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McEnroe pins hopes on young guns

New York: Newly-crowned US Open champion Pete Sampras and runner-up Andre Agassi were not in the US squad to face France in the Davis Cup semi-final at Roland Garros.

Instead captain Patrick McEnroe will hang his hopes in Paris on youngsters Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish. Davis Cup veteran Todd Martin completes the quartet.

“I think I had a very, very good discussion finally with Pete last night,” said McEnroe, adding that he was also turned down by Agassi, who had already indicated he had no plans to play Davis Cup this season. “Obviously he’s exhausted and sky high in some ways after what he did in thrilling all of us at the US Open.

“I think Pete needs some time to digest what happened, think about what he wants to do, whether that means not play the rest of this year, whether that means maybe not even play again. I think he’s just worn out. I certainly understand that, he needs to rest now.”

While the quality of Sampras and Agassi will be missed by McEnroe, he believes that the enthusiasm of the young generation can play a big role. “Obviously I feel we need guys there that are going to bring a lot of energy to the table,” he said. “With James and Andy especially, as we look ahead to the singles, being our two singles players, that’s who we have, and that’s what I want to have.”

Sampras stunned the tennis world on Sunday when he defied the odds, age, fatigue and an army of critics to claim a fifth US Open title with a stirring 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory.

It was Sampras’ first victory in more than two years, a drought stretching back to Wimbledon 2000, and gave the 31-year-old an unprecedented 14th career Grand Slam title. None of those titles, however, came on the Roland Garros clay where the tie will be played on September 20-22.

The 20-year-old Roddick will lead the team in Paris buoyed by an impressive Davis Cup singles record of 7-0, equalling Agassi’s start in Davis Cup play in 1988 and 1989. Blake is also unbeaten in the Davis Cup with a 5-0 record (3-0 in singles).

Last week, French captain Guy Forget named Sebastien Grosjean, Arnaud Clement, Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra.

“I think our chances are excellent, I felt that from the beginning,” said McEnroe. “I think France obviously has very good players. They’re picking clay because they think it’s our worst surface but I believe that Andy and James have games that are very transferable to clay.”

The US and France have met 13 times in the competition with the Americans leading 7-6. The last meeting was in the first round in 1995 when the US won 4-1 in Florida.

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