Davis Cup Captains

Generally great Davis Cup players do not always make the greatest Davis Cup Captains. Being a captain in one of the premier team events in world tennis takes a very special type of personality. They have to embrace a low-ego role, which is directly diametrical to most top player personalities.

Take former USA Team Captain, John McEnroe. Although one of the most influential tennis players in the modern era, and an ardent supporter of the Davis Cup as a player, he was not successful as Team Captain. He disliked the lack of control, and would have preferred being the protagonist rather than the facilitator. He lasted as USA Davis Cup Captain for just on a year, and was roundly criticised by the media as having “alienated top players, trashed opposing athletes and coaches and blew off meetings and press conferences” (Sports Illustrated).

German Boris Becker, who took the world by storm as one of the foremost tennis players of all time, also had an undistinguished career as Davis Cup Captain. He too disliked having to pander to the whims of the top players. One of the captain’s jobs is to encourage the top ranked male players to take part in the Davis Cup. Many of the world’s best do not have the time or inclination to take part in a team event.

American tennis legend, Pete Sampras is quoted as saying: “If Davis Cup was a little bit less or once every two years, I would be more inclined to play. But the way it is now, it’s too much tennis for me’. Both Roger Federer, ranked World No.1 and Rafael Nadal, ranked World No.2 on the ATP rankings, declined to play for their respective countries in the 2007 Davis Cup.

Current USA Davis Cup Captain, Patrick McEnroe, has had more success than his tempestuous brother. He is said to have done an excellent job of rebuilding the kind of camaraderie associated with earlier US Davis Cup teams. He has managed to get a full commitment from the younger American generation, led by Andy Roddick.

John Lloyd, appointed as Davis Cup Captain to Great Britain in 2006, is another case in point. Although he became the first British male tennis player in the open era to reach a grand slam singles final at the Australian Open in 1977, he never quite made it as a top player. He was a thoughtful, intelligent and often, temperamental player, but as captain he has shone. Great Britain will take on Croatia in a play-off to determine which team will play in the 2008 World Group.