Home advantage a big plus for America, says McEnroe

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NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters) Patrick McEnroe, the captain of the US Davis Cup team, hopes home-court advantage will make the difference against Russia in the final.

The United States, striving for their first Davis Cup title in 12 years, meet defending champions Russia in the final in Portland, Oregon, from November 30-December 2.

''I think they've gotten even more and more important to me and to the guys as the years have gone on and this team has been together,'' McEnroe said in a conference call yesterday.

''I guess the importance of the matches has really grown for me because you realise how fleeting the opportunities are.'' The Americans lost in the 2004 Davis Cup Final to Spain in Seville, and fell to Sweden in the 1997 final in Gothenburg.

''There's no doubt that the home court is a big advantage,'' McEnroe said of the fast, indoor hardcourt at the 12,000-seater sold out Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

''I try to do everything I can as the captain to give my guys the best chance to play well in the match and to make it as tough as possible for the opponents.'' World number five Andy Roddick and James Blake (eight) are the singles mainstays of the U.S. squad with the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, set to play the doubles.

'NUMBER ONE PRIORITY' Russia, which beat Argentina for the title last year in Moscow, have a deeper squad to choose from including Nikolay Davydenko (four), Mikhail Youzhny (18), Dmitry Tursunov (28), Igor Andreev (33) and Marat Safin (36).

McEnroe, in his seventh year as captain, said losing to Spain in 2004 only bolstered their desire for victory.

''I think playing in the final in Spain, when the Davis Cup is sitting right there, right on the court, is pretty awesome,'' said McEnroe.

''It's a pretty awe-inspiring experience. It's been a huge goal of ours as a team to try to win it and to hopefully do it. To have it at home, we all realise that's an advantage for us.'' McEnroe said he would be testing the court surface ahead of the matches to ensure it best suits his players, chasing the first US Davis Cup triumph since 1995 on clay in Moscow.

American number one Roddick pulled out of a tournament in Madrid over concerns about a knee injury, highlighting how determined he is to protect his fitness for the Davis Cup final.

''He's been our leader for so many years,'' McEnroe said. ''I think he can taste it.

''Certainly as the captain, it's a pleasure to hear him say that Davis Cup is his number one priority.'' REUTERS BJR ND1408

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