McEnroe Selects Spadea To Davis Cup Squad
By Richard Pagliaro
Vince Spadea stated his case for a place on the United States Davis Cup team in a letter to U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe last week and now McEnroe has responded to Spadea's request. The U.S. Davis Cup captain announced today Spadea has been selected to the fifth spot on the American squad that will face host Spain in the Davis Cup final set for December 3rd-5th on the red clay of Seville.
McEnroe, who told Tennis Week in an interview last Thursday he was leaning toward picking 61st-ranked Robby Ginepri for the fifth position, offered Spadea the spot in a voicemail left on Spadea's answering machine. The 19th-ranked Spadea answered the call and could be called upon again to play singles in Spain. McEnroe said Spadea has a shot to earn the second singles spot with a strong week of practice.
"As I spoke with you last week, I spoke to Vince a couple of times and spoke to Ginepri to see where he was and at the end of the day I decided that having Vince there was the option to go with," said McEnroe, in a conference call from Houston where he is working as ESPN's tennis analyst for the Tennis Masters Cup. "I had a good couple of long conversations with him and got him on the page that I feel he needs to be on to come over there and play well."
The decision completes yet another tennis transformation for the strong-willed Spadea: in the space of a single week Spadea has gone from Davis Cup outcast to a potential primary player on the team who could win the second singles spot and potentially play one or two matches.
Spadea said he was eager to accept a position on the team after McEnroe assured him he would be more than a practice partner.
"He assured me that I would be going as a fifth player,a member of the team and not a practice partner (there will be two juniors as practice partners)," Spadea told Tennis Week today. "He said that he still plans on starting Mardy (Fish), but that if something should occur before the first match (injury, etc.) I need to be ready to play. The prospect of having any chance to play Davis Cup and be part of the U.S. team is exciting for me. Thus, I've accepted Pat's offer and I look forward to going to Spain to represent my country."
While McEnroe said he is still leaning toward playing 37th-ranked Mardy Fish as the second singles starter, he made it clear Spadea will have a shot to earn that spot.
"I'll tell you exactly what I told Vince," McEnroe told Tennis Week. "I'm leaning toward Mardy playing, but that's not a lock. I told Vince to come over there with the idea that he can play. And last year in Slovakia I was leaning toward James Blake playing the singles match and Mardy ended up playing. That will be my decision that will be the decision that will come the day or two before the match. As I said, Mardy has the experience so I would lean toward him, but Vince is coming over, in my mind, as a guy who could potentially play."
The decision may well have surprised Spadea himself. In an email interview with Tennis Week on Tuesday, Spadea said he had not spoken to McEnroe since the captain voiced his views on the selection process in an interview with Tennis Week, though he acknowledged McEnroe had left him a voice mail.
It marks Spadea's second appearance on the U.S. Davis Cup team. Four years ago, U.S. captain John McEnroe selected Spadea to the team after both Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras pulled out only a few weeks before the tie was set to start citing injuries. Spadea played one match, falling in three sets to Juan Carlos Ferrero in Spain's 5-0 semifinal sweep of the United States on the red clay of Santander, Spain.
Asked how the the four members of the team who led the U.S. to a quarterfinal conquest of Sweden and a semifinal sweep of Belarus — second-ranked Andy Roddick, Fish and twins Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan — responded to Spadea's selection, McEnroe said the entire team supported the decision. Team leader Roddick requested Spadea's phone number to welcome him to the squad.
"They feel very, very good about it," McEnroe said. "I had a couple of very good conversations with the guys. Andy is extremely excited about it. In fact the first thing he said to me was: 'Can you get me Vince's number? I want to call him and tell him how excited we are to have him come.' So that to me sums up Andy Roddick and he's sort of taking on a leadership role on the team and reaching out to Vince. If he's called him or not, I don't know because obviously he's pretty busy down here."
Initially bypassed for a place on the team, Spadea wrote McEnroe a letter stating his case for inclusion on the Davis Cup squad. Spadea told Tennis Week he believed he had earned a spot on the squad based on his higher ranking (Spadea is ranked 19th, Fish is ranked 38th), greater number of victories (Spadea has won 40 matches, Fish has 28 wins) and his superior clay-court results.
One of McEnroe's close friends — his ESPN broadcast partner Cliff Drysdale — believes neither Fish nor Spadea will win a match against Spain, but still thinks the United States could upset the heavily-favored Spanish squad led by former French Open champions Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero.
"I don't expect Mardy Fish to be able to win either one of his second matches or indeed Vince if he gets to play," Drysdale said. "The way to win it is simple. Roddick has to win both of his singles matches and the Bryan brothers have got to win the doubles. All of those things are within reach. Ferrero has not had a good year. I think my money would definitely be on Roddick to beat him. Against Moya, it's more problematic. But I would make that a 50-50 call between the two, not withstanding that it's on clay. I don't care about Spain because Roddick has been there before with the audience against him. So to me, that's not a factor. This guy is hugely single-minded and focused when he plays, regardless of where he plays."
The 30-year-old Spadea was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that included Roddick, silver medallist Fish and the Bryan brothers. McEnroe captained that team and is confident Spadea will be ready for his Davis Cup role.
The pair may never be pen-pals, but McEnroe is pleased they are now on the same page.
"Vince came to the Olympics with us, we're looking forward to having him," McEnroe said. "He was very positive to me when we spoke. He said, 'I'm in the gym and I'm getting myself ready. Whatever you need me there to do — be ready to play or be a practice guy — (I'll do). So I was extremely happy with his attitude after the sort of thing we went through last week. To me, that's completely behind us. I'm very happy to have him here as part of the team and with the attitude he has. That's all important and that counts toward what we're trying to do."