USTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 18, 2004
DAVID NEWMAN: Thank you, media, for joining us for this USTA press teleconference to announce our 2004 US Olympic tennis coaches and the 2004 US Paralympic coach. This summer, as everybody knows, the Olympics will take place in Athens, with the tennis competition taking place August 15 through 22nd at the Athens Tennis Center. Competition will be played two weeks prior to the US Open, played on the same DecoTurf II hardcourt surface, with the use of the same US Open Wilson ball for continuity for the players. The 2004 Paralympic Games will be held September 17th through 28th in Athens with the tennis competition scheduled for September 19th through 26th at the same venue. We have some exciting news this year. Without further ado, it's my pleasure and honor to introduce the Chairman of the Board, President of the USTA, Alan Schwartz.
ALAN SCHWARTZ: Thank you, David. Good afternoon, and thank you, press, for joining us. 2004 is off to an exciting start here in the US. The Davis Cup team just defeated Austria two weeks ago. We're into the quarterfinals, which we play against Sweden in early April. The ATP final this past weekend featured two Americans, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, with a thrilling first set, 15-13 in the tiebreaker. The US Fed Cup goes into the 2004 World Group this spring following its return to the World Group division for the first time in three years. With the top names in tennis competing in Athens at the Olympics, it's just another element to what I think will be a tremendously exciting summer for our sport. Against that backdrop, I am just delighted to announce our coaches for the 2004 US Olympic and Paralympic tennis teams. Before doing so, I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of several key USTA volunteers instrumental in the Olympic and Paralympic effort. Steve Potts, Chairman of the USTA Olympic Committee; Barb Smith, member of the ITF Olympic Committee; Tina Dale, chair of our USTA Wheelchair Tennis Committee. And also to acknowledge on the phone with us is esteemed Chief Executive Professional Tennis, Arlen Kantarian. As you probably know, the USTA was officially designated by the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the Paralympic sport of wheelchair tennis. That was back in June 2002. I remember being on the board at that time and being thrilled that we were the first Olympic national governing body to earn the recognition as the national governing body for able-bodied and wheelchair athletes. It is my distinct pleasure and honor to announce that Dan James is the US Paralympic tennis coach. Zina Garrison and Patrick McEnroe are the Olympic tennis coaches for the women's and men's teams respectively. Dan James is on the phone with us. Are you there, Dan?
DAN JAMES: I sure am, Alan.
ALAN SCHWARTZ: He's calling in from Athens. Dan is joining by phone where he is with our Paralympic delegation. Dan hails from Roseville, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. He was a clear choice by me to be our Paralympic coach. He is in charge of developing and coaching our high-performance wheelchair athletes. He has coached our national tennis team since 1999. He's no newcomer to Paralympic tennis; he was our head coach in Sydney four years ago. Come on in, Dan, and say hello.
DAN JAMES: Thank you so much, Alan. I'd like to start by thanking the USTA on several different fronts, one for being an international leader in acknowledging the importance of wheelchair tennis, and then secondly thank you so much for the honor of naming me Paralympic coach and having the opportunity to coach the US teams. It's also a huge honor for me to be acknowledged with Zina Garrison and Patrick McEnroe. As a Paralympic coach, it is obviously important for us to be recognized with the Olympic coaches. It's just a huge honor. As Alan mentioned, I'm in Athens right now. I can't tell you how excited that makes me to get the games going. I know they're a few months away, but it's just very exciting to be in the birthplace of the Olympics, and makes us want to go out and get more gold medals. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to representing the US and the USTA.
ALAN SCHWARTZ: I know you're going to do a great job. You've been head of our team that's already won 13 World Team Cup wheelchair tennis championships. Keep up the good work and we're in good hands.
DAN JAMES: Thanks so much, Alan.
ALAN SCHWARTZ: Since returning to Olympic competition in 1988 at the games in Seoul, before that tennis was an exhibition sport, then it was dropped from 1924 almost to 1984, the US has won 14 medals, including eight gold medals. Most recently you'll recall that Venus Williams won the women's gold in Sydney, and together Venus and Serena won the doubles. Monica Seles won a bronze. That was all in Sydney. Our two Olympic coaches have been involved in virtually every aspect of tennis. I have had the pleasure of serving with them on the USTA board, each of them. Both have been players. Both are broadcasters. Both are authors. As I said, both have seen the inside workings of the USTA as board members. They share, as far as I'm concerned, a competitive instinct and understanding of the game, strong leadership skills. They were ideal choices and clear choices to lead the US Olympic effort. Let me start off with Zina, have her say a few words. She was a two-time Olympian. She represented the US in 1992 at Barcelona and again in Seoul, Korea in '88. At the 1988 games, she won the bronze medal in singles. Zina and Pam Shriver won the gold in doubles. Zina has won 37 professional titles during her 15-year career. She won three championships at Grand Slam events, in addition to that was the Wimbledon finalist in 1990. In December, I was pleased to name Zina as the first African American captain in the 40-year history of the Fed Cup. Her appointment followed six years as coach of the Fed Cup under Billie Jean King. In fact, I remember sitting with Billie Jean for some hours, and Billie Jean suggested she and Zina switch Fed Cup roles where Zina would become captain and Billie Jean coach. Zina will make her debut as captain when we face Slovenia in the 2004 World Group first round in late April, April 24th and 25th, in Slovenia. Let me introduce to you to say a few words, the US Olympic women's tennis coach, Zina Garrison.
ZINA GARRISON: I'd just like to say I'm very excited to be the Olympic captain -- I'm sorry, the Olympic coach. I'd like to thank you first, Alan Schwartz. I'd like to thank the USTA staff. This is a very exciting moment for me. Having been a gold medalist and also a bronze medalist, getting an opportunity to play for your country is always an exciting thing, especially playing for the Olympics. I'm very excited. And congratulations to Patrick and also to Dan. We're really looking forward to bringing some gold medals home - and bronze and silver (laughter).
ALAN SCHWARTZ: Zina, you're a competitor all the way. I just got to tell you how pleased we are to have you there representing us. I know how much passion you have for it and that same passion you're going to bring to the team. Patrick was named captain of the United States Davis Cup team back in December of 2000. He has been an eloquent spokesman for our sport. He's engendered a true team spirit in Davis Cup, wonderful air, I guess they call it 'camaraderie' in the current crop of American young men. This team is keen of bringing the Davis Cup back. We haven't had it here since 1995. Two weeks ago with a victory over Austria, we advanced to the quarterfinals. We play Sweden in April. It's just a great pleasure to introduce a native New Yorker, the US men's Olympic tennis coach, Patrick McEnroe.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you, Alan. Thanks to you and to the USTA for this appointment. Tremendous honor for me. I've never been part of the Olympics, as my compadre Zina has very successfully. Congratulations to Zina, and also being the new Fed Cup captain. She's going to do a great job there. It's just an incredible honor for me to be part of the US delegation and to lead these young American players. As Alan said, we've got a great group of young players led by Andy Roddick, the Bryan brothers with the doubles team, who are incredibly enthusiastic about representing their country in Davis Cup, and now in the Olympics. Every time I mention it to them, they get a big gleam in their eyes about going to Athens and being part of the Olympic Games. We're excited about it. For me to be a part of it is a huge thrill. To help these guys go and play their best tennis, which if we do that, we'll bring home some medals. I think we've got a great chance to win the gold in both singles and doubles. I'm looking forward to it. Looking forward to going to Athens and being a representative of the US.
ALAN SCHWARTZ: I know you'll do a great job, all three of you. David, back to you. I think you'll open it up for questions now. Why don't you take it from here.
DAVID NEWMAN: Thank you very much. Thank you Zina, Dan, Patrick. Members of the media, thank you for joining us. Now the floor is all yours. We will throw it to the operator for questions for Zina, Dan and Patrick.
Q. The question is for Dan James. Can you tell me if the US wheelchair team, both men and women, have been selected as yet?
DAN JAMES: No, they have not been selected. The International Tennis Federation will actually determine the automatic entries on April 14th, then we will be able to notify people on April 19th as to what those teams will be. Right now our players are all over the world trying to get more ranking points to qualify.
Q. And will you please make sure that we're included in that release?
DAN JAMES: Absolutely.
Q. I was wondering about the other teams, the men's and women's Olympic teams. When will those names be announced?
PATRICK McENROE: They'll be announced in the end of June. There's a process of the rankings coming out on June 28th, that's the cutoff for the eligible players from each country, based on the computer rankings at that time.
Q. Their eligibility, at least as far as Fed Cup, having played in Fed Cup?
PATRICK McENROE: Fed Cup and Davis Cup participation or availability for participation in the last two years.
Q. I'm not a regular tennis writer. You'll have to excuse my bonehead question. For Zina and Patrick, you're both in charge of teams now. What's different about the Olympics? I guess you'll know the surface, all the teams will be playing on the same surface, but how can you possibly approach this differently than you would a Fed Cup or a Davis Cup match?
ZINA GARRISON: I think for one thing the difference is, first of all, that we're going in there as a team, but they will be playing individually. The other part to it is normally when we're deciding our team, we go down by the rankings. I think this way I could have anywhere from six to seven players within the top 48 that I can actually pick from, and also a doubles team.
Q. Are those WTP rankings?
PATRICK McENROE: ATP and WTA rankings. You take the rankings at that time. Zina and I will pick the eligible players based on ranking and based on their availability, as I said, for Fed Cup and Davis Cup. It's different because, you know, the Olympics, number one, is the Olympics, which is the biggest sporting event in the world. Davis Cup and Fed Cup, you're playing for your country, but you're earning points for your team to try to win that particular match. Here it's really like a regular tournament in the setup of the tournament. It's one player against one player, and then obviously you play like you're playing for the US Open, so to speak. But our roles will be to help the players in whatever way we can during that week of the event and leading up to it. We won't be able to sit on the court as we do in Davis and Fed Cup, but we'll be able to help them in their preparation, their strategy. Picking up the balls for them is also a key part of the job (laughter).
ZINA GARRISON: A bigger part than Patrick knows.
Q. Zina, who was your coach in Seoul?
ZINA GARRISON: Marty Riessen.
Q. Since you have been a player and a coach, I guess you have a different perspective.
ZINA GARRISON: Yeah. I mean, I think I look at it a little bit different. As a player, I mean, for me it was very exciting to go in and have the opportunity to be on the same basically arena as other athletes that are great within their country. When you have the opportunity to play the US Open, where you're playing individually, you actually are not considered -- you're American, but it's a different kind of American. You're playing for your country here.
Q. Patrick, what can you possibly tell one of these top athletes that they haven't already heard?
PATRICK McENROE: Plenty, believe me. Most of the players that I've dealt with and will probably deal with during the Olympics are very young. They've been on the tour a couple years. You know, I know them well, I know what their tendencies are in their own game, I know the tendencies in their opponent's, which I think is a big part of it. Certainly they know a lot. They've got to go out there on the court and perform. But I don't think you can underestimate what coaches do. Part of our job is also to communicate with their individual coaches who are with them throughout most of the year and to know what they've been working on and what works for them as far as practice, as far as preparation for the match.
Q. What are the ground rules there? We all know about Capriati and King some years ago. Are the coaches kept away? Are they there?
PATRICK McENROE: That hasn't been determined yet. That's really an Olympic Committee decision because of the credential situation. I believe the Olympics is very strict. I think all of those decisions, first of all, won't be made by us as far as how many credentials will be allowed to whether it's family, friends, coaches.
Q. What was the situation in Sydney?
ZINA GARRISON: It's basically the same as far as credentials are concerned. A lot of the players, they understand that. You put the rule out there, and everybody abides by it.
Q. Talk about how hectic this summer is going to be for both of you.
ZINA GARRISON: I think it's no less hectic than playing tennis on a professional level. I think we're pretty used to taking the pressure. It's going to be a tough scheduling for myself and Patrick, but also the players. Right after the Olympics is the US Open, everybody wants to be ready and do well in both of them.
PATRICK McENROE: We're used to the travel. For us it's pretty easy, we just have to show up. We just came back from Australia, went right into our first round Davis Cup match five days later in Connecticut against Austria. For us, it's really trying to make life as easy as possible for the players. They have a big summer ahead of them. Andy Roddick won two huge tournaments in the summer before the US Open, before he won the US Open. So he's going to have a lot on his plate. But he knows that, and so do the rest of the players. They're just excited. The Olympics, we don't have to say how often they come around. We know how often they come around. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. These guys will be ready. It will take some smarts in preparing and scheduling, but it's going to be an intense stretch and it's going to be great for tennis.
Q. Do you at all anticipate any problems in terms of availability because of all these events going on so close together?
PATRICK McENROE: All of the American players, with the exception of Agassi, which is obviously a huge exception, are incredibly excited about playing. Andre, as he decided in the last few years, has not played Davis Cup, as he's focusing on his own last few years of his career, which he's been tremendously successful. He's also said it's time for the younger guys to step in and have their time. He's put in his time. He's won Olympic gold. I think he'll miss it, but he's making a larger decision. The rest of the players are extremely excited. They're chomping at the bit for the opportunity to play in the Olympics.
ZINA GARRISON: As far as the women are concerned, the concern right now is everybody will be healthy enough to go into playing this summer. They're all very excited about playing the Olympics. They have been there before, know what it's like, really are looking forward to it. Some like a Chanda Rubin who was actually injured before the Olympics in Atlanta, she's looking extremely forward to playing. Who knows, we could even possibly have a Martina Navratilova at 40 something years old playing the Olympics.
DAVID NEWMAN: It's worth noting there are four women on tour in the top 10, and the first time since 1997, five of the top 25 men's players are American, six of the top 26. That does not include the No. 1 doubles team in the world, the Bryan brothers. We thank you for joining us on the conference call, and look forward to everybody's coverage of the sport of tennis in the upcoming months right throughout the Olympics and US Open. Thank you for joining us.
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