McEnroe cites frustrations in resigning

Updated: November 22, 2000, 12:48 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- As Davis Cup captain, John McEnroe's biggest problem was that he didn't have someone like John McEnroe as a player.

For lack of such a player, one of the best in the world who would put Davis Cup first among his priorities, McEnroe has called it quits after 14 months stint at the helm of the U.S. team.

Quick hits
  • In 2000 under first-year team captain John McEnroe, the United States went 2-1 and made it to the semifinals. The United States defeated Zimbabwe 3-2 on an indoor hardcourt in the first round and the Czech Republic 3-2 at home on indoor carpet in the second round. They fell in the semifinals 5-0 on Spain's outdoor clay courts.

  • McEnroe is the winningest player at the Davis Cup with 59 victories.

  • From 1981-84, McEnroe had a 59-10 record in the Davis Cup in 30 ties, which included a singles record of 41-8.

  • He made his Davis Cup debut as a player in 1978.

  • Patrick McEnroe is the clear front-runner to replace his brother John McEnroe as U.S. Davis Cup captain.

    "I'm one of the candidates and I would be honored if I was named," Patrick McEnroe said in an interview with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "It's something I have always wanted to do. It would be great fun."

    Patrick McEnroe, a member of the USTA governing board, told members of the board in their meeting Sunday that he would like to replace his brother as Davis Cup captain. Patrick McEnroe has been actively lobbying to get the appointment and since he's a member of the board is the front-runner for the job.

    Patrick McEnroe, 34, said that USTA officials approached him about taking the job on Sunday and that he expected others to be approached, too, including Stan Smith, Brad Gilbert, Jim Courier and Paul Annacone, Pete Sampras' coach.

    Gilbert, who is Andre Agassi's coach, said on Monday that he has not been approached and expected Patrick McEnroe, who is a member of the USTA governing board, to get the job. A new captain should be named soon. The next round of Davis Cup competition begins Feb. 9 in Switzerland.

    Merv Heller, incoming president of the USTA, when asked about Patrick McEnroe, said: "I don't want to get into names. Patrick certainly is on our short list. We're looking for someone who can get the top players to play and assist us in developing a strategy for the longterm development of Davis Cup in our country and with our players."

    Patrick McEnroe said he agreed with his brother that the format of Davis Cup competition needs a serious overhaul in the next two years. He said that one format to consider would be a month-long competition with home-on-home series.

    "It should be more like the NBA playoffs -- that way you could generate fan interest and it would be easier on the players," Patrick McEnroe said. Changes in the format could not occur until the 2002 Davis Cup.

    When asked if he would consider being a player-coach, Patrick McEnroe said no, then joked, "The goal is to win."

    USTA officials will spend the next few days consulting with top American players to determine the interest in Patrick McEnroe and the other candidates.

    John McEnroe told Levering of his decision to quit over lunch in New York early last week, before he left for Frankfurt, Germany, where he played in a senior tournament.

    "John feels so passionate about Davis Cup and he is a perfectionist," U.S. Tennis Association president Judy Levering said Monday. "He's disappointed with himself."

    But Levering cautioned that John McEnroe's resignation was not just the lack of having America's top players ready to play every Davis Cup series.

    "He's upset with the format of Davis Cup and feels it keeps the U.S. from doing as well as it could," she said. "It was a combination of things that led to it."

    John McEnroe was playing Monday in Frankfurt and not immediately available for comment. Before the USTA announcement was made, he refused to comment when contacted at his hotel room by The Associated Press.

    The resignation of John McEnroe, one of the greatest players in Davis Cup history, comes nearly four months after the U.S. team was swept by Spain in the semifinals. He said he was "extremely frustrated with the difficulties of the scheduling and format of the competition."

    He also was troubled because two of the world's top players, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, were unwilling to fully commit to Davis Cup play.

    "I was privileged to have been selected and honored to have served as captain," John McEnroe said. "Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons I was disappointed that I was unable to have a great impact as captain of the team."

    Levering appointed John McEnroe captain on Sept. 8, 1999, to pump life into an event that does not get nearly as much attention in the United States as it does around the world.

    He immediately received a call from Agassi, who said he wanted to be on the team. After much pleading, John McEnroe also got Sampras to come aboard. But Sampras pulled out of the first-round series against Zimbabwe, citing a hip injury, which caused the outspoken John McEnroe to question Sampras' commitment to Davis Cup.

    Agassi won the Australian Open, then flew to Zimbabwe and led the United States to a narrow victory. Agassi and Sampras both played in the next round in Los Angeles, where the Americans barely edged the Czech Republic.

    However, the two skipped the semifinals on clay in Spain because of injuries. John McEnroe put together a makeshift team that failed to win a match in three days, the first time in 101 years of Davis Cup play that the United States was beaten 5-0 without the title on the line.

    "I'm totally spent, I'm deflated," John McEnroe said at the time.

    Signing for three years as captain, John McEnroe was set on restoring the lost glory of Davis Cup in the United States. In the 1920s, '30s and '40s, the Davis Cup was among the biggest events on the American sports calendar.

    John McEnroe brought back some of its popularity in the late 1970s and early '80s, when he helped win four championships in five years. As captain, he thought his name, status and love of the cup would lure the top players.

    "Either it's bad luck or I haven't made a difference," John McEnroe said at the start of the semifinals in Spain.

    Levering disagreed.

    "I feel he had a terrific impact and brought attention to Davis Cup, not only in the United States but around the world," she said. "In the two ties we won, I'm convinced it was because of John."

    John McEnroe believes a month should be set aside for the tournament, creating a "Davis Cup time" that players and fans could easily identify.

    "I have made it known for many years that the current format is problematic for the world's top players," he said. "It is my hope that the Davis Cup will be restructured so that it can be everything I envision it has the potential to be."

    As a Davis Cup player, John McEnroe holds or shares 20 U.S. Davis Cup records, including most years on the team (12), most ties played (30), most singles matches played (49), most singles victories (41), most total matches (69) and most victories (59).

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