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Roddick, Minus Screaming McEnroe, in Texas for Davis Cup vs. Spain (Preview)

July 7, 2011 03:45 PM
The Bryan brothers at pre-Davis Cup festivities in Austin
Ten-year-old Andy Roddick's introduction to Davis Cup and live pro tennis was a memorable one.

John McEnroe screaming across the net at his opponents, and screaming at doubles partner Pete Sampras.

Eleven thousand rabid U.S. tennis fans waving American flags and urging their team on, which had suddenly fallen behind in the 1992 final against Switzerland.

Singles players Andre Agassi and Jim Courier on the bench, jumping up and shaking their fists and shouting "Answer the question!", McEnroe's catch phrase, amidst the deafening crowd noise.

"It just kind of blew my mind to see the team that we had there," said Roddick of attending the 1992 final in Fort Worth, his first big tennis event as a child. "Seeing something like that is pretty powerful -- being with so many fans, seeing your heroes play, hearing the anthem for the first time. It really was the first time I'd been at a sporting event which was completely about patriotism, and it had more of a lasting effect on my future than any one experience."

A number of Austin, Tex., youngsters will receive the same experience this weekend when Roddick, Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, host Spain in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Courier, who clinched the tie for the U.S. in that 1992 final in the first Sunday singles match, returns to Texas as the U.S. Davis Cup captain. Although the Spaniards will be without world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Courier knows that the nationalistic fervor of Davis Cup frequently creates a whole new experience during the weekend when ranking numbers go out the door. In that 1992 final, the high-powered, highly-favored team of Sampras, Agassi, Courier and McEnroe found themselves trailing Switzerland's Jakob Hlasek and Marc Rosset 0-2 sets down in the Saturday doubles after a 1-1 singles result the day before.

Playing with Sampras against Hlasek-Rosset, McEnroe's shaky play was largely responsible for the loss of the first two sets in two tiebreaks. As the McEnroe-Sampras pairing repeatedly failed to put a dent in the Swiss armor, Sampras' energy seemed to wane, so McEnroe responded by yelling -- at everybody.

"I began yelling at Pete, trying to psych him up," McEnroe said. "I was trash-talking the Swiss pair. Somehow we managed to hang on and take the third set 7-5, then there was a 10-minute break."

The U.S. squad retreated to the locker room, where McEnroe, according to his teammates, paced maniacally, yelled at Sampras, Agassi and Courier some more, shook his fists, and generally imploring his team to rise above.

"I was in some kind of altered state," McEnroe said. "All my fear, anger and frustration had built up to the point where smoke was practically coming out of my ears."

After an emphatic "We are going to go out and kick some ***!", McEnroe and a re-energized Sampras left the locker room and won the final two sets 6-1, 6-2.

While the emotion of a Davis Cup final is hard to top, judging by the lightning-fast ticket sell-out in Austin, the U.S. fans will be providing the energy behind Roddick, Fish, and the Bryan brothers. They will have a tough task in defeating the Spaniards, who have won the Davis Cup two of the past three years.

On Friday Mardy Fish will open against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who is on a confidence high after beating Roddick for the first time in his career at Wimbledon. Fish has beaten Lopez in three of their five career meetings. Roddick will follow against Spain's David Ferrer, who he trails 3-4 in their career head-to-head.

On Saturday the Bryans are scheduling to face Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in doubles, although the Spaniard line-up could change prior to the players taking the court. The schedule for the Sunday reverse singles is Fish vs. Ferrer, then Roddick vs. Verdasco.

"It was actually healthy that I could have this around the corner," Roddick told a local Austin news channel regarding his early loss at Wimbledon. "It was something that I could focus on."

Nineteen years after the U.S. claimed what was then its 30th Davis Cup title in 1992, Roddick is on the court rather than in the stands, and Courier is in the captain's seat as opposed to competing with racquet in hand. The international tennis landscape has changed as well.

The U.S. (32) and Australia (28) lead all countries in Davis Cup titles, but six of the last seven years the Davis Cup has been won by countries winning their first titles (Serbia, Croatia) or countries with four or less titles in their history (Spain, Russia). Also competing this weekend in the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals will be Serbia at Sweden, Kazakhstan at Argentina, and France at Germany.

Courier's task this weekend is to keep the U.S. in the title picture of the international competition that remains in high worldwide regard outside the U.S., especially in European countries that are newer to raising the fabled Cup. Courier calls the Davis Cup, especially among U.S. sports audiences, an "undervalued asset."

"You'll see by the presence of the Spanish press [in Austin] that it's incredibly meaningful in that country, as it is in most outside of the United States," Courier said. "We wish more people in this country [cared]. But the ones that do are very passionate like we are."

Roddick adds, "Davis Cup sells out arenas around the world...If you look at tennis from a perspective of sales, viewership, it's up across the board. There's really no reason to defend something that I think has grown more than any other major sport in the last eight, nine years."

Tennis Channel will air live daily coverage beginning Friday at 3 p.m. EST.

Pounders Named USTA Florida Sr./Super Sr. Tennis League Coord. for Pensacola Area

LLC-webRic Pounders has been named the USTA Florida Senior/Super Senior tennis local league coordinator for the Escambia County (Pensacola) area of Region 1 in Florida.

An avid player since returning to the game in 2002, Pounders has played on 35 USTA League teams over the past nine years, qualifying twice for USTA Florida League Regional Championships.

"I am a firm believer in what USTA has to offer, and want to see tennis thrive in the Florida Panhandle," Pounders said.

Pounders played while in high school in South Carolina, and took a break from the game when he went off to college. In 2002, when asked to fill in as the fourth man for a match at the Pensacola Athletic Center where he played racquetball, Pounders caught the tennis bug again, even though he admitted he was slow to find his game.

"They tolerated my play, perhaps because I always brought a cooler of beer, until my game began to improve," Pounders said. "I enjoyed the competition and the social aspect so much that I became hooked on tennis and gave up racquetball."

The retired former banker says he looks forward to growing USTA Florida Senior and Super Senior league play in the Pensacola area.

"Ric believes that tennis is truly the sport of a lifetime, as exemplified by the number of 50-and-older and 60-and-older league players in the Senior and Super Senior league divisions in the Florida Section," says USTA Florida Tennis Program Coordinator for the Panhandle area George English.

For more information on USTA Florida Senior and Super Senior League play opportunities, contact Ric Pounders at (850) 497-2274 or by email at poundawg23@aol.com.






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