Todd Martin or James Blake for Davis Cup
I chose James. I like Todd, but I would be excited for James.
Thursday, October 4
McEnroe could juggle U.S. Davis Cup lineup
By Greg Garber
It is a classic choice between the exuberance -- and an ability to cover the court -- of youth and the wisdom of experience.
James Blake could replace ailing Todd Martin in U.S. Davis Cup team's single lineup.
Last Tuesday, U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe submitted Todd Martin's name to the International Tennis Federation as part of the four-man U.S. team, but that is only a technicality. McEnroe has until Oct. 11 to finalize the No. 2 singles player behind Andy Roddick. Ultimately, James Blake could replace Martin.
Martin has struggled this season and has lost his past seven Davis Cup singles matches. Blake, who at the U.S. Open pushed eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt to five sets in a memorable match, has been playing well. Blake defeated Wayne Arthurs on Wednesday in Tokyo to lift his season's record to 8-8. Martin, who has been bothered by injuries, is 13-12.
Roddick, in accordance with Davis Cup protocol, likely will open against Mahesh Bhupathi, India's No. 2 singles player, and Martin or Blake would match up with No. 1 Leander Paes. Together, Bhupathi and Paes are one of the world's best doubles teams; their ability as singles players is considerably less. The last time these two nations met, Martin dispatched Paes in singles action, but that was 1994, when McEnroe (yes, Patrick, not John) played doubles for the United States -- and won.
Martin spent last weekend as host of a fund-raiser for his Todd Martin Development Fund in Lansing, Mich., which underwrites a tennis league and a leadership development program. After a series of nagging injuries -- a wrenched back suffered in Davis Cup play, a tender left forearm and two cranky knees -- Martin reports that he is healthy again. He's been practicing regularly for the past month.
"I feel great," Martin said. "I feel much better than I have in quite some time. That being said, James is more than capable of being up to the task at hand. I think it won't be long before he starts being named to the team straight away.
"We've got four hard days of practice ... if I don't hold up that great, or if my tennis isn't up to snuff, I know James is eager. I've got to be honest: I'm 99 percent sure any pre-existing issues with my body will be OK."
McEnroe said Martin's performance in practice sets will determine who plays at No. 2.
"That's the beautiful thing about Todd, he understands the situation we're in," McEnroe said. "He would be the first to say, 'I'm not ready.' Funnily enough, he has been more of a help to James than anyone. He's been a mentor to James the last couple of years. They both know it will be a healthy competition."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.