Patrick McEnroe ended a 10 year run as the United States Davis Cup Captain when he announced that he resigned the position, one also briefly held by brother John McEnroe, late last week. In 2007, McEnroe guided the team to its first Davis Cup Championship since 1995 when the team boasted a roster that included Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and Todd Martin. McEnroe’s roster was a lot less star studded than the all-time great Davis Cup team that Tim Gullickson rolled out in 1995.
Patrick McEnroe, citing a desire to increase his busy workload with the United States Junior Developmental Program, which he directs, steps away from the job having captained the United States 32nd Davis Cup Title with Andy Roddick playing first singles, James Blake playing the reverse singles, and the Bryans playing doubles. Having the Bryans anchor the team was huge for McEnroe strategically, as PMac could usually bank on one win right there. Then, between Roddick and Blake, he needed 2 wins in 4 matches to take the tie. It was a solid blueprint for the Americans who faced Spain, but who did not have to face Rafael Nadal, and who lost only 4 matches in their 4 ties in 2007.
Russia, the United States’ finals opponent, though formidable on paper, were no match for the Americans on a very fast indoor surface that McEnroe had tailored to Roddick’s game–now a frequent consideration in determining surface. In Davis Cup, home teams have pick of surface. Roddick, one of the best Davis Cup singles players in this era, benefitted greatly from the McEnroe regime, and even turned to McEnroe for help when he was between coaches, having yet to hire Larry Stefanki after firing Jimmy Connors. In fact, McEnroe talked about the importance of getting players to want to play first singles to being a DC Captain, and he most certainly did cultivate that quality in Andy Roddick, who happens to be one of the few players in the history of the game to have won a major, won the Davis Cup, been number one in the world, and been a top 5 player consecutively for 5 straight years.
“No regrets. It was a great run,” McEnroe said. “Obviously I wish we could’ve won more. But I wanted to accomplish a couple of things when I took over, which was obviously to get the players that were passionate about playing, No. 1, molded into a team, give us a chance to be competitive every year.”
McEnroe also inspired hope with the mention of the possibility of a replacement:
McEnroe mentioned Jim Courier and Todd Martin as obvious candidates for the position. Courier, a four-time major champion, said while calling the U.S. Open for CBS on Monday that he’d be interested.
We wouldn’t go gaga over Todd Martin at all, but Jim Courier, a 4 time major champion, would be an excellent replacement as DC Captain. Courier, an outspoken tennis analyst, won the French Open in consecutive years, and is probably the best American clay courter in the modern era. Courier’s style–a demanding physical game accompanied by big serving and big groundstrokes–is one we could see American Sam Querrey playing quite nicely. Courier, a tennis warrior, would probably be an excellent influence on the players going to Colombia to play DC next week (Querrey, Isner, Fish, Harrison). Let’s face it: Patrick McEnroe may have been a good captain, but he didn’t have the success in singles that Courier did. While McEnroe was described by Mardy Fish as “brutally honest” when it came to the Captain critiquing his game, I would think brutally honest is a lot more intense coming from the fiery Courier (below), who also won 2 Australian Opens on hardcourts, and who did better than expected in losing a Wimbledon final to Pete Sampras way back when.
Courier talks about the Americans aversion to clay, and says he played mostly on hards as a youth but overcame his lack of familiarity with clay by practicing relentlessly on the surface. Imagine James Blake doing that? He’d never show that type of will, but he would be served by hitting with the Davis Cup team and getting the benefit of Courier’s honesty. The very impressive Ryan Harrison, should he apply the Courier formula to clay, we could see having big success and excellent results there.
Todd Martin, on the other hand, had a very strange and brief tour as a member of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team, along with primary coach Marian Vajda, volley coach Mark Woodforde, and sometimes co-volley coach, John McEnroe, who has worked with Djokovic on several occasions. Martin was brought in to beef up Djokovic’s waffling serve–once a strength–but seemed to make the shot worse until Martin’s tense divorce from Djokovic’s camp.
Frankly, Martin is not a major champion and seemed to do a very poor job of coaching Djokovic, while Courier is an excellent champion who has always been a blunt but informed tennis analyst. While McEnroe, a top 30 player in his day, walks away with a Davis Cup Championship, it will always be his brother John more readily associated with the Davis Cup for winning 5 as a player, winning the most singles matches in DC history (41-8), and the most total matches (59-10).