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McEnroe, Sampras Find Some Common Ground

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For U.S. Davis Cup captain John McEnroe, the most difficult part of the quarterfinal against the Czech Republic in Los Angeles might already have passed.

It might have been that phone call to Pete Sampras.

They were at odds after Sampras withdrew from the opening round at Zimbabwe because of a hip injury. But they talked recently and McEnroe said Monday that Sampras will play in the quarterfinal April 7-9 at the Great Western Forum--as will Andre Agassi--and is committed for the rest of 2000.

This will be the first time since 1995 that Sampras and Agassi have played on the same Davis Cup team.

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“I contacted him,” McEnroe said. “Obviously, people know that we needed to communicate. I think that communication is key in pretty much all of life, including being captain of Davis Cup.”

Sampras felt his integrity had been questioned.

“Any time you have friction that’s sort of developed, whether it’s real or not, when you have that initial first couple of minutes, it’s going to be awkward,” McEnroe said of their conversation. “There’s no question we both felt like we needed to talk. I don’t think there was any question about that. We’d been misrepresented.

” . . . There’s going to be friction. I’ve seen that early on. There’s going to be disagreements. The captain is not going to win a lot of popularity contests, necessarily. Sometimes you have to make some tough calls. It’s the least fun part of the job. . . . “

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McEnroe has not named the other two members of the team but it is clear he has high regard for Chris Woodruff, the last-minute savior in Zimbabwe. Woodruff replaced the injured Sampras and won the clinching match against Wayne Black.

McEnroe’s feelings came across when he was asked whether he would play doubles against the Czech Republic.

“Maybe if you guys can start an overwhelming campaign for me,” he said, joking. " . . . There’s a scenario where I feel it’s possible. But I think it’s a little early to pull the trigger. If I was going to give Woodruff a spot on the team, as sort of a reward for what he was able to accomplish, I’d rather do that than put myself in there.”

He said he will try to maintain the earlier team chemistry with the reshuffled deck.

“That’s my job, to try to build chemistry,” McEnroe said. " . . . Hopefully, the difference I can make . . . is maybe in that fifth match. On some of my better days, I’d like to think I made a little bit of a difference maybe helping Chris through that match.

“That’s the same attitude I’m trying to go in with. There’s no question that, in general, Pete has expressed mixed feelings himself [about Davis Cup]. The people he’s expressed it with, in a lot of cases, are the players themselves. The players are as aware, or more aware, of his feelings, than a lot of people that follow Davis Cup. It’s not only my job, but hopefully Pete realizes that it’s important to have good chemistry and the other players have to be forgiving.”


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