ESPNTennis Conference Call with Chrissie Evert, Patrick McEnroe

Tennis

ESPNTennis Conference Call with Chrissie Evert, Patrick McEnroe

ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert and Patrick McEnroe spoke with media Monday about a wide variety of tennis topics, on and off the court. ESPN has extensive coverage of this month’s two big events – the BNP Paribas Open from Indian Wells, Calif., and the Miami Open presented by Itaú – including action from up to seven courts on WatchESPN from start to finish.  The 48 hours on TV and WatchESPN includes the women’s and men’s semifinals and championships from both events.  Highlights of the call, followed by the full context and other questions:

Soundbites

On: The Sharapova/Meldonium Controversy

  • “I think it’s really dangerous and kind of wreckless to draw conclusions or to assume anything until the medical records are shown…and also the dosage, show what the dosage has been. You know, the PEDs, the athletes that have been banned also and have been taking at least, I have read, so I have read 2000 milligrams of this drug. Maria has been taking 500 milligrams. So there is a lot of information that needs to come out first I think before anyone wants to take a stand.” – Evert
  • “It hasn’t been illegal to take this drug up until a few months ago. So whether or not she was taking more doses than she was supposed to, sort of what Chrissie is getting at with the medical record, even if she was taking it to enhance her performance, up until the beginning of this year, that was legal.” – McEnroe

On players being guarded in their comments about Sharapova

  • Maybe they don’t want to throw rocks at a glass house.” – Evert

On: The Lack of a Consistent Threat to Serena

  • I just think after Serena from 2 to 20, it’s like musical chairs, anything can happen. I think what really surprises me is the fact that still nobody has stepped up to the plate and challenged and is a consistent No. 2 player…How many times have we had different No. 2 players? I think that’s what surprises me, is there isn’t one other player out there that is mentally really fearless and strong enough to believe that they can challenge Serena.” – Evert

On: The group of promising young men players, especially Americans

  • “It’s nice to see some of the younger players start to step up at the biggest events, like Coric, Zverev. Jack Sock is obviously a little bit older, but you’re starting to feel like he belongs, you know, winning consistent matches at the big tournaments. Obviously it was great to see Tiafoe and Fritz, the future I think in a lot of ways for American tennis, or at least part of the future, played a really good match…for the first time in a while we’ve got some players coming up. Meaning for the Americans, they’ve got some pretty big upsides….It’s pretty close between Fritz and Tiafoe. Although I will say that when you add in Tommy Paul and Reilly Opelka and Koslov who just won a 25 in Canada, you know, there is a really good group.” – McEnroe

Q- Have you looked at the results so far? Are you out here at the Indian Wells event? Talk about what’s happened so far.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, actually Patrick and I are out here and we have been watching some of the matches. Surprising first round. Madison Keys lost to Nicole Gibbs. I watched that match, and surprised that Madison, you know, still doesn’t seem to have everything together mentally, emotionally, physically. Just surprised at that loss and the errors she made in that match. You know, I just think that the more she loses, I think she’s just losing a little bit more confidence as each match goes on. We are not seeing the Madison Keys that we saw, you know, a little bit last year and the year before when she was ‑‑ we were building her up to be the next American player to win a Grand Slam. So just a little surprised with that. There has been actually a lot of upsets. That doesn’t surprise me, because I just think after Serena from 2 to 20, it’s like musical chairs, anything can happen.

I think what really surprises me is the fact that still nobody has stepped up to the plate and challenged and is a consistent No. 2 player. Seems to be changing between Halep and Muguruza and Kvitova. How many times have we had different No. 2 players? I think that’s what surprises me, is there isn’t one other player out there that is mentally really fearless and strong enough to believe that they can challenge Serena. And is also consistently winning and deserves to be a No. 2 player.

PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I will follow‑up quickly on the women before I get to the men and just say that it’s almost like with the women, whomever gets the No. 2, you’re looking for their downfall. We’re seeing a little bit of that now with Kerber. And not surprisingly that she wins a major. It’s not that these players can’t beat Serena, because obviously she did to win a major. But as Chrissie said, it just seems like whomever gets to that 2 spot or even a solid 3 spot can’t really keep it. Is just very inconsistent. That seems to be continuing here. As far as the men go, you know, other than the top guys, which have gotten through so far pretty comfortably, although Djokovic struggled a bit yesterday, it’s nice to see some of the younger players start to step up at the biggest events, like Coric, Zverev. Jack Sock is obviously a little bit older, but you’re starting to feel like he belongs, you know, winning consistent matches at the big tournaments. Obviously it was great to see Tiafoe and Fritz, the future I think in a lot of ways for American tennis, or at least part of the future, played a really good match. I was really impressed with how Tiafoe played against Goffin. I thought he was pretty consistent. He’s obviously incredibly athletic; handled the crowd very well. He brought a nice boost of energy to the grounds and to the proceedings, and I think ‑‑ I really think for the first time in a while we’ve got some players coming up. Meaning for the Americans, they’ve got some pretty big upsides. But I think at the moment you’d have to put Coric and Zverev slightly ahead of the pack for the teenagers. They have looked awfully impressive out here so far in the way they have gotten through the first couple of matches.

CHRISSIE EVERT: You know, I just want to ‑‑ can I just give one special mention to Genie Bouchard. Kind of a shoutout. She’s kind of gotten that zip back in her game and seems to be building her confidence as she wins more and more matches and is feeling a little more comfortable and a little more consistent.  I just think she’s on her way back.

Q- Thank you so much for doing the call. First for Patrick, the follow‑up. You were just talking about Tiafoe and Fritz. Of all the young Americans, who has the biggest upside in your mind and why? And for Chrissie, you know, just to pick up what you said about 2 through 20 is like musical chairs, who do you think is best equipped mentally and from a game standpoint to be that person? Is it a veteran like Vika or Radwanska or Kerber, or does it got to be somebody who is younger, doesn’t have the battle scars and the mental issues? And then for both of you, what’s the future of Miami? Will it stay in Miami? Stay in Florida? What’s going to happen in Miami?

PATRICK McENROE: I think that I would say at the moment it’s pretty close between Fritz and Tiafoe. Although I will say that when you add in Tommy Paul and Reilly Opelka and Koslov who just won a 25 in Canada, you know, there is a really good group. But if you’re asking me right now, I’m sort of torn between Tiafoe and Fritz. I think Tiafoe is a more explosive athlete. He’s got more physicality to him as just an athlete, which obviously, as we know, is hugely important to get to the very top of the men’s game. That being said, I would say that technically and from a pure tennis standpoint that Taylor Fritz is a little more solid. His strokes are a little cleaner. His serve is a little more consistent. He doesn’t have, you know, sort of the hitch in the swing that Tiafoe has on the serve and the forehand. But he’s going to have to get a lot more physical. He doesn’t have the same natural explosive speed that Francis has. You know, they are different players, different personalities. You know, I would probably slightly just lean towards Tiafoe just based on his overall athleticism and I think he’s a great competitor. But that being said, I’m just excited that there is a group of more than one or two players. I think that’s going to really help the group as a whole and will continue to push them to push each other, which is clearly what’s happening now.

CHRISSIE EVERT: On the women’s side ‑‑ that was a good question. I have always had belief in Victoria Azarenka, only because I have seen the matches that she’s played. Last year she had Serena on the ropes three times, one of them having three match points, one of them being up a set, one of them being ‑‑ split sets and one being up a set and a break. I think mentally she is probably the strongest of all of the other players besides Serena right now. If she gets ‑‑ I don’t know where her confidence level is, because if she could just stay healthy and play like six or seven months without getting injured, you know, and build on that, I think, you know, she would be the most dangerous player. She just has ‑‑ she just has that, you know, great tennis IQ and she is fearless and has that belief in herself. She still has that hunger. So I like her. She had some tough draws last year. I think she could be even ‑‑ she should be even obviously ranked higher than she is. As far as the physical, I still believe in Madison Keys. If she could just mentally emotionally get it together. Some players takes a little longer to develop those aspects, and it hasn’t been her time yet. But once it is her time and she gets everything together and she gets it within herself to really want to win, you know, I think she can ‑‑ she obviously has more power than anybody, which is reflective in her serve and her groundstrokes. We have seen her play the top players in tough matches. I think physically she’s the most gifted out there, and I think she’s going to be very, very dangerous. And then, you know, I talked about Genie Bouchard. You just can’t count her out. If she gets back to that level that she was before, you know, I think she could ‑‑ you know, she’s very capable of, you know, winning a Grand Slam. So those would be my picks. I’m not ‑‑ you know, Halep has to prove herself to me a little more. Kvitova seems too fragile health‑wise.

PATRICK McENROE: As far as Miami goes, Richard, I hear that since the USTA is moving to Orlando and player development office will be moving there that maybe the tournament will move to the Evert Academy in Boca Raton. What do you think, Chrissie?

CHRISSIE EVERT: (Laughter.) Nice one.

PATRICK McENROE: You got a lot of room there, right?

CHRISSIE EVERT: Orlando has some room, too.

PATRICK McENROE: Yeah. It seems to me in all seriousness, I don’t know the details of exactly where we are with the Miami tournament as far as, you know, how much longer it can stay there, et cetera, but obviously we would love to see the event stay in the United States and stay in Florida. You know, that’s a great venue for people from Europe and from South America, and obviously Americans that go to the event that time of year.

So maybe Orlando where the USTA is building their facility. Obviously they are not building it at the moment for the tournament. They are building it for player development and for community tennis. But there is a lot of room in that part of the state to build, and it seems to me that that certainly could be a likely landing point for the tournament at some point in the future.

CHRISSIE EVERT: I just want to say that I think, you know, the least of the problems is the enthusiasm and the fans and the support from South Florida. I mean, that is, you know, a plus in keeping it in Florida. And because the tournament ‑‑ tennis is becoming so global, it would be nice to keep the tournament in the U.S. because they are going to other countries right now. I mean, I would love, like Patrick said, I would love to see it still in Florida.

Q- Good afternoon. For both of you, have you been surprised by the reaction of the other players to the Sharapova news? Overall, they have been fairly supportive. Why do you think that’s maybe been a little different to some of the reaction we see in other sports when an athlete tests positive?

CHRISSIE EVERT: You know, I think quite frankly it was a shock to everybody. I think everybody sort of had to process this, because, you know, Sharapova would be like the last player that ‑‑ or last athlete that you would ever think would be involved in a controversy or scandal like this. She has been such, you know, a great ambassador of the sport and so professional. She’s always had so much control over herself, you know, both on and off the court. I think everybody is just very, very shocked and surprised that this even happened, you know. Even Maria and her team, who are professional and organized ‑‑ it’s just hard to believe that they weren’t aware of the drug being recently banned. So, I mean, I think it’s more ‑‑ the other thing is, and I said this and I didn’t mean this as a slam to Maria, but Maria has chosen not to really have a lot of friends on the tour. She has isolated herself from the players. She’s probably not going to have a bunch of players rush to her defense because she’s always been very, very guarded. I mean, are you saying she has gotten support or are you surprised she hasn’t gotten support?

Q- No. I mean I think at least compared to other sports with maybe much more of a history of doping scandals which may be partly why it’s different, but there certainly has not been a more widespread condemnation. More of a measured response, at least from most of the current players.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Well, I think it’s really dangerous and kind of wreckless to draw conclusions or to assume anything until the medical records are shown. They need to get those medical records the last 10 years and show everybody. They need to get ‑‑ and also the dosage, show what the dosage has been. You know, the PEDs, the athletes that have been banned also and have been taking at least, I have read, so I have read 2000 milligrams of this drug. Maria has been taking 500 milligrams. So there is a lot of information that needs to come out first I think before anyone wants to take a stand.

PATRICK McENROE: Well, a couple of thoughts on this: No. 1 is I don’t hear too many NFL players condemning the multitude of players that test positive in their sport. It’s like nobody even questions it. I certainly understand that football is different than tennis, but, you know, they get suspended four games and it’s like no big deal. They are back playing again. I think that tennis is certainly different. There is a history of significant testing in tennis. I mean, even when I was playing I was tested, you know, a bunch of times. This is way before people even knew about most of these drugs. So that’s No. 1. No. 2 is many of the players have admitted, many of the top players especially, have admitted they do exactly what Sharapova did, which is nothing. They don’t pay attention to the e‑mails they get. They don’t read about it. They rely on their teams or their doctors or their trainer to give them the information.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah.

PATRICK McENROE: So I think a lot of players at least can identify with that aspect of it, because most people say, How in the world could she not know about this? No. 3, it hasn’t been illegal to take this drug up until a few months ago. So whether or not she was taking more doses than she was supposed to, sort of what Chrissie is getting at with the medical record, even if she was taking it to enhance her performance, up until the beginning of this year, that was legal. It wasn’t illegal, let’s put it that way, to do that. So I would be surprised if she was just taking it, you know, because of these whatever health issues she said she had. But it’s somewhat murky, her story about why she started taking it. Now she’s saying, Well, she only took it a couple of times a year. The bottom line is we don’t know. But the bottom line is that it wasn’t illegal up until it was this year. The last point I will make about this is that the players are pretty smart and they are pretty savvy when they talk to the press, and they’re not going to necessarily say what they really think.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Well, and also, you know ‑‑ yeah, listen, maybe they don’t want to throw rocks at a glass house, so I don’t know. You know, I don’t know. I think everybody is being very guarded and very careful as to, you know, point the finger. And I don’t have ‑‑ by the way, I don’t have any proof, but my opinion is that, you know, science and, you know, PEDs have always seemed to be like ahead of the game, if you understand what I’m saying. I don’t want to say anymore because I don’t want to get myself in trouble. (Laughter.) I just think you need to ‑‑ there needs to be ‑‑ the medical records need to be shown to clear her. At the end of the day there needs to be some accountability for the fact that it was banned and she played the Australian Open, you know, with this in her system. I think two to four years is pretty steep, though.

Q- As you said, it says depending on what more information comes out. Could be very different depending on what the documentation shows.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah. And also, if in fact she has taken 500 milligrams and the other athletes are manipulating this drug by taking 2000 milligrams, if in fact she’s taken 500, and that has proven to not help anything, not to ‑‑ you know, at that low milligram, if that wasn’t really used as a PED and she did have all these ailments, then you know what? Then that’s the answer. I don’t think anybody should draw any conclusions until all this comes out.

Q- Hi, guys. I have two questions. One I am going to piggyback off the Miami Open thing, and then a question about Djokovic. So first of all, the Miami Open thing. They have a seven years left on the lease in Key Biscayne, so it would take a giant buyout of that lease at this point. But the organizers of that event, tournament director and everyone who runs that event, they basically have been trying in court to ‑‑ they want to make improvements on the grounds. They say that without making these improvements that, you know, the tournament will not be up to snuff with some of the others, including Indian Wells with all the money that’s been poured into that and all that. But when we talk to players and fans, even last year, no one ever complains. The players always talk about how much they love it. They love the atmosphere. They like to stay on the beach. You know, the fans love to come from, like you mentioned before, from Latin America in particular and from Europe. I mean, it’s a popular tourist destination. So do you think that it’s true that the tournament, you know, in its current state it’s not an elite, world‑class level event? That it needs to be upgraded to keep up? If so, you know, what kind of upgrades do you think it needs? I guess I hear one thing from the tournament and then I hear another thing from the fans and players. I haven’t heard players complaining about facilities; nor have I heard fans complaining.

PATRICK McENROE: First of all, Michelle, good to hear from you. Look forward to seeing you down in Miami.

The tournament is negotiating, okay? They are trying to negotiate because they want to make improvements, because let’s be honest, I mean, Larry Ellison, what he’s done out here in the desert is simply off the charts.  If they could get Bill Gates to take over the tournament in Florida then they could spend money like crazy, also. But obviously they can’t there because they are dealing with the city, et cetera, and the rules of the park and all that. So I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. I think part of what the tournament is doing, which I certainly understand, is they are trying to sort of leverage this. But I think the reality is that you’re right. I mean, Miami is a great event. It was way ahead of Indian Wells for many, many years as far as like how it was perceived by the public, by the press, by the players. But it’s still a heck of a great event. I mean, they, to me, were always ahead of the game when it came to the entertainment on the grounds, making it fan friendly, the food from all different kinds of places in the world, having places for kids to play. So all those things I think are still there. The biggest problem there to me for the average fan is the traffic. I’m just going to remind you of one other tournament that was in a similar situation years ago, and it sort of thought, We have to do more, build a permanent stadium, because that was part of the new ATP rules, et cetera, to be the highest level. That was THE tournament, if any of you remember, in Stratton Mountain, Vermont, which was one of the greatest tournaments ever in the summertime. The players loved it; the fans loved it; it was a beautiful setting. It ended up leaving to go to Connecticut, which is now the New Haven tournament, okay? That’s a nice tournament, but that’s never been what it was in Stratton Mountain. So I would just sort of forewarn the tournament in Miami to just be careful. You know, they say we’ve got to do this and that. The tournament is great. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same as what Indian Wells is. Obviously it’s got to keep up with the Joneses to some extent, but even a place like Orlando, which is very international, et cetera, it’s not Miami.   You know, Miami is different. Miami has a different feel to it. I’d be careful to try to, you know, put that much pressure on the City of Miami, et cetera, and then force your hand that you then have to leave the city.

Q- Chris, what do you think? You’re a local.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, I’m local, but I have to say I haven’t really been involved in that tournament. I don’t do the TV for that. I haven’t been to it too much.   But you’re right when you say you don’t hear any ‑‑ hardly any criticisms from the players. I don’t think that’s because of the venue. I think that’s because of the city, where they are, what’s around, you know, being on the beach, the weather, Miami, South Beach.   I mean, Key Biscayne, it’s just like paradise, I think, for the players. But when I do hear mumblings and rumblings a bit about the venue it’s from the spectators. Like Patrick said, that one‑way ‑‑ that one road with one lane, you know, and getting there and the parking, it is a hassle. It isn’t Indian Wells. I mean, the last time ‑‑ I think last time ‑‑ I didn’t go last year but I went the year before with all the tents and saw some of the practice courts that weren’t ‑‑ they didn’t have the stands and they didn’t have a lot of the luxuries that this tournament here, Indian Wells, has.   But it’s still ‑‑ it still has a lot of heart and a lot of history and it has a lot of fans. So, you know, I, for one, am really disappointed if it would move or when it moves. I’m going to be sad about it. You know, it isn’t up to, like you said, up to snuff. Is it up to par with ‑‑ there are a lot of tournaments that have more money in the venues, but it’s not all about the venues, too. It’s about everything around it and the history and the heart of it. I think that Miami has. That’s why Miami is so popular.

Q- I wanted to ask you on the tennis side about Djokovic. I’m writing about him going into the Miami Open, actually. What do you think ‑‑ I know he had a little blip the other day; had to struggle through the first set or whatever. Is it possible for him to continue the level that he has? I mean, is he really sort of untouchable at this point, or do you think that catches up to him at some point? Do you think he still can maintain this level this season?

PATRICK McENROE: I’d be surprised if he can maintain the level week in and week out that he maintained last year, winning from ‑‑ the first tournament of the year he lost in the semis and then he reached the final of every single tournament he played up until a couple weeks ago in Dubai. So over a year. Well over a year he reached every single final. I’d be surprised if that happens, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a couple more majors this year. Because he’s going to be the favorite basically every match he plays in every tournament, but certainly at the majors, as well. Obviously if Rafa can get back on track ‑ which at the moment I would say is a big if ‑ in time for the French, and certainly he will be a factor and Wawrinka beat him last year ‑ but right now if the French Open were to start tomorrow, he’s the clear favorite to win tournament. Even though he hasn’t ever won it, he’s a solid favorite. As well as Wimbledon and New York.   But I just think it’s going to be hard for him. Even yesterday in that match against Fratangelo. It was a great effort for Bjorn to take his set off him. You could see he was basically out of it, a set down. That’s understandable that that’s going to happen after the kind of year he had last year. I would be surprised if he racks up the same kind of win/loss record that he did last year.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, I agree. And I think the older he gets and the more he’s aware of his place in history, I think ‑‑ you know, he might be focusing a little bit more on the Grand Slams. Not that he would take these tournaments lightly, but I just think your priorities change and you want to do everything you can to be 100% for the Grand Slams. So that might mean that you’re not 100% for, you know, a lot of the tournaments during the year. So he had such a picture‑perfect year last year. It’s hard to expect that he’s going to do it again. I mean, he is human.

Q- He is? Oh, okay. (Laughter.)

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, he is. (Laughter.)

Q- Just hopping back to the Sharapova development, in general are you concerned about doping in tennis? Do you think it’s a problem?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I would say I’m definitely concerned about it. I think it’s clearly the players are going to look to get an edge, whether that’s in how they train and how they eat and how they recover. That’s why you see the players with, you know, traveling not just with coaches but with trainers, et cetera. So clearly you have to always be diligent and be concerned about it, because it’s understandable that players are going to look for an edge. If you’ve got this particular drug that obviously a lot of other athletes were taking, as well, which would then, you know, help in your performance and recovery and endurance, et cetera, then if you’re a tennis player and it’s not on a banned list, well, why wouldn’t I take this? This is legal. I can do this to help me recover.   I mean, look, I took protein shakes when I was on the tour. I took guarana, which is like the equivalent of caffeine. Now, by the way, if you take too much caffeine or probably too much guarana, if you took too much of that before you got tested, you could get a positive test.   These things that you are always looking to do, but obviously I’d be concerned. Do I think it’s a major problem in tennis? No, I don’t, because I think testing is, as I said earlier, very tough and very stringent. Tennis players are tested pretty frequently. But when you combine this with the gambling issue that came up earlier this year, clearly it’s something that the tennis establishment has to ‑‑ and the governing bodies of tennis ‑‑ has to make sure you stay on top of.

CHRISSIE EVERT: You know, I think there are drugs out there that do help performance that haven’t been discovered yet and haven’t been, what’s the word I want? I can’t think of the word. Meldonium has been used for a long time. Why all of a sudden (is it banned) now? Supposedly they gave it to the Russian Army for energy. I mean, I read that in a lot of reputable newspapers. Why now are they coming out with it saying it’s a PED? I think there are other drugs out there like Meldonium that haven’t been recognized yet.

Q- You mean they are being used but not on the banned list yet?

CHRISSIE EVERT: It wouldn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t surprise me. Why did Meldonium take so long to be on the banned list? I mean, why did they find out now? But it still did the trick five years ago, right? Right? Do you understand what I’m saying? I think there are still drugs ‑‑ that’s what I mean when I think science is still ahead of the game. I think that you’d have to have your head in the sand if you didn’t at least assume that every professional sport there might be some sort of performance‑enhancing drugs being used. Honestly every professional sport I think this goes on to a certain extent. Tennis? And I agree with Patrick. Tennis, it doesn’t worry me. Not as much. But, I mean, this went on when I was playing. I mean, I know players on the women’s tour who were using ‑‑ who were using performance‑enhancing drugs and we didn’t even have drug testing.

So I just think, yes, it goes ‑‑ whether it’s one person or ten people, I don’t know, but I think ‑‑ I think it has been in every professional sport. That’s my opinion, and that’s me, you know, again sticking my head out there.   I just think ‑‑ you know, I don’t feel I’m naive about it. I think it has happened.

Q- Yeah, it’s kind of following up on that, just what are your thoughts on Andy Murray kind of came out and said just because, you know, it wasn’t illegal doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong. Do you agree with kind of his sentiment and, you know, kind of that ethics around that?   I know, Chrissie, you mentioned this earlier, but Patrick, what do you think the punishment ‑‑ what’s a fair punishment for something like this?

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I 100% agree with Andy Murray, but everyone’s moral equivalent and moral standards are not necessarily the same. So when you say ‑‑ to me, that’s at the heart of how long this suspension is going to be, okay? Because clearly she made a massive mistake in that she didn’t read it, so she’s going to be penalized. Now the question is whether it’s going to be nine months or 18 months or two years. That would be my guess, okay, on how long she gets suspended. Is there any proof that she was taking this strictly to enhance her performance over time? Or was she taking it for a legitimate medical reason and she took it in, you know, the doses that the doctors say is supposedly how long you take it, four to six weeks. You know, you’re supposed to take it and you could take it up to two to three times a year. That’s what I have read trying to study about it. To me, that’s what’s going to determine how long a suspension she will get. Can she prove she was taking it just for that or is it going to be proven that she took it ‑‑ maybe she started taking it for that reason she said back ten years ago, that she was having some health issues and then she’s like, Oh, wow, this thing really helps. This really works. You know, I’m going to take this more often because it makes me perform better.

So, you know, I see Andy Murray’s point and I agree with him, but you can also see the other point. This is an over‑the‑counter medication that you could get in Latvia and parts of Eastern Europe. If there is an over‑the‑counter medication that is legal, you know, that makes you feel better, I could certainly see the rationale in saying, you know, I feel okay about taking this.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, I mean, I think it all comes down to just viewing the medical records and getting the doctors that took care of her ten years ago and just kind of really examining, you know, exactly what her case is.

I mean, this drug is used for angina and used for severe heart issues. I mean, there’s always suspicion when you hear what the drug is used for. But that’s why her defense ‑‑ she needs to show the medical records. They need to come out. The dosage and the correct dosage and all this information needs to come out for her.   If it does come out cleanly, you know, then I would say taking ‑‑ you know, giving her ‑‑ banning her for the rest of the year would be enough. That would be my opinion.

Q- What are your thoughts on Andy’s comments? Are you in agreement with him, as well?

CHRISSIE EVERT: I don’t know. I don’t ‑‑ I don’t know. I mean, doesn’t a protein shake make you have more energy? I mean, I think that’s just so ‑‑ if something is not banned, if something is not banned, then I think an athlete can have a clear conscience by taking it. I do.   But I also think at the same time that there are a lot of drugs out there like ‑‑ I think Meldonium was an example ‑‑ like the Meldoniums that do help performance that haven’t been ‑‑ that aren’t on the list.

Q- Hey there, folks. Patrick, a question about Rafa. Are we past the point where we expect Rafa to sort of come back and be the kind of overwhelming force he was, not necessarily dominant No. 1 that he was, but someone winning two, three majors a year, really challenging big time?

PATRICK McENROE: Can we expect that? Is that your question?

Q- Yes. Well, no. Are we past the point where we can sort of assume that he might get back to that point?

PATRICK McENROE: I would say yes, we are. Absolutely we are past that point. Again, would I be shocked, surprised if he can win another French Open? No. Would I be shocked if he can win a couple majors a year and wins another major outside of the French? Yes, I would be. I don’t see that happening. I think that, again, he’s going to do everything he can to try to stay there. You know, he’s still a top player, but he’s not at the moment anywhere close to Djokovic. You know, Murray is a lot closer. Federer has been a lot closer the last couple of years. Rafa hasn’t been that close. I mean, as much as he likes to say, you know, I’m going to keep working hard and I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that and you see flashes of it at times in matches, I mean, look at his results. I mean, tennis doesn’t lie. You know, the results don’t lie. You know, he went to South America and lost in two clay court tournaments just like last year. He’s getting beaten by guys in majors that are outside the top 100. Is he capable of, you know, getting it back and getting a run together at the French? Absolutely. But I don’t believe he’s capable of getting back to competing for the No. 1 ranking.

CHRISSIE EVERT: You know, it’s a long, long road ahead for Rafa. When I look at Rafa and I look at Roger, we always speculate, Can they win another Grand Slam? I just keep thinking about myself and when I was 29 years old, I’ll never forget. I was like 4 in the world and Monica and everybody was coming up and Steffi and Martina was doing great. I remember listening to a commentator saying Evert will never win another Grand Slam, and I won two more.   I think never say never. I think still Rafa could win one and Roger could win one. I mean, that’s just the positive thinking I have because they have won them in the past, and I think if they get into a position, a winning position, it’s going to be easier for them to close it than anybody else getting in that position. So, you know, I’m optimistic that they can still win one. But Rafa in particular, oh, it’s going to be still a long road.

Q- To compete at the Djokovic level is what I’m talking about.

CHRISSIE EVERT: No. I’m thinking a one off. More a one‑off. Can Rafa… You know, I don’t know, though. He could still ‑‑ you know what? You never know. He could still get into the top 4 or 5, but I don’t think it’s going to be, you know, as far as Djokovic, that level. It’s never going to be that level.

Q- Those glory days are gone sort of, right?

CHRISSIE EVERT: I think ‑‑ I think that he’s just beating himself up the way he ‑‑ I mean, he, unlike any other player, has just trained differently. I don’t think that he can consistently be reaching the semis and finals of tournaments like the top players do, no.

Q- For you, Chris, I think the general feeling out there is that Serena will equal and probably surpass Steffi‘s record. Should we be comfortable making that assumption or not?

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah. I mean, well, I would be shocked if she didn’t win one this year. I mean, that would be matching Steffi, so I would be shocked. I think definitely she will pass Steffi and win more than one. Whether it’s this year or next year, but, yeah, there is no reason why ‑‑ I don’t think anybody would doubt the fact she has at least two more in her, you know, before she retires.

Q- You kind of got into this a little bit, but let me rephrase the question. Can we put the Big 4 era to bed? But a nail in it, it’s over. It’s now the Big 1, and possibly somewhat what that Big 4 era was like, or maybe it was Big 3‑and‑a‑half counting Murray. Just sum up what the last 10, 12 years have been like with these great players.

PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, good to hear from you. I think, you know, three of the greatest players of all time. I mean, if not, you know, before Djokovic is said and done, okay, arguably you could have the three greatest players of the open era that basically cross paths for multiple years within each other’s prime. I mean, that’s pretty unbelievable when you consider that we were all expecting sort of in the post‑Sampras‑Agassi era that, you know, the field was going to be much more wide open. It was for a couple of years. Hewitt, Roddick, guys like that, sort of sneaking through. Then all of a sudden Federer comes along; and then all of a sudden Rafa comes along; and then Djokovic comes along; and Murray, who is a heck of a player in his own right. Then we throw Wawrinka in for what he’s done the last couple of years. He’s been part of the Big 4 at least the last two to three years. You know, call it what you want, the golden era of men’s tennis, you know, they have kept a lot of players that are darn good players away from getting majors. You know, whether you’re a David Ferrer or Tomas Berdych, you know, guys like that that are knocking on the door, Tsonga, Gasquet, players like that, they have, you know, forgetting about even Americans after Roddick, not many other players are winning majors.   When you look at the inconsistency in the women’s field besides Serena, okay, over the last number of years, and you look at the overall consistency at the top of the men’s game, it’s just really been mind boggling. Not just in the majors but in these Masters events, too, like Indian Wells and Miami.

Q- I was going to say dominated the Masters. Nobody else can win it. Chrissie, from your vantage point, what makes Djokovic so great?

CHRISSIE EVERT: I think the way he manages himself on the court physically, mentally, and emotionally. He’s got it all together out there. The physical part is as important as the mental part, which is as important as the emotional part. He’s showing no holes in any of those three, whereas other players you always can count on something falling apart, whether it’s one of those three components. So, you know, and I sat there and watched him play yesterday. He lost the first set 6‑1, right?

PATRICK McENROE: I think he lost 6‑1. And then I just watched him. He just…his composure. He was so confident. He still was confident. You know, again, that’s the mental part is the confidence. The emotional part is he doesn’t let anything bother him. The physical part is he’s a great tennis player. He has all three of those.

Again, I don’t know any of the other top men players that have all three of those at such a complete level.

Q- The other three don’t seem to have that confidence. Age, injury, seems to go first. Confidence.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, confidence. Again, yeah, the other three just don’t have it as ‑‑ there is always a little hitch in one of those areas, and, you know, Djokovic just ‑‑ he’s just as smooth as they come.

Q- Chrissie, you said you knew there were players using performance‑enhancing drugs. I wonder if over your career ‑‑ you won 18 majors but you were runner‑up six different times to six different players. If you had suspected or if you knew ‑‑ not suspected, but if a player was caught using performance‑enhancing drugs and you had lost to that player without naming names in a final of one of those 16 majors, what would have been your reaction, and would you have expected that player to be stripped of her title?

CHRISSIE EVERT: Well, first of all, we didn’t have drug testing.

Q But now they do. What I’m asking ‑‑ If a player is found to be using performance‑enhancing drugs, any player, should they be stripped of the majors that they have won? Should it be given to the runner‑up?

CHRISSIE EVERT: I think you have to stick with ‑‑ I don’t think it’s an ‑‑ is it an individual sport decision or is it an Olympic ‑‑ I mean, is it an overall if you are caught ‑‑ you know what? Patrick? Do you want to start this? I wouldn’t know… I will tell you what. In my day, in my day, because there was no drug testing and it was more of a moral issue but it wasn’t illegal, I wouldn’t go back to the player and ‑‑ and by the way, I knew one or two players. But I wouldn’t ‑‑ if I felt that there were players that I played that were taking them, it’s after the fact. No, I wouldn’t do that. But nowadays the stakes are higher and there is a lot more out there and it’s more refined and it does definitely help. So, yeah, let me go on record and say, yes, I would strip them.

PATRICK McENROE: Absolutely, yes, they should be stripped of their titles if it’s found they took drugs during that time when they won the major. No question about it.

Q- We could clearly be in that situation if Maria has taken drugs over the last ten years and won majors during that time. So would you say…

CHRISSIE EVERT: No, but it wasn’t illegal back then, though. You can’t ‑‑ it wasn’t illegal.

PATRICK McENROE: In her case, that’s right. In her case she took something that wasn’t illegal until this year.

CHRISSIE EVERT: She took something one tournament.

PATRICK McENROE: If you want to take her prize money away from the Australian Open this year, then I’m okay with that. But I agree with Chrissie that she took something that was not illegal for whenever she took it in the past.

Q- It was found after that Peter Korda tested positive and was busted and they did not strip him of his titles, right, guys?

PATRICK McENROE: They did not but they should have.

Q- They took his prize money, right?

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, I think ‑‑ I mean, if they are taking away these titles from others in other sports, I think tennis has got to look at that. Jeepers.

PATRICK McENROE: Tennis has to be the first because they are not doing it as much ‑‑ in cycling they did it, but are they going to start doing it in football and baseball? That could be tricky, right?

 

-30-

Tags

Dave Nagle

It was 32 years at ESPN for me as of November 2018 (the only job I’ve ever had) after joining merely to help with the America’s Cup for three months at a robust $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals and Indy 500; Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, in addition to overseeing the Fan Relations, Archives and ESPNPressRoom.com, my main areas are tennis, ratings, and corporate communications documents, including ESPN’s history and growth.
Close