be talking about?
    EVERT: I love your expressions when you ask that question. Is there anyone? Oh, boy (laughter).  Yes, this is the question. At one point we had hardly any American players in the top 100. Now women-wise anyway, we have 17. I think that’s more than any other. So we’ve got the depth. Congratulations, U.S. tennis. We have the depth, but where is that Grand Slam champion?  To me, I’ve always looked at Madison Keys, only because of the power. To me, she matches Serena’s power, on the groundstrokes, on the first serve for sure. When I look at a surface like grass, Wimbledon, she to me is potentially a Wimbledon champion.  In saying that, yes, a lot of things have to happen. She has to be more mature. She has to be smarter on the court. As far as raw talent, she’s got the weapons to win a major.

    As far as any other woman is concerned right now, I wouldn’t put my money on anybody else in American tennis. But the progress that has been made is the fact that we do have depth and we do have a lot of Americans in the top 100. I guess that’s the first step to getting a Grand Slam champion.

    McENROE: Well, the short answer to your question is no. That’s the short answer. I agree with Chrissie on Madison Keys. She’s not playing in Australia. We hope she gets to be 100%. I think having Lindsay Davenport back in her camp will be a positive.

    As far as the men go, there’s nobody. I mean, there’s nobody that can realistically win one. Certainly Jack Sock has made a lot of strides. I expect him to continue to make strides to where he could, I believe, threaten to be a top-10 player. If his backhand gets 25% better, he’s the type of player that could go deep in a major. That’s a big ‘if’, but he’s definitely gotten fitter, stronger. Mentally he’s better than he’s been.  To sort of echo what Chrissie said on the women’s side, on the men’s side, there’s not as many numbers as the women, but for the first time for 15 or 20 years, we’ve got a group of players that can all legitimately be top 100, maybe top 50, and maybe a couple of them could be top-10 players. That’s Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Michael Mmoh, Tommy Paul, Stefan Kozlov, Reilly Opelka, Noah Rubin, Escobedo. There’s a group of seven or eight players, American men, 21 or under, that can be legit Grand Slam players.  Out of that group, none of them are ready to be a Grand Slam winner or compete for a title at this point, except for maybe Sock. I think within the next two years, it is finally realistic to say we might have someone come out of that group that could do it.  The worst-case scenario is I think we’re going to have multiple players flooding the top 100, which as Chrissie said is the first step. There’s nobody here that you can see is a threat to win this title, no.

    Q. On the women’s side, Serena, what do you think getting engaged will have as far as an effect on her? On the men’s side, by Novak’s standards, had a little bit of a slip toward the end of last season while Andy Murray went on that big run. Do you think that sort of makes their rivalry even more interesting now that their positions are swapped?
    EVERT: As far as Serena, that remains to be seen. You can’t predict when somebody gets engaged. It can go one of two ways. It can be a very pleasant distraction. You can lose your focus a little bit at the task at hand. Or it can be so inspiring, you feel so good, that you’re more settled. You really are in a really good place emotionally, and your tennis can improve. We’ve seen it both ways in tennis players. I don’t think we can predict that.  In saying that, you know, the one good thing coming into the year, Serena seems to be healthy. She was fighting all kinds of things. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. The shoulder. If it wasn’t the shoulder, it was something else.

    She had a long break, took the fall off. I’m sure, knowing her, you can only do so many appearances, endorsements. She was champing at the bit to get back competing. I think it’s motivation for her she’s ranked No. 2. This is a woman with pride and ego and used to being No. 1, used to being the queen at the top. I’m sure that’s going to be motivation for her, not liking to see another name up there.  So if she’s healthy, she’s happy, I don’t worry about the fact that she already lost a match, because basically she needs a couple matches to really get into it. I don’t think it’s a matter of if she’s going to win another Grand Slam, I think it’s when, and I think it will happen this year.

    McENROE: I don’t think the engagement will have anything to do with how Serena does. I’ll add to what Chrissie said. I think because of how little she played, this happened last year as well, she made it to the final, or the year before, she’ll be susceptible early in the tournament because of that. If she can get through the first couple of rounds, obviously she’ll be fine, I would expect.

    I’m always excited for the Australian Open because it’s one of my favorite events. I think there’s a lot more buzz this year because of what you said partly, that Murray has taken over No. 1, not by a long shot, but an amazing effort to do that. Djokovic is going to feel like he’s got something to prove, even though he’s had a couple of the greatest years ever in the history of men’s tennis in the last couple years. Then you have Roger and Rafa coming back. You have still the guys knocking on the door, Nishikori. We haven’t mentioned Wawrinka, who has had an unbelievable couple years. He got down there early this year. There’s no reason he can’t make a big run there. He loves the conditions there.

    The younger guys…Thiem had a great year in 2016. He could be a factor. Again, Zverev is a great young player. I think Kyrgios could definitely be a factor, although you wonder about him health-wise, how fit he is. Obviously mentally is another story.  I think there’s a lot of storylines for the men. I do think that having Murray come in there as the No. 1 player, having never won down there, and Djokovic has really been the man the last four, five, six years in Australia, that adds a little extra spice to it in addition to those other guys coming back.

    Q. How do you see Murray and Kerber handling the pressure being world No. 1? It’s the second year in a row the tournament is starting with a match fixing story that hit before it began. Do you think that match fixing is a bigger threat to tennis than PED use? What one do you think tennis has more effectively addressed?
    EVERT: I’ll take the easy way out and go with the Kerber question.  The thing about Kerber, there’s a saying that it’s easier to get to No. 1, it’s harder to stay there. I think she’s going to be tested. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how mentally tough she’s going to become and how she’s going to fend off the competition, because there’s some dangerous players: Pliskova, Muguruza, Konta. Very much like the men, you have really like 15, 20 tough, tough players, and good depth at the top now. Then with Serena, who is going to be even more motivated than before. I think it’s going to really test her toughness.

    But in saying that, when you look at the top 10, I look at the list, to me Kerber is mentally the toughest of all of them, aside from Serena when she’s really focused. Angelique Kerber, her main strengths is her mental toughness, because she improved so much. Years ago, she was the one that was rough on her player box, kind of whining out there. She has improved that so much. So the mental toughness, and her I think physical fitness are the two things that she is head and shoulders really above everyone else.  If anybody can maintain No. 1, I think that she will do it for a while. I think it depends on Serena, how much she wants it, how hungry she is. She’s really going to be the one that’s going to challenge her the most of anyone.

    McENROE: I’m going to say unequivocally match fixing is a big threat to any sport, not just tennis, but the integrity of that sport. That’s not in any way to minimize PEDs, what they can do.  Baseball went through a pretty heavy-duty PED problem. They’ve done okay. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in tennis. I don’t expect that it will. I think tennis generally has a better handle on the PED situation with the testing that’s done. It could be better, but certainly it’s happened that they’ve been able to manage that and catch people, et cetera.

    The match fixing thing clearly is a huge problem potentially, but I don’t think it’s a huge problem at the highest level of tennis. I think it’s proven to be a problem that definitely is significant at the low levels of tennis, the minor leagues, so to speak, the challengers, et cetera. That has to be gotten more under control. I think the Tennis Integrity Unit is doing what it can do to address that.

    I think part of the issue with this is what I think has been a problem in tennis, as the prize money has grown at the big tournaments, particularly the Grand Slams, it’s to me gotten more and more top-heavy. The top players, meaning the players that win the tournaments, are making exponentially more money than the guy that gets to the third or fourth round. While I certainly believe that Djokovic and Serena certainly deserve to make more in prize money, I don’t believe it’s fair that they make that much more.  I think the prize money distribution at the highest level of the game, it filters down into the rest of the tour events, should be more evenly disbursed, meaning more similar to the way they do it in golf.  Basically now in a Grand Slam tournament, each match you win, essentially your prize money doubles. US Open last year I believe was $40,000 for the first round. People say, Wow, that’s a lot of money. That’s not really that much money when you compare it to what that similarly ranked player in basketball, baseball, soccer or golf around the world makes.

    Look at the prize money that Djokovic and Serena make compared to someone who is, say, No. 10 in the world. I think it’s too significantly different. I think that is something that should be addressed. I think the Grand Slams have the opportunity to be the leaders in this area instead of saying, Hey, look at us, we have the biggest prize money winner check, two and a half or three million dollars. Don’t you think 1.7 is enough, and some of the other money gets filtered down to other players?  The other players could make a lot more money, which they deserve to make, through other tournaments and guarantees, et cetera. I don’t think it needs to be that extreme a difference in the prize money distribution.

    (As for Murray being No. 1) I think Andy will handle being No. 1 just fine. He’s been around long enough to know what it takes. He’s worked extremely hard to get there. Quite honestly, I didn’t think he could get there. I didn’t think he could certainly get there last year. But it was a hell of an effort to do it.  The biggest difference in why he was able to do it was his consistency, being able to win a lot of matches every tournament, to be able to win on clay, which he hadn’t done in the past.  I don’t think he’s going to lose it because he can’t handle being No. 1. I think he’s going to lose it in Djokovic steps up and plays better, which I think is certainly possible.

    EVERT: I think he’s going to be comfortable, very comfortable, at the No. 1 spot because it’s been a gradual progression. It’s not like the guy went from No. 10 to No. 1. He’s been No. 3, he’s been No. 2, and now he’s No. 1. The fact that he’s won Grand Slams already, Grand Slam tournaments, that’s going to help prepare him for the pressure of being No. 1.  I think Patrick said it the best. The same with Kerber. It depends on Serena, it depends on Djokovic, if these two are going to hold onto their spot.

    Q. Maria Sharapova is supposed to return from her suspension the end of April. Do you think she could be top ten again, top five? How do you think the other players will react once she’s back on the circuit?
    EVERT: I have a feeling there’s going to be a little different Maria that’s coming back. I think that she’s had a little bit of a wake-up call as far as living life. I feel like she’s out of her bubble now, as far as she went back to school for a little bit, she’s gotten better in her business, she’s made more appearances, she’s socializing more with her friends.  I feel like it’s sort of a silver lining, this whole taking off the whatever it’s been, 18 months, year and a half. I think she’s going to be a little different. I think she’s going to be more open. I think she’s going to be friendlier. I think that she is going to come back a little more evolved as a person.  This is all me thinking. I don’t even know, okay? But I just have a feeling from what I’m hearing when she does talk and do press conferences, does her exhibitions and this.  Do I think she can be top 10? Absolutely. It’s so close, like I said before, the top 20, 30, it’s so close at the top, there’s no big gap in the top 20 or 30. Could she get back to the top five? I don’t see why not. Absolutely. She’s one of the mentally toughest, along with Serena, probably the mentally toughest player out there, plays every point like it’s match point.  Again, she might have a different approach. She might go out there, she might have been working on her fitness even more so with this time off. She might be having a little more variety in her game. I think life for Maria Sharapova is looking really good on the court and off the court.

    I think the players are going to be fine. I think it depends on her. If she’s going to come back with an open mind and friendlier, I think the players will definitely welcome her back.

    Q. Chrissie, Pat just spoke with his wisdom on having more equal prize money distribution. It’s a new year, but if you could step back and choose one rule or one tradition that you might want to tweak or introduce a new rule or one change, what would that be?
    EVERT: Wow, put me on the spot here. Because I’m a TV girl now, I think more access to the players. I still don’t think it’s a bad idea to interview a player after a first set or after a second set. I think that’s very doable. I think it’s progressive thinking.  We’re really kind of in the Dark Ages when it comes to getting the players out there, just having a little more buzz about the players. I think on TV I’d like to see more coaches being interviewed. I would like that to be mandatory. I think having a player after a set, that would be really good.

    I think we need to improve ratings in every aspect, sort of get more of an audience to appreciate the game and feel like they’re involved in it, see a personality on the court.  I think just the viewership, that would really help. I guess putting my hat on for TV, having that more interesting for the viewer.

    Q. If you could go out and get a selfie with anyone in the world not in your family, who would that be?
    McENROE: First of all, I’m offended that you didn’t let me answer the first question.

    Q. You go, guy.
    EVERT: That’s because you kind of did answer it about the prize money.

    McENROE: I have another one.  I would take the selfie with Chris Evert. That’s what I’m going to do on the plane to Australia tomorrow. I’m going to tweet it out.

    Let me answer the other one, because it’s a quick answer. I think it’s relatively easy to do. It’s already a rule that’s in place. Can we please start to actually pay attention to the time and to the clock. That comes to when we start the match. That comes to after we warm up for the match. We don’t take bathroom breaks. We don’t sit on our chair for two minutes because we’re some great player who can just do whatever they want. We don’t take bathroom breaks every time we lose a set.

    Let’s come up with clear-cut rules, which are already fairly clear, and let’s actually start to penalize players for not abiding by the rules. You can take one bathroom break a match, whatever it is, I think it’s two. When we say ‘time,’ we play, you don’t take a bathroom break. When we say the match starts at 7 p.m., it’s actually going to start at 7 p.m., not 7:13, which is basically what happens because the officials don’t have the gonads to tell the top players what to do.

    Q. What about Nadal’s objection?
    McENROE: I’m not talking about in between points, the shot clock. I’m talking about a simple thing. When we come to the locker room to get you, we tell you we’re going to come five minutes before television comes on, you’re going to walk out and be on the court then and you’ll warm up. If you don’t, guess what, it’s Love-15, then it’s Love-30. People will start paying attention. Unless we just don’t think it matters, we can let the players continue to do whatever they want to do. But I happen to think it matters.

    Q. Chris, selfie with someone, excluding Patrick?
    EVERT: Probably Madonna because I’ve never met her. She’s fearless and totally the opposite of me.

    Q. Some of the rallies in the final between Novak and Andy in Qatar were superhuman. How far do you think they both are ahead of the rest of the pack? Who can realistically stop 2017 being a year defined by their rivalry?
    McENROE: Realistically, I think you’re on to it. I think these two guys are a couple of steps beyond everybody else. That being said, I do think there were signs last year that players were starting to make inroads, like Thiem coming up. He probably still has another year or two to go. Zverev, the younger guys. I don’t know if it’s going to come from the older group like Berdych and Tsonga, Nishikori.

    EVERT: Raonic.

    McENROE: Raonic has made some big steps. He’s a guy that could do it. I’m happy with what I’ve seen from Dimitrov, because I like to watch him play. He could be a big threat this year. I do think at the end of the day, those two guys, because of their movement, their defense, their mental skills, are pretty solidly ahead of the pack. But things can change quickly in tennis. We saw it change between those two the second half of the year. It’s possible that it could change. I still think that Rafa is going to be a serious threat.

    EVERT: I think when I look at Andy and I look at Novak, to me they are the fittest players on the tour, and they’re going to peak when it’s 5-all in the fifth set. When I say that I mean peak physically and mentally. The mental toughness between those two is a level better than anyone else. As Patrick said, no one has better defense and offense, having that combination. No other player covers the court as well, no other player is mentally as tough. They keep pushing each other. It’s like when Martina and I were playing. They’re pushing each other. Novak is working out, training even harder knowing that he’s No. 2, knowing that Murray is training harder.  I think it could pan out to be really a wonderful rivalry. But the exciting thing is, there is Thiem, Kyrgios, Zverev, other exciting players waiting in the wings who I think could upset one of them, but maybe isn’t ready to win four big matches like these two are.

    Q. Paint a bit of a picture of how you and Martina pushed each other along. That was a long-term thing. We know Andy and Novak have been playing each other since they were 11. Can you give us a bit of a flavor of how that works when two players are the best of the field.
    EVERT: It was interesting because it was almost a little easier with Martina and I because we had contrasting styles. I got to work on my volley. I got to work on coming in. I got to work on my physical strength. She already had that. She had to work on the mental side of the game, her groundstrokes, because I already had that.  There were more gaps in our games, kind of more weaknesses in our games that we could work on. With them, they’re so similar in style. Their athleticism, the way they move, they can counter-punch really well. Their defense as well as their offense. They’re so similar.  I guess they just have to continue just to be physically cardiovascularly strong, who is going to be the hungrier, the more eager when they play a match.  Do you understand what I’m saying? There were more gaps with Martina and I that we could work on. With them, they’re so similar, it’s hard to know what they’re going to work on. They just have to keep doing what they’re doing. At the end of the day when they play a match, it might come down to really who is hungrier.


ESPN Tennis Conference Call with Chris Evert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver

(March 16, 2015) ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver spoke with media on Monday. Currently, ESPN3 is providing live all-day coverage from the three main stadiums at the BNP Paribas Open, with ESPN television joining on Thursday, March 19, through Sunday’s women’s and men’s championships.


How good is Madison Keys?

· “I saw her at age 12. I think that everybody that saw her at that point thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much raw power, that if she could just control it and harness it, she’s going to be a great player.’ Very much like a Serena, she has the second best serve out there, which she’s going to win a lot of free points holding her serve…But she’s got it all. She has natural ease and power in her shots.” – Evert

· “The first time I really came out of a match with my jaw sort of dropping was a couple years ago at the Australian Open when she beat Paszek, beat her routinely. She beat her with two weapons: the serve and the forehand. In my mind, in women’s tennis especially, when you can come through with those two big weapons, it can set you apart….I can tell you from my courtside position a couple years ago, I came out feeling fantastic that the U.S. had a true prospect to get to the top spot.” – Shriver

The strong state of women’s tennis:

· “The women’s game is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, to have Serena obviously doing what she’s doing. You’re finally I think seeing some young players that got some gumption, that got some real attitude that they can compete with the best in Bouchard and Keys, Svitolina and others. I think Coco Vandeweghe deserves to be in that conversation, as well.” – McEnroe

· “The bottom half of the women’s draw — Bouchard, Keys, Jankovic, Bencic, Wozniacki, Ivanovic, Garcia, Lisicki, Errani, Azarenka, Sharapova. That’s the kind of quality draw that in the last six, seven years we haven’t been fortunate enough to have. The recession of women’s tennis that started with Justine Henin retiring is well and truly over.” – Shriver

Q. Madison Keys, she’s really at this point obviously a big-time player, top 20. I know how familiar all of you are with her. Can you tell me why of all of the young up-and-coming players you think she is the one?

CHRIS EVERT: I mean, for those of us who saw her at a young age, I saw her at age 12. I think that everybody that saw her at that point thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much raw power, that if she could just control it and harness it, she’s going to be a great player.’ Very much like a Serena, she has the second best serve out there, which she’s going to win a lot of free points holding her serve. She has so much power, more so than any of the other top players, aside from Serena and Venus, her whole game, not counting Maria Sharapova obviously on the groundstrokes. But she’s got it all. She has natural ease and power in her shots. I feel like I think Lindsay and her husband are a great fit for her right now. At the same time, I think we all felt she would achieve greatness sooner or later when she was ready, when she was emotionally ready. I think the emotional and mental part came along a little bit later than the physical part.

PAM SHRIVER: Well, I think for me, I’m not as familiar as Patrick and Chrissie in the development part, I’m just familiar with Madison as I’ve observed her the last few years for my ESPN position. The first time I really came out of a match with my jaw sort of dropping was a couple years ago at the Australian Open when she beat Paszek, beat her routinely. She beat her with two weapons: the serve and the forehand. In my mind, in women’s tennis especially, when you can come through with those two big weapons, it can set you apart. Over two years ago she was really, really young in her professional career. Now I think we see the pathway a little more clearly with a great team around her, what she did at the Australian Open. No big surprises. I can tell you from my courtside position a couple years ago, I came out feeling fantastic that the U.S. had a true prospect to get to the top spot.

PATRICK McENROE: Not to pat all of us on the back, but I think it’s been a wonderful progression for Madison. I think the first people that deserve a pat on the back are her parents. She’s a great girl, a great person. She’s got a great head on her shoulders. And her first coaches. Then Chrissie and her brother John, through her formative years when she was 12 up until she was I guess 15 or 16.

Then I have to give a pat on the back to my team at the USTA for doing a great job with her and taking her as a very talented teenager and turning her into a top-40 player. As Chrissie said, I think this is a logical progression for her to get the great insight of a great champion like Lindsay, someone who really studies the game and understands the game well. Obviously they got along great when they did their trial period out at the USTA training center in Southern Cal, so well that along with her husband Jon, it turned into a full-time thing. To me, as the head of player development for the last seven years, this has been an ideal progression for a talented player coming through, and the USTA helping along the way, Chrissie and her team doing a great job, arguably the most important years of developing her technique and strokes. Now obviously passing her off to a great player and great champion, someone who I think can take her all the way to the next level. The next level is winning majors.

Whether she can do that this year is up in the air. But I certainly think within the next 24 months, two and a half to three years, absolutely she can win a major.

Q. Today at the tournament is Azarenka versus Sharapova, then Roger playing Seppi, then Serena Williams and Stephens. Can you comment on some those matches.

PAM SHRIVER: First off, I think the quality of both draws is phenomenal. I think we saw great balance at the Australian Open. I feel like we’re in for just a great year of tennis at all the majors and all the Masters Series and Premiere WTAs. The draws are loaded. We’re getting fantastic early-round matchups.

Stephens-Williams has a lot of history based on the quarterfinal upset a couple of Australian Opens ago, but it also tells a different story of two different pathways, where Serena has been a dominant player since that loss, but Sloane Stephens has gone the other way, but is showing signs. If Sloane Stephens can feel a little more relaxed with Madison Keys picking up a lot of attention from her generation, other American women playing really well, maybe this is Sloane’s true comeback year. I would expect Serena to win that match. Chrissie, you want to take Azarenka-Sharapova?

CHRIS EVERT: No. You take it.

PAM SHRIVER: One of the reasons women’s tennis is looking better this year is because of players like Azarenka being healthy again. She looked for a while like the best hard court player in women’s tennis when she was winning two Australian Opens, almost beating Serena in two US Open finals. She was pretty much a non-entity last year.

The way she played at the Australian, the way she’s playing here, playing the quality of tennis she played a couple years ago, are great for women’s tennis.

What isn’t great is for people who like a quiet match (laughter). But we’ll have to deal with it. It will only last a couple hours.

CHRIS EVERT: I just think that Sharapova-Azarenka is going to be really telling to see how far Azarenka has come along as far as taking time off. She seems to have had a resurgence and she seems to have reset her career and her inspiration, seems like 100%. I always think that taking breaks for players is such a good deal, such a good decision. It just refreshes you. You just get so flat and burned out playing year after year after year and not taking a good chunk of really four or five months off. I think she’s been better as a result. These two players could end up 2 and 3 at the end of the year. That’s how tough this third round is.

On the other hand, Sloane, I love the way she has played this tournament. I’m very happy that she’s with Nick Saviano. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, seeing what he did with Genie Bouchard. If anybody can help her attitude and mental outlook on her tennis, it’s going to be Nick with Sloane. So good signs, showing good attitude out there, good body language. These are just two great showcase matches for women’s tennis.

PATRICK McENROE: Maybe one you forgot about, we haven’t mentioned her yet, is Coco Vandeweghe. She’s done a terrific job. She’s seeded, what, about 30 or 31 out there. She’s sort of quietly playing the best tennis of her career. Similar to Madison, we’ve known about her since she was a teenager from Southern Cal. Being a huge hitter of the ball and a good athlete. It’s taken her a little while, but she’s figured out how to get herself in really good condition. I love the way she’s playing. She’s still a little bit up and down. She played some great tennis in Australia, then didn’t play so well when she lost. Taking on Bouchard, who Chrissie and Pam talked about already, that’s the first match out there on the stadium court today. That’s a good one. Bouchard obviously with a new coach, as well. She’s got a lot to prove this year, a lot of pressure on her after an unbelievable year last year.

The women’s game is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, to have Serena obviously doing what she’s doing. You’re finally I think seeing some young players that got some gumption, that got some real attitude that they can compete with the best in Bouchard and Keys, Svitolina and others. I think Coco Vandeweghe deserves to be in that conversation, as well.

Obviously we’re certainly looking forward to seeing Roger take on Seppi. While we would all pencil this in as a routine Roger win based on overall his record against Seppi, losing for the first time at the Australian to him, which was a shocker obviously, I wouldn’t be quite that quick. Seppi is a really good player. He’s had an excellent last year and a half on the tour. I expect him to play well again. Obviously Roger’s antenna will be way up for this. Coming off a win in Dubai over Djokovic got him back on track with his confidence that he can have another great year. Just like the women’s draw, the men’s draw is loaded. It’s a nice early test for Roger to see where he’s at.

CHRIS EVERT: Is Bencic playing Wozniacki?

THE MODERATOR: That’s second on.

CHRIS EVERT: That’s another one to watch, 18-year-old Bencic. Patrick was talking about the young ones. She’s 18 years old, had a slow start, but had a great year last year.

PAM SHRIVER: The bottom half of the women’s draw, Bouchard, Keys, Jankovic, Bencic, Wozniacki, Ivanovic, Garcia, Lisicki, Errani, Azarenka, Sharapova. That’s the kind of quality draw that in the last six, seven years we haven’t been fortunate enough to have. The recession of women’s tennis that started with Justine Henin retiring is well and truly over.

CHRIS EVERT: Good point.

Q. I wanted to talk about the event you’re at. Obviously players want to win at every event. This has the aura of a fifth major. Do you see players and advertisers, media, putting this on a higher shelf than other events on the tour?

PAM SHRIVER: From a Southern California standpoint, to think this is the only professional tournament in one of the great tennis hotbeds in the history of the game is kind of a shame. But it also makes it, for this region, because living here, hearing the buildup the last month, you can feel this is a big-time Southern Cal event.

CHRIS EVERT: You look at next week, Miami, this week Indian Wells. You talked about hotbeds. California and Florida are the two biggest tennis dates, I feel, in the country, and have really come up with some great players, play all year round. There are a lot of tennis enthusiasts. It’s only apropos that these two big tournaments are held in these two states. You could say the fifth. I would like to say the Road to Singapore, the WTA Finals, in the players’ mind is the fifth one. But then you have this one and Miami right there with it. It’s probably the most popular with the players. What’s not to be great to come out here in this weather, in this atmosphere, this facility, this venue. I think it’s definitely one of the players’ favorites.

PATRICK McENROE: There’s no doubt that these Masters events in general have been elevated to another level. You might get the same argument from a Cincinnati or even some of the European clay court events, which are tremendous as well. The nice thing about these two events, obviously Indian Wells, the facilities are phenomenal with Larry Ellison, what he’s been able to do to take it to a whole other level by building a new stadium. The grounds are tremendous. I was out there this past weekend. The buzz around the grounds, it’s electric to be out there.

The weather doesn’t hurt out there, as well. I think the time of year. There’s really no major that it conflicts with. You get towards the end of the major clay court tune-up, people are thinking about the French. In the summer, people don’t want to tire themselves out too much leading into the US Open. These two are just great events. This one, where it’s located, what Larry Ellison has been able to do. Ray Moore and Charlie Pasarell starting out had an amazing vision of what this event could be. I think it’s turned into that and a lot more.

Q. Patrick, what do you think of this picture floating around of your brother sitting between Bill Gates and Larry Ellison?

PATRICK McENROE: I thought I was the one in the McEnroe family with a low net worth (laughter). A little reality check for him there, you know.

CHRIS EVERT: Patrick, he was a little intimidated.

PATRICK McENROE: Who wouldn’t be, I’ll tell you.

Q. I have this theory that they made McEnroe pick up the check that night.

PATRICK McENROE: That would be okay. He could afford it (laughter).


In His Own Words: Patrick McEnroe to Step Down as Head of USTA Player Development

Patrick McEnroe

Patrick McEnroe

(September 3, 2014) Various media outlets reported on Wednesday that Patrick McEnroe would be resigning his position of general manager of player development for the United States Tennis Association (USTA). The USTA held a news conference after the completion of the Kei Nishikori – Stan Wawrinka match in which McEnroe did step down.

The following is the official transcript of a news conference in which Dave Haggerty, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA, Gordon Smith, Executive Director and COO of the USTA and Patrick McEnroe participated.



Wednesday, September 3

Press Conference

Patrick McEnroe

Gordon Smith

Dave Haggerty
An interview with

CHRIS WIDMAIER: Good evening everybody. I’m Chris Widmaier, Managing Director of Communications for the USTA. I know everybody has a lot to write tonight, especially after that grueling five-set match. I do want to thank you for taking the time. Obviously we’re going to open this up, talk about Patrick McEnroe and his future and the future of USTA Player Development. But before we go to questions and answers, I think Patrick had a few words.

PATRICK McENROE: Thanks, Chris. Thanks everybody for coming. You reporters are pretty darn good, so you figure stuff out maybe before we had planned to announce it. Just to be able to talk to my staff and just talk to some other people. But the reality is that I will be stepping down from my position. Over the course of the last couple of months, as we have been looking ahead to what our plans will be in Orlando at Lake Nona for the USTA and specifically for player development, I think Gordon and I both kind of reached the same conclusion. Gordon, my boss, and Dave, his boss, that the head of player development, with the new direction that we’re heading in continuing what we have already started with our inclusive efforts and working with the developmental coaches in the private sector a little bit more, trying to do a little bit more in that area, it made all the sense in the world that the person in this position to be full-time based in Orlando. I think we both looked at each other over the course of obviously quite a few discussions over the last few months and realized that that probably wasn’t going to be me for a variety of reasons, both professional and personal, but I certainly felt, as did Gordon and Dave, that it was crucial for this person to be down there full time with the amount of resources and efforts that we’re putting into the new facility and the new programming in Orlando. So we felt that this was the right opportunity to start a transitional phase so that hopefully I can be involved somewhat over the next few months, however long that may be, to help with the direction that I think we’re going in, which I believe is extremely positive. I’m lucky enough to have a couple members of my team here. Again, I couldn’t get to a lot of them because of just the way this transpired, but they have really done tremendous work on our team and in player development. They’re going to continue to do that and continue to push forward with the direction we’re going.

CHRIS WIDMAIER: Gordon, anything to add?

GORDON SMITH: Yeah. When Patrick came to me and told me he wasn’t going to be making the move to Orlando, you know, I really reflected back, because I hired Patrick way back whenever it was. We hired him for a pretty narrow job there. It was elite player development. It was just about a very few players. Patrick realized that the United States really needed a broad-based, organized regional and national program. So now we are in such a different place because of what Patrick has done, what he’s brought to this country in terms of player development. We have a set of regional training centers around the country. We have a very organized coaching education program to raise the level of all coaches. We have much more outreach than we have ever had before. From where we started to where we are has been quite a journey, and I will tell you that Patrick has really created a foundation that we will build on. Patrick will be actively involved for the foreseeable future on the transition. He realized, came to me and said, Look, we are building this new place. We’re making all these plans. If I’m not going in, the person who is needs to be involved in that process along the way. In the meantime, Patrick will be involved in helping us find who that person will be and helping us with that transition as we continue forward.

DAVE HAGGERTY: Just to add, I think the last few years we have been focused on trying to reach out, be more inclusive, think about Team USA and think about doing what’s right for American tennis. Patrick has done a fantastic job. He’s answered everything that the board has asked. He’s really taken us in that direction. That will continue. That’s very important, that we continue to do what we’re doing. We have had some good success. Thank you for all that you’ve done. Patrick will be very helpful in helping guide us as to where we go in the future in succession.

CHRIS WIDMAIER: Opening it up to questions.

Q. Why now a full-time a person? ^ with the salary grade that you have been getting, wasn’t this a full-time salary position before? Why the change now?
PATRICK McENROE: I don’t think it’s a full time. I always saw this job as full time. I mean, pretty committed to doing what’s right for the USTA and for player development in general. Obviously I did some other things, still. Do some other things, as well. That’s obvious. I think when I initially took the job that was really seen as a positive. I know there have been critics about that over the years, and it certainly comes with the territory. But what I think it wasn’t so much about time commitment, it was more about the location and the resources being put into what we’re doing in Orlando, trying to make that really the centerpiece of player development moving forward. As you know, we have a home here that we didn’t have when I first started here. Obviously we have a presence in Southern California that we partner with. So the job really encompasses I believe the whole country, but I believe that moving forward, not just for player development but for community tennis as well, that it’s going to be moving down to Orlando. I just think it’s even more important. You could certainly argue that I should have been in Florida, living there, that I didn’t do the job. That’s your right to do that. But I think moving forward that I felt that the position needed to be in Orlando on a full-time basis. I certainly felt that I was doing the job from here over the last six years because, you know, I was able to use my energies in a lot of different places. You know, the job, as Gordon said, changed a lot over time. It changes from year to year as far as what your focuses are based on what’s happened in the field, based on different priorities. But I do think we’re headed in a very positive direction. Obviously when you look at the top of what we deal with, which is what a lot of people are interested in, is how are our top players doing? Obviously we are doing pretty well in the women’s side. We have a lot of work to do on the men’s side at the top, but I think we have a great group of youngsters coming up. I think we are all very optimistic about the future for them. So there is a lot of tentacles that go into this job. Certainly more than I realized going forward. That’s why having a great team in place and some of them here is, to me, probably the most important of having the right people in place to do the job.

Q. Dave is there any component or Patrick is there any component of this based on the fact the results haven’t been what you hoped in terms of on the court, particularly on the men’s side?
GORDON SMITH: The answer to that is no. If you look at where we are and where we have come from, I think, as I said we have a great foundation. Frankly, I think we are going to see results of that. We have 12 women in the top 100; 12 more in 100-200, far more than any other country. Many, many of those we have had a positive influence on. We are not as far along on the boys. Look at Wimbledon, we had seven out of the sixteen in the Round of 16; three out of four semifinalists, and both finalists. So we are really gaining steam, and I’m very happy with the foundation. Make no mistake, we’re going to continue the course. This is not a change in direction.

DAVE HAGGERTY: Just to add to that, I think the driving force is what we are going to be doing at Lake Nona. It’s really a change. I think this is Patrick saying, Look, I know this is going to be happening. We have to do what’s right. We have to plan for it, make a transition. And you don’t do that so soon that you can’t react and have the plan in place that you want to have. I think that’s really the key driver here.

Q. What would you say over the last six years you’re most proud of and what would you do differently if given the opportunity?
PATRICK McENROE: I’m most proud of the team that’s in place and the commitment and passion of the people working in the program and the outreach I think more recently. I think Dave was a big impetus towards pushing us in that direction to put more structure to that. We always felt that we, meaning player development, were doing that, but I think it forced us to look in the mirror and realize we needed to do things better in our outreach. I think there is a real sense that that’s headed in a positive direction. What would I do differently? You always look back and say there are things I’d like to do us to do even better in coaching education. I think that’s a huge issue for our country in general. The fact we are only governing body in world that doesn’t certify its own coaches. I think that’s a big issue. So there are always things you could have done better. I would love to see if every male player we work with was in the second week of the US Open. I’m also realistic. I also see what the world looks like. Overall, I’m just very proud of the people that have worked under me and that are dedicated to what they do. I believe I have had some influence on them and some positivity towards them. I expect that to continue from them.

Q. As a follow to that, what’s next for you?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, what’s next for me is, you know, we have a full staff meeting that we have in October with our whole team that we do every year. That was certainly a big impetus for me to announce this now, because the last thing I wanted to do would be to go with the 54 people that work in player development under false pretenses, to not let them know what was going on. That really started this discussion that I want to get this out. I want to go down there. I’m not very good at lying, so I’m pretty good at being straightforward and honest. (Smiling.) I want to continue to do that and work with the team moving forward. As much as these gentlemen want me to be to be involved I will stay involved and keep this train headed in the right direction.

Q. When we spoke a month ago in San Diego, you were making the rounds; you’d been to six sections…
PATRICK McENROE: Nine sections, but who’s counting. (Smiling.)

Q. And you were very candid. You said there was a sense that we were pissing a lot of people off trying to do it our way. Even though we thought we were doing our regional training centers the right way, a lot of people thought… This sense of having pissed off a lot of people, how did that play into your decision?
PATRICK McENROE: Oh, that didn’t play into my decision at all. I think that comes with the territory. I think that’s part of me learning on the job. I learned a lot of things. I believe I got better at what I did. Certainly I made mistakes, as we did within the program and as probably a lot of private coaches did, you know, when they are trying to work with kids. It’s difficult. It’s very difficult to create top-level players. I think I have a newfound respect for what my parents did, you know, to create two players, one who was really good and another who was pretty good. (Smiling.) But also for parents of junior players, for coaches of junior players, for the whole process, I think I never really understood it as a player. And now when you get to really see it and you see the work that goes into it and the dedication, et cetera, you realize it’s pretty hard, you know, to get to the promised land, so to speak, to play at the US Open. Obviously the world has caught up to us when it comes to the highest level of tennis. I think that’s a great thing. It’s great for tennis. It’s a global sport. We’re trying to do things better, and I think that means all of us. That means we in player development. That means in the private sector, et cetera. We’ve all got to work together. Maybe that’s one thing I wish I had grabbed on to a little bit earlier, because I do think it’s really paying off for us — not just for us, but for American tennis in general.

Q. Do you think those nine sections are ready to work with your successor?
PATRICK McENROE: Absolutely. Absolutely. There is a lot of people and a lot of dedicated people. This is not about — this program has never been about one person. It’s never going to be. It’s too big. Are is too many entities. Not just within our program, but with the sections, with the private sector, et cetera. So it has to be — to me, the job is one mostly of leadership and of vision. I think I was successful in some of those areas. As I said, coaching education has come under player development. That was something that I was certainly supportive of. I think that’s a positive. Us and my friend, Kurt Kamperman, who runs community tennis, we have worked side by side a lot more than we ever did. I think that’s a positive for tennis. I think that has to continue.

Q. What does this mean for José, Jay, and Jorge ^ ?
GORDON SMITH: Look, Patrick said it. Patrick’s created a great team and a great staff. They’re moving in the right direction. We want them to continue to move in that direction. We don’t see changes in what we are doing or who’s doing it.

Q. Thanks for all the sweat and the work.

Q. Used to be when Andre was around, whether it was in Zimbabwe or California, he was meeting the team. You know as well as anyone Roddick was a charismatic leader pulling for America. Now when you talk to John and Sam, terrific people, even all the way down to Koslov and Rubin, there is more of a culture of I’m working on my own game; that’s what I’m interested in. There isn’t that urgency of the, Hey, we’ve got to make this happen for America today. Could you comment about that? Do you sense that? Do you think that’s an issue of any kind?
PATRICK McENROE: I mean, it’s not up to the individual player to do it for their country, so to speak. It’s up to them to do it for themselves. I mean, as a Davis Cup captain for 10 years I spent a lot of time with Andy Roddick; he had an incredible energy and intensity level that was from him. That was him. Obviously he loved playing for his country. He loved supporting American tennis. I think that we have a lot of kids and a lot of players that have that. I think we just need to get better. I mean, our players need to get better. The coaching needs to get better. We want to be as much of a support as we can and a resource for all things tennis where our best players, our young coaches, we’re people getting people in the pipeline, for junior and collegiate tennis we created a separate position in the last few years just to focus solely on collegiate tennis and do what we can support the best players coming out of college. The answer to that question is I believe we have some of that. Great players obviously have certain individuality to them. I mean, look at Michael Chang out there coaching now. His intensity and energy has made a tangible difference in someone like a Kei Nishikori. We can always get better at that. I hope I answered your question. I’m not trying to skirt it. I just don’t see that it’s — I don’t look at that and say, That’s our issue. I look at it and say, We need to get better as coaches, as mentors, as players. We need to play tennis better. We need to train better. We need to be smarter, et cetera.

Q. It’s early on, but do you have any sense of a description of the job or the replacement of Patrick? Say, does it have to be a former player or just a great developmental coach? Somebody maybe with who has a business background a little bit? Do you have a sense of that yet?
PATRICK McENROE: Are you going to knock my business background, too? (Laughter.)

GORDON SMITH: Many of you saw John went to the ESPN set immediately before he came here. John said he was not a candidate for the job, so I know it’s not going to be John. Well, can we clone Patrick and get him to move to Nona? It’s going to be hard to replace Patrick. I was involved with the search when we hired Patrick. It’s a damn hard job, and it’s going to be hard to find somebody. But start with a lot of his talents and you’d have a good candidate.

Q. Would José be considered at all? Do you want a big name like Patrick?
GORDON SMITH: You know, honestly hadn’t thought about it. If you want to know the truth, the reason being Patrick and I had this discussion, we were in no rush. We simply — because he wanted it to come out on his terms. As things began to break we decided to talk tonight. We haven’t gotten that far down the road.

Q. How do you think your tenure in this sort of era of American tennis should be remembered?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I hope it will be remembered when we have a bunch of players that will be at the top in a few years, because I think, as you have probably learned in your years now of covering tennis, it’s a long road to get to the top. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. You know, José and I have, and I fully expect Mark just to at least chime in on that for José to be involved. I’d like him to be on the court more, to be honest. I think that’s his No. 1 role is to be on the court working with players. We had already had discussions about him doing more of that in the near future, particularly some of our young boys that are coming up. But what we always talked about s wanting to put a structure in place, a structure that would help us create a good succession of high-quality players. I have said from the start in taking the job that I never suspected that we or any one person or program can create Serena Williams or John McEnroe or Pete Sampras. But I do believe that if you create a good system and a good program that’s organized, that has a coaching philosophy which we have that reaches out with the great private sector that’s out there that are in this game, that are in this world. Which there are not that many of them, by the way. There are some great ones, but there are not that many of it. That if you do that, this is a 15- to 20-year project. There is some disappointment in me to not see the whole thing through, but I have to be realistic about it about. When I first went to Orlando two years ago, as we were looking potentially for sites just for player development at that time before it became a much bigger deal for the USTA, you know, I wanted to do what I thought was right for the USTA and for tennis in the country. I’m going to continue to do that. So I would hope that some of those things have set some of the parameters in place and put some good things motion. Again, it’s a complete team effort. I hope that I have led some of that charge, that we can’t really just sit back, I believe, anymore and rely on, Jeez, we used to have half the draw at the US Open. Well, guess what? I mean, the world has changed.

Q. How much, if at all, have you tried to pick up things from other countries in the way they develop players?
PATRICK McENROE: You always try to find that balance of being we are the United States and we do want to do things our way. We do want to have the individual obviously be emphasized. But I do think that we wanted to get a bit more organized in the way we approach coaching and coach educating, et cetera. But at the same time, obviously you always look at what countries are doing that are having success, whether it’s France, Spain, Russia, et cetera. But at the same time, I don’t think we ever want to lose what we do well, which is, you know, be aggressive players, serve big, be attacking-type players. But you also have to realize that the game has changed. The game is played from the back court. You need to hit a lot of balls and be able to run and be very athletic. We have clay courts here. We have clay courts in Florida. We are going to have I a lot more clay courts – and some will be red, which will be nice – in Orlando; we have clay courts at our facility in California. We changed the Orange Bowl back to clay. You know, so there is a lot of things that tie into that to try to help our kids develop better so that they become better players.

Q. Is the transition anything more than you helping to find a successor? What’s the timeline for finding a replacement?
DAVE HAGGERTY: To me, I think, you know, a lot of this is new news. It’s something — you know, we are in the middle of the US Open, which is something that needs a lot of focus. But we will begin to plan and come up with something that really makes sense. This is not about change in strategy. We think the inclusiveness, what we are doing and how we are trying to work to develop American champions is the right formula. We have a great team. We just have to continue to move forward. How that looks, you know, I think we need a few months to figure that out. And the role that Patrick will play in it and the guidance that he’ll give us, you know, he’s learned a lot. Sometimes you have to take that learning and use it to make your decision-making.

Q. A year? Longer than that?
GORDON SMITH: I would say that’s an unknown, but if four to six months, could be longer. He will have much broader involvement than just finding a successor. He’s running the show. He’s in place. He’s going to be there to do that until this happens. He’s going to be involved in the search. He’s going to be involved in transferring the knowledge and the lessons learned. So it will be a broad involvement going forward in the transition.

Q. You talked about the developmental process, but what hasn’t been mentioned is our junior competition structure in this country. In my opinion, and in a lot of people’s opinion, that’s kind of an underlying issue with why we’re not seeing more of the top players emerge.
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I think it’s safe to say we’ve got some issues in junior comp. There is no doubt about that. We are certainly trying to tackle it in the best way we can. I will say — and I have sort of said this before and said it the wrong way and pissed some people off — but I will say that I don’t think that’s the reason we don’t have players at the top of the professional game. Just like I don’t think we need to have better coaching and education. All the things combined matter. I think junior competition matters. At the same time, you know, if you’re going to make that argument, which you’re welcome to make, then you might want to look at, well, how are we doing in girls? We seem to have a lot of girls in the top 100 and a lot more coming. They sort of play under the same system, as well. I think the premise of your question and statement is accurate, that we need to do a better job in that area, but I do think that it’s one of many issues.

Q. Last couple of years when you were out there looking at the Orlandos and whatever, were you aware from the start that you were basically looking for something that was going to take you out of a job, or was there a point where you thought you’d be able to stay with it?
PATRICK McENROE: I think a little bit of both. I mean, you know, obviously I feel like I have been able to do the job from here. If I didn’t think I’d be able to do the job I wouldn’t have kept doing it. But I do think — look, my interest was always in what I think was best for the program. That’s the bottom line. As I said, Gordon and I discussed potential directions to go, and I think we both looked at each other and we have worked well and we have been honest with each other for all these years. Dave since he became president, as well. I said, Look, I think this is going to work best for this position at this point to be based there. So, yeah, I guess I was my own worst enemy if I said I wanted to keep the job for as long as I could. I never looked at the job from that perspective. I looked at it as a great opportunity. I was paid well, obviously. I did my best and will continue to do my best. I made some mistakes, but I think generally speaking I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to be part of Davis Cup for ten years and this job for, you know, six-and-a-half years. Maybe it will seven by the time I sort of officially step aside. Whatever it is, that’s a pretty good run. They have treated me, the USTA, great. They have always been very honest with me. I have been very honest with them. I’m going to continue to do that.

Q. The last I guess 40 years, professional football, professional basketball, to a lesser extent hockey, baseball, has been pretty shrewd in using colleges to basically be a very seamless pipeline, cheap. Some could say exploited. But do you think that you, tennis, has done or could do a better job of exploiting the sort of infrastructures already in college?
PATRICK McENROE: There is no doubt we could do a better job. That’s why we assigned one of our coaches to specifically follow college tennis and specifically work with the players and the coaches. At the same time, I like to deal with reality, as well: If you look at the reality of the rankings of men’s and women’s tennis, the majority of the players didn’t go to college. It’s just a fact. It’s just a reality. That being said, we’re seeing some darn good players come out of college, particularly on the men’s side. Even a few on the women’s side that are doing well. That’s great. What I would really — what rang true with me is when I did some of my travels around the country and I heard from a lot of parents that that was important to them, that college tennis be a viable option. Because, you know, at nine or ten it’s pretty hard to say if you’re going to be a pro or not. So that sort of reenergized me to say, Hey, we need to make sure and do what we can to help college tennis, because a lot of — we might lose a lot of players when their kids are eight, nine, or ten that do other sports and get involved in other things and the parent says, Jeez, college tennis is, I don’t know. It’s not really viable. I think we need it to be healthy, and the healthier it can be it’s better for tennis in general. And I think it can be a pipeline, but it’s not going to be like football.

Q. Between public and private, could you talk a little bit about that relationship in terms of how that’s grown?
PATRICK McENROE: I think it needs to get better. That’s obviously been a huge push for us recently. The reason I say that is because it’s so much harder to make it. The private sector, you know, the tennis world has changed. I don’t mean professional tennis. I mean the business of tennis has changed to where clubs and academies, et cetera, they have — it’s more financially based now. It’s economics of how they can just stay in business. So the better a junior tennis player gets as a kid, 11, 12, 13, up to 17, 18, the more resources it takes for them to continue to develop. That’s where I believe the USTA can play a huge part in helping that process, be part of the process. And certainly not be the only part. We definitely know that. But at the same time, we need to send that message to those coaches out there, and they also need to receive the message I believe from the USTA that the — you may very well need us at some point, and that can be a good thing. If you think you can do it all alone, God bless you and good luck, but it’s pretty darn tough. The USTA can be a valuable resource in that process.

Courtesy of ASAPSports and the USTA.

As a media outlet credentialed to cover the US Open, Tennis Panorama News has permission to post this transcript.


Say “No” to Best of Three

By Dave Seminara

Why is it that tennis writers and former players always seem to be agitating for changes that would result in less tennis being played in the pro ranks? For years, we’ve been hearing that the Davis Cup shouldn’t be an annual event, and that tennis’s offseason should be longer. Now during the first week of this year’s U.S. Open, the buzz was all about reducing the men’s matches from best of 5 to best of 3 in majors.


Ben Rothenberg made a best-of-3 pitch in the New York Times’ U.S. Open Preview issue, ESPN tennis analyst’s Darren Cahill and Patrick McEnroe said that the idea was getting some traction and merited further discussion and Billie Jean King wrote a piece for The Huffington Post arguing the same point.


I’m a tennis fanatic and I live for dramatic five setters. While Cahill and others have said that the Olympics best of three until the final format proved that best of three could be as compelling as the best of five majors, I had the opposite experience. For me, the Olympics felt no different than a Masters 1000 series tournament like Toronto, Cincinnati and the rest.


King maintains that the men should play less in order to avoid injuries like the one that’s kept Rafael Nadal out of action this summer. But there are scores of current and former players that continued to win into their 30’s under the best of 5 format- Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi- and some athletes from every sport will sustain injuries no matter how many sets they play.


Rothenberg’s primary justification for paring back the length of men’s matches is the notion that the player who is leading at the end of 3 sets nearly always wins the match. He cited a statistic indicating that the player leading after the first three sets won 90% of matches in the last five years, but this year’s Open certainly bucked that trend.


There was a total of 23 five setters, with 10 players coming from 2 sets to love down to win in the first four days, tied for the second most in the Open era, and only 4 behind the all time record set at the 2002 Australian Open. Of the 23 five setters, the player who was winning at the end of the 3rd set won on only six occasions.


If the final had been straight sets win for Andy Murray, just imagine all the drama we would have missed out on. The match was full of plot twists, and despite the fact that it lasted almost five hours, the crowd didn’t want it to end. After Murray won the first two sets, the crowd seemed to shift allegiance to Djokovic-because they wanted more tennis- and then shifted back to Murray in the 5th.


One could argue that this year’s draw has been the exception, not the rule, but consider how different tennis history would be if the men had been playing best of three in the majors during the Open era. Roger Federer wouldn’t have a career slam, because at Roland Garros in 2009, his one win there, he would have lost to Tommy Haas in the Round of 16. And he wouldn’t have regained the #1 ranking, breaking Pete Sampras’s record for weeks in the top spot, because he was down two sets to love in the 3rd round of Wimbledon this year against Julien Benneteau.


Then again, he would have won the 2009 U.S. Open over Juan Martin Del Potro and could have fared better in other majors, like the 1999 Wimbledon, the 2011 U.S. Open, and the 2002 and 2005 Australian Opens.


In a best of three set world, Rafael Nadal would have lost to Robin Haase in the 2nd round at Wimbledon in 2010, rather than winning the title; Novak Djokovic wouldn’t have won this year’s Australian Open or the 2011 U.S. Open; and McEnroe would have a career slam, having beaten Lendl in the final of the ’84 French, rather than blowing a two set to love lead, but he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1980.


Neither Michael Chang nor Boris Becker would have won majors at 17, and Becker wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1989. The point here is twofold: first, it isn’t that uncommon for players who are trailing at the end of three sets to win the match and then go on to win the tournament, and second, the better player is more likely to prevail in best of five set encounters. For obvious reasons, fans want to see Rafael Nada late in the final, not Robin Haase; Roger Federer not Julien Benneateau. If the men’s game switched to best of 3 sets now, it would also make it difficult to compare records from one era to another.


But the most important reason for keeping the best of five format is that five set matches test a player’s mental and physical strength in a way that three setters don’t. All of the most dramatic men’s matches I’ve seen in my lifetime- Federer-Nadal in the final of Wimbledon in 2008, Federer- Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009, Borg-McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980, Lendl-McEnroe at the ’84 French, Connors-Krickstein at the ’91 U.S. Open, Isner- Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, and McEnroe-Becker at the Davis Cup in ’87- were five setters.


Yes, five setters are tough on the body, but at most majors, the players have a day off in between most of their matches. And, let’s face it; watching guys overcome cramps and other injuries to win is high theater. Who could forget watching Pete Sampras gut out a win over Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open in ’96 after throwing up in the plants at the back of the court?


Tennis writers often suggest making dramatic changes to the sport, but I love tennis too much to advocate any changes that would result in less tennis. As far as I’m concerned, the sport is just fine the way it is.




Jamie Reynolds of ESPN on Approach Shots

Jamie Reynolds (Photo by Rich Arden/ESPN)

Tennis Panorama News had the unique opportunity to visit the ESPN broadcast compound  and spend time in the control room in Melbourne during coverage of the Australian Open back in January. Senior Vice President of Event Production for ESPN Jamie Reynolds took time out from his extremely hectic schedule to speak to us about the logistics, technologies, philosophy and personalities of ESPN’s Australian Open coverage.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How are the logistics of planning different for the Australian Open versus the other slams?

Jamie Reynolds: The way that we approach the Australian Open is similar in the way we do all four majors. And ESPN is unique in the aspect that we literally take apart our entire operation, our entire family, our entire circus and we take it three continents and an island.

We go to Australia and then go on to Paris, we then go up to the UK for Wimbledon and them back down to New York at the end of the summer. The nine month rip is pretty aggressive. So we probably pick up 115 people, and literally land on these hotspots for these events, move them in for three weeks. And I think we are probably the largest broadcaster who does all four majors at that level of commitment or the magnitude of the production assets that we bring. So it’s pretty challenging.

The biggest thing, the hardest thing for us, relative to the Australian Open, candidly is that we are upside down on the time zone to our audience and the fact that we don’t start until 9pm and we run the overnight hours, that’s great, but when we are trying to grow the sport, it’s a little challenging. How do you get people to stay up all night long or want to get invested, either TIVO, record, DVR the matches, because they are that much of a tennis fanatic to take advantage of what we are doing versus what they getting immediately either texting, news reports, Morning wheel of the news, they can get all that social currency to get up to steam.

So our challenge really, for this particular event is probably more editorial that logistic.


TPN: What is the biggest technological challenge in covering the Australian Open?

JR: This event is technically, is one of the easier events for us to handle technically. We’ve got a partnership going with Channel 7 Australia, who is also the host broadcaster. So ESPN comes in and effectively we are a world feed embellisher. We put our own character, our own personality, our own voices, graphics, music. Pick the asset that can actually tailor the world feed presentation to look and feel like a standard ESPN product.

So perhaps our biggest challenge is what if we don’t necessarily agree with you on covering a match? Or perhaps the isolation plan for Tomic or for Federer or for Roddick or for Rafa perhaps. That assignment of cameras may not be perhaps the level or the rate or philosophy that we might bring to a match. So how do we cover that chasm?

Technology wise we continue to push the envelope by bringing assets like the Spidercam, the aerial system that you see out on Rod Laver, that’s a device that we on ESPN brought to the tennis world and introduced at the majors at the US Open three years ago, convinced Tennis Australia, Channel 7 that it might enhance their coverage, convinced all the parties to come together and bring it down and fly through Rod Laver.

This year we’ve been very aggressive in trying to help Channel 7 understand how that could be an asset to enhance the coverage package. I think that everyday we chip away at it and get a little bit bolder with its flight pattern and we kind of rely on it a little bit more. I think that it enhances the value of its coverage.


TPN: Now that we are down to one American left in the singles draw, what are your angles going to be?

JR: Without the Americans doing well for the first time in the open era and not get to the round of 16, that’s challenging for us. Because we’ve got a lot of personalities and lot of what we do look at from the access to a lot of these players, what the interest is back home. Our particular productions have migrated to a new way of thinking. Specifically this is truly an international event with so many great personalities form around the globe, and because we do reach a lot of countries with ESPN, we think a little bit broader in how we are actually in going after a Hewitt story, a Roger or a Rafa or a Raonic or Tomic and any of the ladies as well.

That our goal now is to make that as personable, as desirable, in terms of wanting to understand the back story, getting our audience invested inn them, just trying to figure out the best way to convey that to our audience so they don’t mind that there are no Americans. We don’t have to put the red, white and blue all the time but there’s really great tennis out there that is fun.


TPN: Any new technology being implemented at this year’s Australian Open.

JR: The Australian mindset is very unique. They are gregarious fun loving good folks down here. They tend to be incredibly open-minded in terms of progressive introductions of new ideas to help convey the event and one of the initiatives they’ve helped us achieve is what we call our behind-the-scenes franchise. And that behind-the-scenes franchise as effectively as I describe to our teams is this: “Take behind the velvet ropes. Give me discovery and access. Take me places I couldn’t get to if I had a ticket or if I had the ability to watch every hour of what ESPN puts out, I need to feel like I actually in the event and going somewhere where no one else can go.”

And with that kind of mindset and philosophy with Tennis Australia, “where can you give us access to?” Well we can go to the workout room, we can go to the locker room, we can go to the hallways, the waiting rooms for the players, the player lounges. We can go to the car park area, where a lot of them just go and out their headsets on and just get into a zone and just kind of shut the world out to deconstruct their match. They’re very open-minded, progressive in terms of allowing that access. With that comes the ability to kind of shape the way we convey this event as opposed to just a rectangle on a screen, two players back and forth, three-hit rally or a 17-hit rally. It’s a little sexier, a little bit more valuable, more attractive presentation. I actually feel like I’m part of it, a part of the community, behind the velvet ropes and going somewhere where I couldn’t even go if I were on site.


TPN: What would surprise tennis fans about being behind the scenes?

JR: There’s an incredible amount of camaraderie and I think that what doesn’t convey that whether it’s the ATP or the WTA, these athletes and personalities do travel the circuit week after week and what you actually see behind-the-scenes is the feeling of family amongst the players themselves. As combative or as aggressive as they can be with each other out on a court there is sincere appreciation, chemistry, commitment to one another, whether they are having a good year or a poor year. There’s respect but there is a dynamic that these athletes share with each other. It’s not as adversarial as it might convey over an 11-hour show window where we are just showing guys beating back and forth with each other.


TPN: What is a typical day for you and the talent?

JR: This is probably the most challenging because of the sheer number of hours that we televise. When we say first ball to final ball, it is a very solid commitment to coverage of the most important matches from front end to back end. That really requires commitment of literally hours per day. So when you look at the first ball starting at 11am and often times ending like New York ending after Midnight, if not later, keeping people motivated through that 14-day stand is challenging. And with a roster of  personalities, our talent roster, keep them enthusiastic, keeping them invested and focused on being “on” for that 10 hours a day waiting for a match, getting ready for one that is coming up tonight,  and you really gotta go through your head for 2 hours and come back with the same enthusiasm, that’s challenging. You are asking a lot of people.

So what happens behind the scenes to help that? It’s the sense of community, family and respect for each other we all try to create. This isn’t just a group of specialists, assassins coming into do a single job. We’ve got to keep everybody working with the chemistry and taking advantage of that. So we’ll rotate teams. You might see Chris Evert working with Pam Shriver today or you will see Patrick McEnroe and Darren (Cahill) or Patrick and Chris Fowler so we can actually keep them involved with each other because they don’t have to always rule out “ Oh God I’m just sitting with my partner for this match and I’m doing every single match him for the next 14 days.” It changes up the dinner table a little bit.


TPN: Who are the practical jokers behind the scenes?

JR: I think that those in the tennis community and those of us who are running the sport know what kind of personality a Brad Gilbert brings. And we know, we look loving and fondly at Cliff Drysdale. He’s the godfather of our team, the elder statesman. As a perspective, he is the longest running talent on ESPN, bar none. He’s been with us since 1979, so we look at that history, having done Davis Cup that year, he is the man who is the franchise longer than anyone.

And then you look at Darren Cahill. Cahill with the Aussie wit, terrific personality. Patrick McEnroe, that’s pretty good – an acerbic wit. And McEnroe has a pretty good timbre to work with. Look at the gals – Mary Joe (Fernandez) and Pammy (Shriver) are well respected. Pammy can be polarizing, she’s got a great personality, she will go off on a flyer and make us all laugh and look at things a way many of us would never think about. She connects the dots on a lot of different stories and a lot of personalities. So that’s kind of like a really valuable spark. It’s a good roster.

Follow ESPN’s tennis coverage on ESPN2,, on twitter @ESPNTennis and @ESPN10S and online on their tennis home page.


Gracias, Bogota by Junior Williams


Gracias, Bogota


By Junior Williams
I had a lot on my mind as my flight from Miami touched down at Bogota,Colombia’s El Dorado Airport Wednesday afternoon. Most prominent was whether or not I would regret my maiden voyage to South America.
A number of my tennis fan friends chose to skip the Davis Cup World Group Play-off between the United States and Colombia, citing U.S. State Department travel warnings and Bogota’s reputation for crime which goes back to the drug wars of the late 20th century.

When a driver from my hotel picked me up and engaged me in conversation -being nice enough not to ridicule my lack of fluency in Spanish – it was definitely a sign of things to come: Bogota is one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited.

I decided to spend my six days and five nights in the La Candelaria section of central Bogota, full of 300-year old colonial buildings,university students and narrow streets. My room at the Hotel Ambala was only $42 a night in U.S. currency, and the staff at the hotel made me feel very much at home.
The trade-off: A very small room with a bathroom you have to squeeze into,and the pulsating beat of bars and nightclubs into the wee hours of the morning. A far cry from the upscale JW Marriott in northern Bogota where the U.S. Davis Cup team is staying, but I’ll take the charm of La Candelaria any day of the week. 



National Capital building at Plaza de Bolivar




My American friend and I have been walking all over Bogota, from the Plaza de Bolivar – home of the national capital building – to the Plaza de Toros la Santamaria, the bullring hosting the Davis Cup. In this city that’s more than 8,600 feet above sea level, I can understand why many cited altitude as a big challenge for the U.S. team. We did lots of huffing and puffing in the hilly parts of Bogota.



Transmilenio/Museo de Oro station



When we weren’t walking, we took the Trans Milenio — a rapid transit bus system masquerading as a subway. It’s a good way to see other parts of the city, with mountain tops looking down over the metropolis.

Bogota is also the home of cheap and tasty eats, where you can get breakfasts and lunches for as little as $2 to $5 US (1800 Colombian Pesos= $1United States). Empanadas, tamales in banana leaves, and sizzling meats are just the tip of the iceberg. Dinners are also inexpensive, but don’t wait too late to go out for a meal. Very few restaurants are open past8pm.
Carrera 7 was a pleasant surprise on Friday night . No cars allowed. It was like a street fair for several blocks.

As far as safety is concerned, there is a heavy police presence in Bogota.It’s not unusual to see officers with muzzled dogs patrolling the streets.

The homeless are very savvy. Expect one of them to come to you and ask for change right after you purchase something on the street.



View of Bogota from Monserrate peak



While dining in a restaurant, I met a retiree who left Chicago to live in Bogota. I asked him for the must-see spots in the city. He mentioned Monserrate, a mountain top where a white church overlooks the Colombian capital.

I took his advice, and the views were breathtaking.


Monserrate Sanctuary



Since we were dining, he also gave me some “tips” on tipping, which is not customary in Bogota (though some eating establishments have service charges). He said if you want to give a tip, give it directly to the waiter or waitress. If you leave it on the table, anyone can take the money.
He also said Colombians are some of the nicest and most generous people you’ll ever meet. “If you ask for one thing, they’ll give you two or three.”
He went on to say that Bogota’s reputation as the most dangerous capital city in the world is unjustified.

I couldn’t agree more. Even when I was walking down crowded streets wearing clothes that screamed out I am an American, I’d get smiles,welcoming gestures and strike up friendly conversations with Bogotanos. 



I didn’t get a chance to see all of the hot spots here, such as the Museo del Oro which I hear is wonderful, but I’ll have plenty of fond memories of Colombia, and not just because of the tennis.
Gracias, Bogota! 

Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He was in Bogota reporting for Global Village Tennis News covering the US vs Colombia Davis Cup tie.

Davis Cup: Fish Keeps U.S. in World Group By Junior Williams

Bogota Bonus: Some Observations on Davis Cup by Junior Williams

Switch to Fish Completes a Winning Dish by Junior Williams

“Uncle Sam is in Trouble” – USA and Colombia at 1-1 on Day One of the Davis Cup World Group Play-offs by Junior Williams