US Davis Cup future looks bleak

For once, John McEnroe had almost nothing to say. He fled in the rain today, along with his soaked and sunken U.S. Davis Cup team, taken down by the Spanish armada in the semifinals.

For once, John McEnroe had almost nothing to say. He fled in the rain today, along with his soaked and sunken U.S. Davis Cup team, taken down by the Spanish armada in the semifinals.

For the first time in 101 years of Davis Cup play, the United States suffered a 5-0 thrashing without the title on the line. "I'm totally spent, I'm deflated," McEnroe said after fleeing the stadium following the last two meaningless matches.

He spoke hours later by phone from his car on the way to the airport in Bilbao. "It was tough for me, and it was tough for everybody," he said. "I feel like I'm going to throw up. I'm not sure if it's emotional or what."

With the victory already clinched, today's matches served only to pad Spain's margin and underscore the weakness of the American team. Juan Balcells, Spain's weakest player, beat Jan-Michael Gambill 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 amid thunder, lightning and driving rain after Juan Carlos Ferrero downed Vince Spadea 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Only twice before in the open era - in finals against Australia in 1973 and Sweden in 1997 - did the United States lose so badly. Five other 5-0 losses for the Americans also came in finals.

For all practical purposes, the Americans were dead on arrival, their demise virtually guaranteed the moment Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi begged off by claiming injuries. "Personally, I think that he was angry about Sampras and Agassi," Spanish captain Javier Duarte said of McEnroe. "It's a difficult situation, but I think he is feeling awful for that. Perhaps more than the defeat."

The United States has won the Davis Cup 31 times, more than any other country, since Dwight Davis and his Harvard chums claimed the first one in 1900. But the future looks mighty bleak for the Americans in the next few years, regardless of whether McEnroe stays as captain.

Sampras will be 30 next year and Agassi and Todd Martin will be 31. The likelihood of them carrying the Davis Cup team once more, or even wanting to, is slim. Nor are there any Americans on the horizon to take their place among the best in the world. Gambill is good, but at 23 he still has to prove he's even a top 10 player. Andy Roddick, coming out of the juniors, may develop into a great player, but that could be a long way off.

McEnroe signed a three-year deal last year with every intention of restoring the lost glory of Davis Cup in the United States. In the 1920s, '30s and '40s, Davis Cup was among the biggest events on the American sports calendar, rivaling any of the majors. McEnroe brought back some of its popularity in the late 1970s and early '80s, when he helped win four championships in five years, and he thought his name and status and love of the cup would bring back the top players.

"Either it's bad luck or I haven't made a difference," McEnroe said at the start of this series. "I'm not sure what it is at this point. Obviously one of the reasons I was hired was so that I would make a difference in getting the players to play. Well, I clearly haven't succeeded. I'd like to think it's bad luck."

Sampras was willing to play through pain to win Wimbledon. But even with a week to rest the tendinitis above his left ankle, he was unwilling to come to Spain. Agassi claimed a fender bender left him with back spasms too severe to play. Agassi produced a doctor's note, but don't expect him to miss any tournaments on the way to the U.S. Open.

Sampras and Agassi had said all year that they were committed to Davis Cup this time around, and when they backed out they let down not just McEnroe and their teammates, but American tennis fans who still believe this is important.

Yet, for Sampras and Agassi the decision to save their bodies for the U.S. Open next month is a no-brainer. Davis Cup may be hugely important in Spain and Australia, in Sweden and France and in dozens of other countries, but in the United States it's outdated.

McEnroe's dream of putting the Davis Cup at least on par with golf's Ryder Cup in the United States will remain a fantasy as long as the top American players stay away. And they will stay away as long as the format remains as it is, with matches spread out throughout the year and coming at times, like this one, right after a major tournament.

The top American golfers are eager to play Ryder Cup, and honoured when they are named to the team. But that's one week every two years. Winning Davis Cup means a commitment of four weeks of play a year, plus travel to and from such far-flung sites as Zimbabwe and Australia.

"Ideally, we should have gotten here earlier, but it doesn't work that way anymore," McEnroe said after Spain won the first two singles matches. "It just doesn't happen. You're lucky if guys show up by Sunday. ... The question now for McEnroe is whether he wants to continue as captain.

"I'm no quitter," he said in one breath, but in another he talked about how difficult the job has been, how much time it's taken, how disappointed he is with players showing up, and how tough it is to fit in with his role as parent, his job as a TV commentator, and his commitments to the seniors tour.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial