By The Associated Press
First Andy Roddick, now Patrick McEnroe. The United States’ men’s tennis team at the Beijing Olympics will be missing the top player and the captain from the squad that ended the country’s 12-year championship drought in the Davis Cup.
McEnroe told the U.S. Tennis Association he did not want to return as Olympic tennis coach, a job he held at the 2004 Athens Games. Instead, Rodney Harmon will lead the American men in Beijing, pending U.S. Olympic Committee approval.
“I just felt like, I’ve been there, I was lucky enough to have the experience,” McEnroe said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve been the captain for eight years. It seemed like a good opportunity for someone else to have that experience.”
Jay Berger was chosen as Harmon’s assistant.
The USTA is expected to announce the selections of Harmon and Berger — along with Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison as the women’s Olympic tennis coach and Lori McNeil as her assistant — on Tuesday. Garrison won a gold medal and a bronze medal as a player at the 1988 Olympics, and she coached the U.S. women in 2004.
Harmon, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 1982, is heading to his first Olympics. He’s been the director of men’s tennis for the USTA’s player development program since 2002.
“It’s a tremendous honor and a great opportunity to work with some of the best players in the world at one of the greatest events in the world,” said Harmon, the Big East Conference tennis coach of the year in 1997 at Miami.
News of McEnroe’s choice to bypass Beijing comes shortly after word emerged that Roddick will skip the Olympics to focus on preparing for the U.S. Open, the site of his only Grand Slam title.
“We really came to it separately,” McEnroe said. “It wasn’t something where we made the decision together in any way.”
The No. 6-ranked Roddick announced last week he would defend his title at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, a hard-court tournament that runs Aug. 11-17, the same dates as the Olympic tennis competition. The U.S. Open begins Aug. 25.
“Andy has to do what he feels is in his best interest,” Harmon said in a telephone interview.
McEnroe and Roddick helped the United States win the 2007 Davis Cup, beating Russia in the final. When the team defeated Austria in February in the first round of the 2008 event, McEnroe told his players that he wouldn’t be going to Beijing.
“If all the guys came to me and said, ‘Hey, Patrick, we really need you to come,’ I would have considered that,” McEnroe said. “They know how much I support them, and if there’s anything I can do to help them prepare, I’ll do it. I’m in touch with them pretty regularly.”
But he said a busy summer and fall travel schedule, including television work at Grand Slam tournaments and his Davis Cup duties, contributed to his opting out of the trip to China.
“It’s obviously a long way to go,” McEnroe said. “I can’t lie. If it were in New York City, I might reconsider.”
Davis Cup regulars James Blake and twins Bob and Mike Bryan figure to be top choices for Harmon’s Olympic roster. The U.S. tennis teams for Beijing will be based on the rankings of June 9, the day after the French Open ends.
In 2004, the American contingent came away with one medal, Mardy Fish’s silver in men’s singles.
“I feel like Rodney’s fully prepared,” McEnroe said, “and I feel like as a country we have a good chance to bring medals home, on both the men’s and women’s side.”