United States Tennis Association Media Conference
Wednesday January 9, 2019
New York, New York
BRENDAN McINTYRE: Thank you, everyone, for joining the call today. We’re incredibly excited to make this announcement. We are joined by the USTA chairman of the board and president, Patrick Galbraith; chief executive professional tennis from the USTA, Stacey Allaster; the general manager of player development, Martin Blackman; and our new Davis Cup captain, Mardy Fish.
I will turn it over to Patrick for some comments.
PATRICK GALBRAITH: Today we are pleased to announce Mardy Fish named the U.S. Davis Cup captain. We’re thrilled with the excitement and passion Mardy is going to bring to the team. As a former player, I know Mardy will inspire our players to get success throughout the year and years to come.
I also want to thank Jim Courier for his time and his leadership as Davis Cup captain. He’s been a great ambassador for our team.
With that, I would like to turn it over to Stacey Allaster, chief executive of professional tennis.
STACEY ALLASTER: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Still a few days, Happy New Year.
I think before I say my remarks, thank you, everyone, in advance for all the support you’ll give us in 2019 to support our athletes, our tournaments and everything we’re doing for the game at the USTA. That’s what today’s call is really all about.
When we look at our pro tennis assets, what we’re trying to do is really integrate those assets to further utilize and optimize, to support our player development goals, and to grow the game through our Net Generation initiatives throughout the country.
We started this process a few years ago when Kathy Rinaldi was appointed our Federation Cup captain. Last couple of years, Jim Courier stepped up, as well, in this new model where he played an ambassadorial role for our Net Generation launch. He was also really helpful and successful in working with Martin Blackman as it relates to full integration with Team USA.
I’ll turn it over to Martin to give you more details on how this position will evolve even further with our new Davis Cup captain, Mardy Fish.
MARTIN BLACKMAN: Thanks, everyone for making the call.
Just a couple things on the front end. I want to just recognize Patrick Galbraith for initiating what has been a very deliberate process to identify our next captain. I also want to recognize and thank Jim Courier, who has been a great captain, great to work with.
As we looked for our new captain, we saw an opportunity to expand the role and have a year-round presence for the captain, and even more integration with player development. Jim Courier, Captain Courier, was great to work with, so generous with his time. With this new role, we’re going to be able to even expand it more.
Mardy will be able to go to selected tournaments throughout the year to interface with our top players and their private coaches. The guys have told us that that support year-round at the tournaments on the outside courts just means so much to them. Obviously that will enable Mardy to get to know their games even more so that when we get to Madrid, we’ve got that competitive advantage.
Also Mardy in this role will be a great ambassador not just for American tennis and our top players but also for our Net Generation youth initiative, which is really our focus right now at the base to grow the game.
In his position of leadership, he’s going to be someone who kids look to as an inspirational figure. When they see Mardy and the guys with that jacket in Madrid representing Team USA, they’ll also know that Mardy really cares about every kid who picks up a racquet.
So excited to have Mardy on the team. He knows our coaches really well in the pro space. He has unbelievable relationships with our top players. I just know that it’s going to be a great era that we’re entering into with Mardy as captain.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: We’ll turn it over to our newest Davis Cup captain, Mardy Fish.
MARDY FISH: Thank you. Obviously I thank everyone for being on the call today.
It’s a really special morning out here in L.A., no doubt. Ever since I turned pro, was a practice partner, I’ve been through a few generations of Davis Cup captains, all the way back to Johnny Mack in 1999 in Santander. It’s been something that is a dream job for me, something that I won’t take for granted, and am completely honored. It’s just incredibly special to even be mentioned as a possible candidate.
To be the Davis Cup captain, the next Davis Cup captain, incredibly humbled. I can’t even express how excited I am, how excited I am that the players have supported the decision. The friendships I’ve made throughout the years, relationships of all the players, not just the top players, is very special.
I’ve answered the call every time P Mack or Jim had asked me to play, whether it was a practice partner or an actual player on the team. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started, to start sort of integrating the future players with the current players. We’ve got a really fun and exciting time in U.S. tennis right now.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: I think at this juncture, we are ready to switch over to the Q&A portion of the call.
Q. What are your concerns about the reformatted Davis Cup and player participation in that regard? It’s still early in the process, but can you address that, where you see that might be going.
MARDY FISH: Yeah, no, I’ve spoken with all the players already. We just sort of called out to all of them sort of last night. They’re all very excited. Everyone is really excited about the idea of the reform, the new format, sort of a World Cup of tennis, if you will.
It’s going to be interesting for all parties to see how it goes. I think it’s going to be awesome personally. I was excited about the change initially. I know all the players are, as well. All the ones that I’ve spoken to just briefly, just over the years, knowing how much all the way from our top player John Isner, to the guys that haven’t been able to play yet, want to play badly, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, they’re all really excited about the new format.
Q. In terms of how you’re going to find the time, because you’ve been starting off your foundation in Florida, will you be able to continue that or are you going to have to take a holiday from that?
MARDY FISH: No, no, my foundation is a huge part of my life. My father runs it in Vero Beach. We’ve been doing it for 12 years now. We have our next one here January 14th. I will always find time for my foundation.
But I’m very excited about the idea and prospect. When I sort of knew I was retiring, knew the timetable, one of the first people that I called was Martin Blackman. I always knew that I wanted to help sort of mentor and coach. I love helping to guide not for profit, but how can I figure out how to be involved and just help.
I knew that the West Coast training center out here in Carson, California, was a few miles away, sometimes an hour and a half away in traffic out here, but not too far away. So that was something that we put in place even while I was still playing, trying to help, trying to figure out exactly the perfect role for how much I can give and how much I can help and where that fits in with the USTA.
Obviously selfishly this is, in my opinion, the best job that anyone can have in tennis after you retire. The only thing better would be a playing captain. We don’t need to worry about that.
Honestly, this is the most exciting position that I could possibly imagine. Like I said before, I’m so honored. Speaking with Jim Courier just yesterday, Patrick McEnroe this morning, Tom Gullikson late last night, I can’t believe that I’m going to be guiding these guys. I can’t tell you how excited I am.
Q. Mardy, can you speak to the new role, maybe expand on how you’ll be working with USTA Player Development throughout the year.
MARDY FISH: Yeah, absolutely. That has always been something that I’ve been excited about. Like I just mentioned, sort of helping any and all of the players, mentoring the players new and old, present and future. It’s just something that I’m very passionate about.
I love learning from, A, my mistakes, growing, maturing that way throughout my career, sort of being able to guide these players along, even the guys that won’t be playing Davis Cup, won’t be a part of it necessarily, trying to build that team camaraderie around everyone.
There was a text message that I sent out last night with 25 guys on it. It wasn’t just sort of the five guys that I want to play with in November. All the way down the list, I want everyone to feel like they’re part of Team USA, wanted and welcomed at all times.
They’ve always known that. Like I said before in the last question, just finding that perfect role was Martin and I’s sort of juxtaposition initially working with Taylor Fritz for a couple years, helping with Jared Donaldson, helping with Jack Sock earlier last year, just kind of mentoring and learning.
I went through a lot of up and downs in my career. It was from tack of work ethic, motivation, discipline, professionalism. It wasn’t because I wasn’t a hard worker, I just didn’t truly understand what it took to get everything out of what you have, what you’re given.
Luckily I found that out and did that, did everything I could possibly do. I made every decision that I could possibly make as a player around me trying to be the best player I could possibly be. Learning from those mistakes that I made, from the things that I’ve learned while getting everything out of the work ethic, understanding the professionalism, the dedication that it does take on a day-by-day basis.
I want to try as best I can to sort of motivate those guys and show them, extend the years on their careers, quicken the careers from where they may be as quickly as possible on the fast track.
Q. Colombia 2010, you swept the three matches, 14 sets. Talk about what that meant to you or a favorite moment from there. Talk about the Davis Cup and American tennis. It’s been a while since we prevailed. Is it still important and relevant to the game in America?
MARDY FISH: I know with the players, it certainly is. They’re very excited. They’re always excited. I think Martin, Stacey can speak on how involved the players wanted to be in the choice of this captain, this captaincy.
I’ve always told Martin I wish he was the head of player development while I was playing. Man, does he have the players’ backs, looking at the best interests of how do we get everything out of every player, how can we put them in the best possible position.
These guys are excited about it. That’s our goal, right, is to grow the game in the States, also bring back the Cup really. Since 2007, which I had a small part in, it’s been that we haven’t won it.
I know it’s a really fun time to come in because we have some really young players that are just learning how to win and how to go through the rigors of the tour on a daily basis, weekly basis, how to pick their schedules, how to go about their careers. We have some older guys that also like to help.
John Isner is a huge asset for us, period, obviously a great player, but also a great guy, someone who has always been open to discussions on how players play. Certainly a student of the game. I’m going to lean on a lot of the former players as well. Some of my best friends, Andy Roddick, James Blake, these guys that I talk to almost on a daily basis about the game. I talk to Andy a ton about the game now, his thoughts. Certainly going to lean on him a lot as well as this process unfolds.
To answer the first part of your question, Colombia, there are a lot of USTA sort of board members, there were a ton of people in Monte-Carlo, there were a ton of USTA people in Madrid. There weren’t very many in Bogota, Colombia. There weren’t that many of us that were there and really understood the conditions and how hard it was to play in that tie with pressure-less balls at 10,000 feet, figuring out the first day we got there we couldn’t walk up the stairs without being out of breath, playing 14 sets in three days. Certainly Davis Cup-wise, that was my most proud moment, there’s no doubt about it.
The last tie that I played 2012 in Switzerland, beating Wawrinka on the clay in singles, a long five-setter, then taking out that Federer guy with Mike Bryan.
It’s been a fun ride playing-wise in Davis Cup. Some lows, but certainly a lot of great memories. I just hope that continues.
Q. You obviously went through the health issues. How did that put the sport of tennis in perspective for you?
MARDY FISH: That’s a whole different discussion. Mental health is a whole different discussion. Obviously it’s something that I’m incredibly passionate about on a whole ‘nother level.
It changed my life. I didn’t know anything about mental health. No one around me had any issues with mental health. It really blindsided me personally. It blindsided my family.
Thank God for the support system that I had. Who knows where I’d be. There’s no telling. Certainly got a great grasp on it. It’s been a lot of years, something that I’ll always have in my life, always have to deal with in a small part, but always have those memories of how it came about, just learning from all of the situations that I go through.
Yeah, mental health is a huge part of a lot of people’s lives, millions and millions of people in this country, around the world. It’s something that another conversation we can have, a long conversation that I’d love to have.
Q. Talk about the advice that past Davis Cup captains have given you, and what do you think is going to be your biggest challenge as the Davis Cup captain?
MARDY FISH: I have great relationships with all of those guys that I played for and with. Incredible amount of respect for Patrick McEnroe and Jim Courier. I can’t tell you enough about how supportive Jim has been since they decided to name me as the captain, as well as throughout when I played with him. It was so cool to be part of playing and having someone like him.
As a player, you sit down on the changeover. It doesn’t matter what situation you were in, had been in at that time, you knew that he had been in the exact same situation at one time or another. It felt really good to be able to sit down next to someone who was supportive, who was a friend as well as your coach and a captain. Just learning from them and understanding the support.
I’ll certainly be a player’s captain, I mean, just my relationships with the guys, the relationships that I’ve made are very special throughout the years. I played in this era not too long ago.
To a lot of the guys, this is a coaching aspect as well. The bottom line is you want to win in this competition. A lot of these guys I played against. There’s a unique effect there, to be able to draw on past experiences of some of the guys I’m sure we will play in competition. That’s nice.
I think the hardest part, which is the most exciting part as well for me, in my opinion, is just trying to mold together the future with the present. I think it will be easy. Everyone gets along really well. But that’s the most exciting and challenging part of all of it.
Q. Can you explain how you plan on using the captaincy to integrate Net Generation into Davis Cup, bridge the young players in?
MARDY FISH: As well as being the Davis Cup captain, you’re the ambassador, you’re a face of American tennis, one of the faces of American tennis. You certainly want to grow the game and make sure that it’s in good hands when you leave it, as well. We want to build and promote the game as best as we can. You want to make sure that you leave the game in a better place, leave Davis Cup in a better place, than when you got it.
I certainly love that opportunity. I love the idea. That was something that I was very excited about being able to be a part of that, just having that platform to promote, grow.
Obviously tennis has been my life. My father went to the US Open even before I was born as a fan. Tennis he’s a part of my family and my life forever. To have this unique opportunity to be able to grow the game, to be able to promote the game, is a very special honor that I will not take lightly.
STACEY ALLASTER: If I could help Mardy with some specifics. In the next month, Mardy will come to the USTA national campus in Orlando. He will meet with Craig Morris, who leads our Net Generation initiative. Worked with Jim and Kathy, currently still does. Could be some coaching for our providers across the country who are supporting Net Generation, community, clubs, parks and schools.
Because Mardy will spend more time on the road, and as Martin said, when he’s wearing that jacket, is the symbol and represents all of us on Team USA, we’ll want Mardy to meet with kids, whether that’s clinics, activities. We really want to use the Davis Cup to inspire kids to play the game. Either they just come to the game, they play more.
We all know how passionate Mardy is. We know he’ll do a phenomenal job with the guys in the competition. We were equally excited to have Mardy in this role. The guy just loves, loves the game. Now when he’s representing us at our tournaments, we know we’ll put him to work sharing that passion with kids.
Q. Next year is going to be Olympics. Have you had any discussions regarding the Olympics?
MARDY FISH: I haven’t. Should we try to do some negotiations right now on the phone (laughter)?
Q. I don’t mean to diminish the Davis Cup. Your record in the Olympics is so good, medal winner. You have a lot to offer as a potential captain for the U.S. in the Olympics. Are you thinking about it?
STACEY ALLASTER: Today it’s about the Davis Cup. Certainly Mardy does offer us a lot. Together with Martin, Ken, we’ll have those discussions in the coming months as it relates to the Olympics.
BRENDAN McINTYRE: Thanks so much for joining the call. Thank you to Patrick, Stacey and Martin. Congratulations to the 41st captain for the U.S. Davis Cup, Mardy Fish.
United States Tennis Association Media Conference