ESPN / US Open Conference Call with Cliff Drysdale, Brad Gilbert & Patrick McEnroe


ESPN / US Open Conference Call with Cliff Drysdale, Brad Gilbert & Patrick McEnroe

(If video above does not play, try: )

ESPN’s Exclusive Live Coverage Begins Monday; All Day Every Day

Topics Include: 

  • Does the Schedule Lead to Injuries?
  • Roger’s Amazing Year
  • On-Court Coaching and a Shot Clock for Servers
  • What American Man will do Best?
  • How the Game Has Changed
  • Sharapova’s Wildcard
  • Gilbert: “Zverev is ready to win a Major.”
  • McEnroe on Injuries: “It’s not the number of matches played or the number of tournaments played, it’s the intensity of the points and the way those are played.”
  • Drysdale on a Shot Clock: “I think it is just a start, and to get things moving, to get things a little snappier while people are sitting there with the remote in their hands ready to change the channel.”

ESPN tennis analysts Cliff Drysdale, Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe spoke with media Thursday, previewing the US Open.  ESPN’s exclusive coverage – from first ball to last ball – begins Monday, August 28, with 130 hours on TV and 1,300 on ESPN3 and streaming live on the ESPN App with action from all televised courts.  The daily action from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will culminate with the Women’s Championship on Saturday, Sept. 9, and the Men’s Championship on Sunday, Sept. 10, both at 4 p.m. ET.  A full transcript follows.

Q- Just a quick question about the men’s draw. There’s been no shortage of injuries in the lead-up to the final Grand Slam of the year. I’m just wondering, how do tennis players — is it because it’s so late in the schedule? Is it the grind of this schedule that something needs to be done about the tennis schedule? How do we account for all these injuries in why are they happening, and is there any relief in sight for these players with virtually no off season in tennis? Aside from a couple of months they really have no time to recharge.

  1. CLIFF DRYSDALE: I have two quick thoughts on the schedule. We’ve been talking about this for decades now, and nothing changes, and in my opinion, the schedule — it has somewhat been streamlined in the last couple of decades. But the bigger the off season, the more that these players will play exhibition matches and team tennis matches in Asia, et cetera. So the players themselves, while they scream about trying to get time off, they don’t really take the time off that they need. That’s number one.Number two, the hard courts I think are a huge issue. We play best-of-five sets now at the US Open, we play them on hard courts, and no matter which way you look at it, there are going to be injuries. So there are more injuries now, I think that’s just a cyclical thing because the players do take care of their health differently and more professionally now than they used to for sure, but they’re also subjecting themselves to much more serious tensions and pressures to the body than in the past.BRAD GILBERT: I’ll add on. As long as I’ve been playing, I’ve been involved in the game like 37 years. There’s always been injuries. When I turned pro when I was like 20, I played 40 tournaments a year, so I played more. So we have been talking about this forever. Good luck on ever getting it solved or making tournaments go away or getting all the entities together to make some changes, but I’m not convinced by any means if all of a sudden the guys had more time off that all of a sudden that’s going to cure injuries.Guys are training way harder. They’re doing everything they can. Nobody wants to be hurt. And obviously with the poly strings now, guys are able to hit the ball harder, so maybe that bleeds into some wrist issues that we have had.But there’s no foolproof in any sport whatever you do. There’s going to be injuries. Anybody that says there’s not going to be injuries, that’s ridiculous. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of them have piled up coming into this US Open, but take two of them, like Djokovic hasn’t missed a Slam in umpteen years. Stan’s been very healthy. Nishikori and Raonic are two guys that get hurt a lot, but it’s just all coming together. It’s a bit unfortunate, but like I said, I don’t know that anybody has the right answer for what we possibly could do other than scrapping playing on hard courts.PATRICK McENROE: I’d like to follow up with one more comment, which is 95, maybe 90, 95 percent of the players in the US Open main draw need to play as much as they can to make a living. That’s just a reality. The only players that are making huge money, like huge, huge money I’m talking about, are the top couple of players. That’s it. So it’s not like any other sport except maybe golf, where if you don’t play, you don’t make money, period, end of story. So there’s no guaranteed contracts in tennis, and this sort of ties in with Cliff’s points that if these players are not going to play tournaments, they’re going to find another way to try to make money because the window is limited, and everything else that’s the boys have said is 100 percent true, that they’re training harder, the players are fitter, but the ball is being struck a lot harder, so there’s more stress on the body.Forget about the number — it’s not the number of matches played or the number of tournaments played, it’s the intensity of the points and the way those are played. But these players are going to play as much as they can. There will be a lot of players that will look for a tournament, the players that are ranked outside the top 50 or top 70 that are going to be playing during the second week of the US Open so they can make some points and try to make some money. That’s just the reality.Moderator: Cliff, you’re a big golf fan I know, and I believe you have compared on air the 50th golf player versus the 50th ranked tennis player or the 100th versus the 100th and the disparity there.
    CLIFF DRYSDALE: Yeah. Well, it is what it is. It’s what the market will bear. I don’t have a problem with that. Then you can get into a discussion about the prize money distribution in tennis. It’s much easier to distribute things more evenly in golf. There is also more golf — more money in golf, period.

    Just one addendum to that is that in women’s sports, women’s tennis is far greater than golf prize money. In fact, it’s far greater than any other sporting endeavor. You can’t quite say any endeavor, but definitely far greater in tennis than any other sporting endeavor for women, so that’s…

    Q. There’s always the obsession on Roger and Rafa, so I wonder if the three guys could give their assessment of them. Roger in Montreal looked pretty upset, and who knows what kind of shape the back is in, and as a second question, outside of those two, who would you pick as the most likely guy to have success at the US Open?
    BRAD GILBERT: I mean, Rafa, the No. 1 seed, he hasn’t won a hard court tournament since 2014 Doha, but obviously he was awfully close in the finals of Australia. He was in the finals of Acapulco, he was in the finals of Miami. I think it’s dependent on his draw, and when I can analyze his draw a little better, I could give you a little better analysis on that. He is a little bit susceptible on the hard courts to big servers. Before Montreal I would have told you he was a huge favorite to win the Open based upon what I saw from him in Indian Wells, Miami and Wimbledon, and I would have said a huge favorite, but then all of a sudden, maybe now with the back issue and it’s almost like you have to see him for the first couple of rounds, and if I had to — I actually think now that will give a little hope to the rest of the field and the draw.

    And he’s never made it past the round of 16, but I do think that Zverev is ready to win a major. I think he’s that capable. So he would probably be my second choice. If Fed is healthy, he’s my first choice, and I would say Zverev is my second favorite to win the tournament.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: The Nadal — it’s well-documented the Nadal story, now No. 1, obviously, a remarkable, amazing comeback for him with the injuries that he’s suffered.

    The point that always aggravates me is how quickly we write people off, so we wrote Federer off last year because he’s out for six months. We wrote Nadal off for the last two years because he hadn’t won a major. But we forget that they’re always there in the latter stages of these tournaments, and the mechanics and the stroke production and the health of the mentality of those players at the top doesn’t change.

    Again, it becomes sort of cyclical. So Federer shows what he’s made of. Nadal shows what he’s made of. It’s all a question of how Federer is feeling and whether his back is an issue because he’s got to go through seven best of five set matches on a hard court, and he looked dismal in Canada, so that is a big question.

    For me, the winner of the US Open this year comes from either Nadal, Federer, and then depending on Andy Murray and how he feels, and for the kids, I take Zverev, Thiem, or Kyrgios. I think they’re the most likely candidates.

    Q. I had a two-part question. First, given everything you just said about Federer, if he were to win, where would you rate this season among his greatest seasons? And the second question was for years I’ve heard Brad talk about the shot clock, the need for a shot clock. I was at the quallies, I saw they had the shot clock for quallies. Of these innovations they’re testing during quallies, which ones do you think will eventually become part of the main draw US Open, and which ones do you think should or should not become standard for the US Open?
    PATRICK McENROE: I think they’re all great innovations, and I think credit to the USTA for being the first to take a legitimate shot at it and do it because we in the broadcast business have been begging for this kind of stuff for a couple of years now. So I think it would help tennis. I love the shot clock. Obviously it’s got to be used smartly by the chair umpire. The time that players take warming up between set breaks drives me crazy, and I don’t see that happening at any other sports. I’d certainly like to see that happening.

    I’m not 100 percent sold yet on the coaching part. I sort of go back and forth on that. There’s things about it I like. There’s things about it I don’t like in that tennis is unique in that way. But I think it does bring a lot to the table, and having the coaches mic’d in the women’s tour is great for television. So I’d like to still see how that goes, but as far as all the stuff that’s been put into place about the timing of the match, I think all of that should stay, and I think everybody should do it.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: I agree 110 percent with what you said. School is still out on how you do the coaching. I think it’s really important for us in the television business to be able to be a part of the coaching process, whatever it ends up being. This is just experimental, and again, bless the USTA for starting this process because I think it is just a start, and to get things moving, to get things a little snappier while people are sitting there with the remote in their hands ready to change the channel, much less likely to happen when there’s constant action on the tennis court. So it is a huge step by the USTA in the right direction, and I would be very surprised if the Australians don’t at least follow and maybe take a step beyond what the USTA have done.

    BRAD GILBERT: I’ll add on. I think it’s really exciting that we’re finally trying some stuff. On the men’s side, we didn’t try all 98 and 99, but the shot clock, coaching. I’m for — listen, trying anything. I’m still crazy about that they allow you after you throw the ball toss up to ever have more than one mulligan. But I am for all of the innovation. I think it’s exciting.

    It’s about time that we do it, and I hope it sticks or at least starts implementing at all Challengers and Futures next year and soon it gets to the tour level, and to your second question, if Fed were to win the Open, if he’s not like the athlete of the year on every kind of major publication, it’ll be the greatest injustice that I’ve probably ever seen for tennis. It’ll be his greatest year without a doubt, and he’s pushing the limits to what a 36-year-old we’ve ever seen in tennis.  It’s just been a pleasure to watch.

    Q. Where would you all pick the American most likely to go deepest in the draw?
    PATRICK McENROE: That’s a great question. I agree with Brad on Federer. The only thing we could say that’s a negative in any way is that he didn’t play on clay. But certainly at his age to do what he’s done, if he were to win three majors, is off the charts.

    For the American men, I might give Querrey the look right now. He had a great Wimbledon. He seems to be healthy. Sock I think is somewhat questionable where he is physically. He had the injury going into Wimbledon, and I don’t think he’s in tip-top shape. Isner, we know if he can sort of get hot and get a decent draw and not play long matches, he certainly could be around in the second week, and I’m hoping that from one of the young guys we see something that would give us hope that they could be in the mix within the next two years in a major.

    What does that mean? To me that means making a third, fourth round, like a Tiafoe or Fritz, Donaldson, Escobedo. I think those are the guys that have the best chance, and probably I’d put Tiafoe and Donaldson of the young guys at the top of that list.

    BRAD GILBERT: I’ll piggy back on that and say, let’s just hope for some good draws. How about four in the round of 32, three in the round of 16 or one to make the quarters, something like that, something to give us a little hope, because the last few years we haven’t had that good of runs on the men’s side, so something like that. But it’s hard for me to prognosticate without seeing the draw, but like I said, four in the round of 32, three in the round of 16 and one to make the quarters. I’d be happy with that.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: I would just say about going back to Roger and his year that I just — if he wins the US Open and he wins three majors out of four, I think it ends once and for all the GOAT conversation. I think without it, I still think he’s still the greatest player that ever played. But that certainly consolidates his position in my mind as the best player to have played the sport of tennis.

    It also just brings back one thing because we’re talking about players playing too much, and he was forced to take off six months at the end of last year, and I cannot tell you how important I think it is that even a forced layoff like that just rejuvenates players, and I think you’ll see the same kind of thing, when she comes back, from Azarenka. I don’t think motherhood for Serena is going to hurt her, either. I just think these layoffs help a great deal.

    Just one quick thing. I think Sam Querrey — I agree with Patrick, Sam Querrey has got the best chance among the Americans. He played a great Wimbledon. Sometimes you think he had a good draw, but it was not a fluke for Querrey, and then he wins a hard court tournament in Acapulco. I just think he’s got a really good shot at going further than anybody else.

    Where I don’t agree with Patrick is I think one of the young guys is going to go to the last eight this year, one of those that you mentioned, Tiafoe or Donaldson or Taylor Fritz. I just have that feeling because you don’t have the top — you just have got a diluted field in some ways, so I think it’s an opportunity for them.

    Moderator:  Going back to the shot clock, Patrick, are you playing the invitational tournament?
    PATRICK McENROE: Yes, I am.

    Moderator: You’re going to have a shot clock.
    PATRICK McENROE: Good. I’m sure my brother will get upset about it, but that’ll be good. That should be fun.

    Q. For all of you, you’ve been around for decades. If you had to step back and say how our great game has changed, the one thing that has changed the most aside from more money, how has tennis changed the most over the past decades?
    CLIFF DRYSDALE: How has it not changed is a better question, because there’s just nothing similar from the way that tennis used to be played with three majors on grass and now three majors — at least two on a hard court. The whole character of the game has changed. The whole professionalism quotient has changed. The stroke production for virtually all strokes has changed.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing. In fact, I think tennis is as compelling as it’s ever been, but it is different. It has totally changed. It’s now professional sport where you’ve got a company, as our friend Mr. Raonic says, he’s the CEO of the Raonic Company, and he’s got seven advisors that are traveling with him. Well, that didn’t happen in our day. It didn’t even come close. So I don’t know. Just nothing is the same, and fortunately now, the evolution and the changes are happening as they are in everything else in life more quickly, and I’m so enthusiastic about that and so happy that eventually the administrators of the sport have realized that they have got to join the modern world and present this sport to the public in a more acceptable and friendly — a viewer-friendly way.

    BRAD GILBERT: I’ll just add on. For me the biggest change by far is the athleticism and the movement of the game. Just seeing the way the guys and ladies can cover the court and do things, they’re a lot bigger, and it’s even put more of a premium on movement. The rules are still the same. We’ve had almost negative zero rule changes, so the game is still the same on simplicity as it’s been, it’s just being played at a different level. I think it’s cool the way it’s going. I’m all for modern innovation and continuing the trend.

    Maybe one — like when I was a kid, I never got to see hardly anybody play other than if you got to see them play live, and the access that literally — if I’m calling a match and I don’t know somebody, I can go to YouTube — heck, I can even see junior matches. So you can really have a lot more access to seeing and visibly seeing so many different people. I also find that quite interesting.

    PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I’ll just follow up on what Brad said. Go to YouTube the Lendl-Wilander French Open final; go YouTube the McEnroe-Borg US Open final or the Chrissie-Martina, any one of their finals, and these are the — those are some of the greatest players of all time, and then just watch the difference between that and the way the game is played now. As Brad said, the athleticism, the speed of the game, and by the way, all of those players I mentioned would be just as good if they grew up today as they were then. My brother when he was 45 was serving harder than when he was 21 at No. 1 in the world because of the equipment.

    You know, imagine Borg playing on clay with a Babolat racquet. Imagine how good he would have been. When Lendl played Wilander, literally he would hit a ball and he would walk – walk – to the center of the court in the middle of the point, and again, these guys are both phenomenal athletes.

    I just think it’s cool, as Brad said, to watch the way the players have adjusted, and I think the game is a heck of a lot more exciting to watch and more fun to watch because players can just do a lot more with the equipment that’s there.

    Q. And just from the perspective of the start of the Open era, talk about the globalization; could you guys have imagined it? Is it great for the game, players now from all over the world and of course domination by the Europeans, but just talk about that factor.
    CLIFF DRYSDALE: The day used to be when I first got on the tour when it was all about Americans and Australians. They dominated the sport totally. And even when we got to the French Championships, it was still — every so often Pietrangeli would raise his game and he would win the — even — no matter what the surface, that was a huge issue. Now it is a globalized sport. There’s no doubt. It’s a globalized sport, and anybody from any country can participate in it. I mean, in some ways, it hurts the game in the U.S. because there are not nearly as many dominant players from the U.S. as there used to be, but it is what it is.

    BRAD GILBERT: When I first turned pro in like ’81, ’82, there were something like 42 Americans in the top 100. I remember being ranked around 50 in the world. I think I was like the 21st ranked American. But you know what, we’ve moved on. The game is so global.

    I still think that Roger Federer is from Southern California. I can’t believe they put Switzerland by his game. He looks like he would have grown up in Pete Sampras’s neck of the woods. But the coolest thing is you can be from anywhere and be great, and that’s the opportunity tennis has. It doesn’t matter what the just because you’re from the States or anywhere like Australia or anywhere, now happens to be Europe that you tend to be great, but literally you can be from a small country, a big country. Look how much France wants to win. They haven’t had a winner in a while, and Italy, coming from smaller European countries. But I do think that’s the coolest thing, that you can be from anywhere and you have the opportunity to be great.

    Q. Two unrelated questions: Number one, in light of the recent opening of an investigation of the Dolgopolov main tour match and odd betting patterns, how does each of you feel about Sharapova having gotten a US Open wild card when one of the other tournament Grand Slams did not issue her one? Second question is on the innovations; is the scoring system sacred, or is that open to change and innovation, as well?
    CLIFF DRYSDALE: Let me fire away in absence of anyone else. No, I think the scoring system should be open to discussion for sure. The question about best of three sets instead of best of five sets at the majors is something I think should be addressed. I would not be opposed to it. I know it’s controversial, but we’ve got to look at everything in the modern world. In the modern context, do people in the modern world want to be spending four and five hours watching two people do anything? You know, just think about how other sports are constantly tailoring their sports, like cricket used to be a five-day affair. Somewhat still is, but the main interesting cricket now is in three hours with the 20 overs. These people are adjusting to the modern world, and tennis needs to adjust in the same way.

    What was the other question again?

    Q. The Sharapova wild card, the decision by the USTA.
    CLIFF DRYSDALE: The wild card is there in my opinion for one reason only, and that is to — the organizers of the tournament can choose anybody for the benefit of the tournament, and if Sharapova is, as she clearly is, somebody that people want to see, that’s why the wild card is there. I’m not opposed to her getting a wild card.

    PATRICK McENROE: Well, I agree with Cliff on the wild card. By the way, I didn’t have a problem with the French Open or Wimbledon not giving her a wild card, okay. That’s up to the tournament’s discretion. I was in some of those US Open wild card meetings back when I ran player development for the USTA, so I’m not surprised that they gave her one because they’ve always made an effort to give former champions that needed some help with a wild card. As Cliff said, she’s going to help with the tournament, and I don’t have any problem with them giving her a wild card at all.

    The first part of your question was — yeah, I think we should look at it for sure. The event that I point to on the men’s side is the Olympics, when they played the Olympics at Wimbledon, right? That was an amazing tournament, and who was in the final four of the tournament? Murray, Djokovic, Federer, and Del Potro, okay. So the idea that best of five is necessarily going to be — is going to be — the better player is going to win, that argument to me is nonsense. It’s total nonsense. Obviously some epic matches have been five sets. We know that. But there’s also been epic matches if it was just best of three, and look at the masters events over the last — we were talking last week in Cincinnati, when we didn’t have one of the big four, right, in the finals, and we had this crazy list of, whatever it was, 42 consecutive masters events. So the best players will win.

    If you played one super tiebreaker, the best player would win for the most part. So I’m not saying we need to go there. But to Cliff’s point, you know — and even at the majors, you know why they have best of five at the majors? You know what they won’t tell you? It’s because they need to fill the courts, right. They need to have matches. Well, guess what; why do we have to start at 11:00 or 10:00? Why couldn’t we start at 2:00 or something and play with lights like they do at the Open and the Australian Open? The Australian Open has made a big push towards playing more courts at night, which is great for the fans and great for selling this product. So I think this idea that like best of five, we have to do that, is ludicrous. You can even say let’s play best two out of three up until the round of 16, of the quarters, and then we’ll play best of five.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: Let me just add one thing. We all say, geez, think of all of the greatest matches of all time have been best of five. Well, have the women never played great matches? Excuse me, they’ve only ever played the three-set matches, and they’ve had great matches. So the idea that it has to be best of five to be great is in my opinion, as you say, nonsense.

    BRAD GILBERT: First on the Dolgopolov thing, let’s hope he’s not involved, because if he is, that’s a serious and egregious offense, but obviously we don’t know all the facts, and anybody involved in this, you know, it’s something that could really harm the sport. The powers that be have to crack down on that.

    The Sharapova thing, it just shows you that — the Slams don’t work together. There are four Slams, but they’re four entities, and so they can choose what they want to do with their own wild cards. If the Open wants to give Maria a wild card and they feel like it’s best for the event, you know, more power to them. They don’t feel that like somebody telling them because somebody didn’t get a wild card here, that doesn’t mean they can’t get one here. A wild card is at the tournament’s discretion. They trade a few on the men’s and women’s with the French and Australian, reciprocal ones, so absolutely no worries.

    I’m a little different than these two. In the history of the world, I’m adamantly against ever changing it from five because I think that’s what sets the men’s game apart which makes it absolutely great. So I in no way, shape or form want to see any change ever to best of five except for I would be totally cool with all four of the majors going to a tiebreaker in the fifth, and then one way to make the matches shorter, I think I would be totally for, if we did, would be to go to no-ad scoring. That means the maximum two games can be is 14 points, and then on a five-set match, you couldn’t have a five-and-a-half-hour match because you have shorter games, not to mention then you have more drama with three all points. That would be the only change that I would like to see. I would actually like to see no-ad scoring like they do in the doubles and some singles during Challengers and Futures to see how that goes so they can study it, but as of now, I’d rather be shot in the kneecap than watch best of three in a major.

    Q. How do you see Murray’s chances going into the Open? How do you see his form and fitness? Do you think he’s got a special opportunity with so many of the top players being out? And secondly on Murray, do you think at some stage he needs to look at taking an extended break like Federer and Djokovic is doing now?
    PATRICK McENROE: I’m sure he could use an extended break. He’s played a ton of tennis, and he’s the kind of guy that has worked himself incredibly, incredibly hard. He’s not as nimble or sort of as flexible as Djokovic and Federer, and honestly getting to No. 1, which was an incredible accomplishment last year, I think took a lot out of him in a lot of ways, mentally and physically. There’s no way to know how he’s going to play at the Open. Obviously he’s capable of winning it, but none of us have seen him play since Wimbledon.

    So it’s impossible to have a read other than to say, I would say it’s unlikely that he could win it just based on that fact, but if he can get through the first two, three rounds and physically look good, there’s certainly no doubt that he’s got to think that he’s got a shot because Djokovic has been the guy that’s really been his biggest nemesis in the big, big matches. Obviously Federer has beaten him a lot, as well, but he’s also beaten Federer a lot. Djokovic is really the one guy, and Stan has given him trouble, as well.  So your guess is as good as ours how he is. Hopefully he’s physically fit. I’m assuming he is. But once he starts to play a couple of matches, that’s when we’ll get a real idea.

    BRAD GILBERT: You know what, for Murray, to me, it’s two tournaments. First tournament is the first week. You sure as heck can’t win the tournament in the first week, but you can lose it, so obviously he has no matches for a few months, so his form is going to be a little off, so it’s all about somehow getting nine sets in the first week and get some confidence in the second week. And obviously the fact that he’s here means he’s probably feeling like at least physically that he’s okay. I mean, that’s the hardest thing when you haven’t played, all of a sudden jump in and play best of five.

    What’s interesting, this whole Fed thing, it turned out like a genius, you know, that he took six months off. But what happened if a normal person took that six months off, didn’t get healthy, had to get surgery, or if he came back and played terrible, we’d be all saying, oh, is it a great play to just take all this time off. Fed is a unique case. He’s a maestro. He’s a genius. Just because it worked for the guy that’s the conductor doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everybody else. So I say take time off if you need it and it’s an absolute.

    But taking time off, if you don’t really need to, doesn’t help you, and Murray doesn’t also have a game like Fed where he can just pick up after not playing for months and be sharp. He’s sharp by playing lots of matches. That’s how he plays his best tennis, and he has a great work ethic on the court, but he doesn’t just win free points like Fed can do. So I’m still not convinced that all these guys just — okay, take the rest of the year off because your ranking is going to drop, you’re in different positions, but they’re not all not like Fed.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: I’m saying that managing your year and how much you play is a huge thing. I think that Andy could have probably done a better job — when I look at the amount of work that he and Djokovic and basically everybody else at the top of their game now, the amount of work that they put in, going back to a question from earlier today, it’s staggering what kind of condition that you have to be in, and there is really no way that you can survive a 20-plus-year career running around the tennis court 11 months a year and not come up with injuries.

    So if you’re suggesting that Andy should take some time off, well, he has taken some time off now. Remember, he’s a family man, also. So to me it’s a balance of managing the events that he plays and how many he plays. I think he plays too much.

    Q. I was just wondering about the experiment with coaching in the courtside seats at the US Open qualifying. A guy can coach his player, but he can coach his player out loud in a way that would intimidate a player on the other side. Just seems to me that there’s a fair chance of chaos with that idea.
    CLIFF DRYSDALE: Yeah, I agree with that. School is out. We have to see how that works. You’re talking about foreign languages now. You’re talking about how loud can the coach be. I’m struggling with that particular — I want the innovation. I’m 110 percent behind the innovation. During the match and in between points, I suffer with that. I’d have to see how that works. But I think it could be mayhem, and I worry about that.

    BRAD GILBERT: You know, I have to see it play out. I can tell you since I’ve been traveling on the tour since 1981, and obviously there wasn’t nearly as many players that were traveling with coaches, hardly any, it really started maybe mid-’80s to — by early ’90s to mid ’90s, tons of players had it. You know what’s been going on forever? Third-base coaching, coaches in different languages getting away with talking to their player the whole time in a different language. So the one thing — like I said, I have to see it play out, but what I do like what the women do, when you have the one coaching per set. The coaches have to sit next to the court, and that eliminates coaches from third-base coaching as I saw it. I like that they have to sit there right next to the court, and then they’re not allowed to talk to the players because basically the umpire can see them.

    Whatever they do, I like to see it — I’ve got to see it play out, but I do like how the women have it, once a set, mic’d up, and they’ve got to sit right next to the court. But I guess if they allow the coaching from the stands, it’s one way of saying, okay, we’re just eliminating all of this cheating that’s been going on in the stands for the last 25 years.

    Q. You guys mentioned Zverev earlier. What about other dark horses? Like you saw Dimitrov in Cincinnati and then last year at the Open, Monfils and Pouille had great runs. Who would you select as dark horses? And during the Australian Open I heard all of you comment about the surface speed, how that helped Federer and Venus because it was a quicker court. Any sense of what we’ll see at the Open with the speed of the court? And Patrick, when you worked with them, was that something you sat down in meetings and said, we’re going to make the court medium bounce or quick court? Was that something you actually decided on before the tournament?
    PATRICK McENROE: Well, that’s a good question. I mean, that definitely — when I was there, that was something I tried to find out. You know, it’s a different division, sort of just professional tennis division, which is a little bit different than player development. But I think there’s definitely a method to the madness as far as trying to get it to a certain speed. But to be honest, no, there were never conversations like let’s make it good for Americans. I think it’s more about let’s make it a speed that’s going to work, that’s going to be a more exciting brand of tennis for people to watch, and so generally speaking, the Open has been usually a little bit quicker than the other ones, although, as you said, I think we all noted at the Australian it seemed to be a bit quicker. Sometimes it has to do with the balls, as well, and just the overall conditions.

    But to answer your question, no, there was never — at least when I was there, let’s make this a good court for our best players. Maybe it was different when it was Sampras and Agassi, when we had a couple of at least the best male players at the top. But there’s also the issue, I think, that the outside courts can play differently from the Arthur Ashe Stadium and the other show courts. That seems to be the case at all the majors.

    They were saying Susan Lenglen is slower than Philippe Chatrier, so I think it sort of comes with the territory, but generally speaking, the quicker the better probably for someone like a Federer, absolutely.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: The interesting thing to me is that when you consider the alternatives, what changes the presentation of the sport fundamentally, the tennis balls that you use, how heavy they are, how they’re pumped up, what kind of pressure they have, the strings that the players use in the tennis racquets along with the tennis racquet construction itself, and then finally the court speed, and you have control over that.

    So Patrick says that they didn’t in those — they sit down and consider the court speed. They certainly do that, I think, judiciously in Australia, and they say, you know, where do we want this court speed. Not necessarily to help their local players but to help the presentation of the sport. It’s a key element to court speed.

    BRAD GILBERT: Obviously I’ve never been involved with the USTA or any of these entities, but I can tell you in the eight years of coaching Andre or when I was coaching Roddick, no one ever called me or asked me what would be best for my player. So obviously they do what’s best for the tournament, best for the fans, and probably best for the integrity of the sport that maybe they have like a little council on, okay, how are we going to do the courts. But I do know one thing, that the court can drastically change from — even if it’s a slower court, if it’s 100 degrees, the court is going to play quicker. If it’s 50 degrees at night, it plays considerably slower, and the balls can react to the conditions that it is.

    I do think that obviously your first thought is if it’s your home Slam that you probably want to help your players as much as you can. That’s only a natural feeling that you would think, oh, geez, we have a bunch of guys that are better on slower courts, we have a bunch of guys that are better on faster courts. Maybe they want the courts better suited for Roger and Rafa. I don’t know these things, but I do think it’s kind of fair that everybody rocks up at the same time, and darn, the courts are slower this year, they’re quicker this year. I do like that whole kind of finding out or seeing people tweet the first few days how the court is playing. I think it’s kind of exciting that we don’t know.

    CLIFF DRYSDALE: The biggest variable is definitely in the hands of the administrators because the more sand you put in that final layer of acrylic paint that they put on a court, the slower the court. The less sand or no sand at all makes it very quick. So it’s a variable that can definitely be managed.



Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $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, Darlington, Indy 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, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
Back to top button