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McEnroe recruits himself to Cup team

With key players out, U.S. captain gets resourceful

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NEW YORK— John McEnroe knew there was one player who wouldn't turn down an invitation to play in the Davis Cup.

John McEnroe, 41.

The U.S. captain, who often complains he has a hard time persuading top players to show up for the international competition, put his own name among the list of four he announced Wednesday for the July 21-23 semifinal against Spain.

McEnroe, who would only play doubles, was forced into the move.

Andre Agassi strained his back in a minor car accident last weekend, while Pete Sampras — who's had his differences with McEnroe in the past — is hobbled by a shin injured while winning Wimbledon for his record 13th Grand Slam title.

Todd Martin, Jan-Michael Gambill and Chris Woodruff, who lost in the second round of the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I., on Wednesday, fill out the U.S. roster.

None of them is ranked in the top 25.

"We've lost two of the best players that ever played. This certainly has not turned out the way I had it planned out in my mind," McEnroe said.

"I haven't been that successful in getting the players to play. Todd was injured. Pete was unavailable for the first match. Now Pete and Andre. (Michael) Chang has said 'No' both times that I've asked him to play. Jim Courier recently retired."

Agassi's car was rear-ended as he rode to his Las Vegas home from the airport after returning from Wimbledon on Sunday, the U.S. Tennis Association said. Agassi has muscle spasms on the right side of his back and can't raise his right arm above his shoulder, said Dr. George Fareed of the Davis Cup medical staff.

"You're counting on Andre to pull out a couple of wins in singles and maybe pull out the doubles, too," McEnroe said. "It's like if Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal got hurt. We lost our main guys, the best guys."

McEnroe can substitute any of his four players up to 10 minutes before the July 20 draw for the semifinal, which will be played on red clay in Santander, Spain.

"I haven't actually decided to compete at the moment. I've been looking at calling another couple players I haven't been able to reach," McEnroe said. "These pullouts came very recently. This is a stopgap solution at the moment.

"There's a chance I won't play. There's also a chance I will."

McEnroe was passionate about the Davis Cup during his playing days.

The Hall of Famer helped win five Davis Cup championships and had a 59-10 record in 12 years of competition. He holds six U.S. records, including most singles (41) and total victories.

The United States, which last won the championship in 1995, had to rebound from 2-1 deficits in each of the first two rounds this year against Zimbabwe and the Czech Republic.

Now the Americans face a tougher opponent in Spain, which has three team members — Alex Corretja, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Albert Costa — who reached the quarterfinals at the French Open, the only Grand Slam event played on clay.

"We had our hands full even if we had the best guys. (Spain has) three of top 10 in the world on clay," McEnroe said. "We're going to be huge underdogs. If we can pull this one out of the hat, it will be a real victory."