U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe has more control over the environment of the upcoming final against Russia than most coaches in international sports could dream of. He's able to handpick and personally test the surface and the U.S. Tennis Association consults closely with him on the site.
But there's one thing McEnroe will just have to live with, somewhat unhappily, at the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 championships: unlimited challenges on electronic line calls, mandated by the International Tennis Federation, which runs the tournament.
"I'm totally against it," McEnroe said candidly to reporters on a Tuesday afternoon conference call when ESPN.com popped the question. "I think it should be similar to what it is at the Slams. I think it's a mistake.
"But at the end of the day, it's an ITF event and they make the rules. The players will adjust and we'll adapt."
The ITF's position is that because players can challenge any call on clay courts, where the ball leaves a visible mark that can be inspected by the chair umpire, consistency dictates that the Hawk-eye system be available for any call a player wants questioned on another surface. The USTA, an early proponent of Hawk-eye, favors limited challenges -- two per set, one extra for a tiebreak -- and the Australian Open and Wimbledon organizers have followed suit.
That disagreement prevented Hawk-eye from being used at the Davis Cup quarterfinals against Spain in Winston-Salem, N.C., last April. But the ITF is insisting that the system be implemented in Portland, Ore., for the final.
Hawk-Eye was used in the Argentina-Russia final in Moscow last year on an indoor hard court, with unlimited challenges. Players disputed 3.55 calls per set over five matches, not a vast difference from what they would have been permitted in a Slam.
McEnroe, a veteran television commentator, said he likes electronic line-calling in general and the way it involves the crowd in particular, but fears unlimited challenges could be used as "gamesmanship to stall or just get inside their opponent's head."
Davis Cup doubles stalwarts Bob and Mike Bryan were similarly dubious when the subject was broached to them last week. "It could affect the rhythm of a match," Bob Bryan said. "Someone could use a few to slow things down."
Yet the twins prefer having some kind of challenge system to none at all. They said it feels strange not to have the option when they're on outer courts at a Slam. "Bad calls are more evident in Davis Cup," Bob Bryan said. "The whole sideline jumps up, the player gets riled up because there's more pressure."
Said brother Mike: "It could give us the Davis Cup, which would be good, and it could take it away."
Q factors: Sam Querrey just passed one major milestone and he's approaching another. Querrey turned 20 earlier this month, permanently shedding his teenage skin, and his first full season as a pro is winding down.
It's been a mixed bag. Querrey played a moderately full calendar and as of this week, he'd lost one more match than he'd won (19-20). His best showing in a Grand Slam came early, in the Australian Open, where he reached the third round. Querrey went out in the first round of the other three Slams, though he still considers his five-set loss to a French qualifier at Roland Garros notable.
"I thought I played really well this season on clay, even though I only won one match," Querrey told ESPN.com in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he was working his fourth shift as a Davis Cup practice partner. "Lost a close one to [Tommy] Haas, lost a close one to [Gael] Monfils, lost a close one to [Juan] Monaco -- so I was losing to quality players. It's a grind going to Europe and doing that, but I think it really helped me. I'm going to do it again next year."
The comment indicates that the even-keeled Querrey is probably exactly where he should be -- soaking up knowledge and thinking as much about effort as results. He stuck with the status quo during this transition season, returning to his hometown of Thousand Oaks, Calif., to stay with his parents between tournaments and continuing to work with Grant Doyle, his coach since age 16.
The 6-foot-6-inch Querrey reached a high of No. 47 in August following good showings on the U.S. summer hard-court circuit. He lost to James Blake in the Indianapolis quarterfinals, serving what is believed to be an Open-era record of 10 consecutive aces in that match, and reached the Indianapolis semifinals before losing to Russia's Dmitry Tursunov.
Since then, Querrey has struggled a bit, dropping his first matches at the U.S. Open, Bangkok and Tokyo and falling in the second round of a Challenger tournament in Sacramento, Calif., last week. He's No. 60 this week and has just two more tournaments -- in Lyon, France and the Masters Series event in Paris -- to scramble back into the top 50, his year-end goal.
Doyle praised Querrey's progress but said mental fatigue has been a factor late in the season, underscoring the need to put the finishing touches on becoming a pro.
"He needs to prepare himself for every match, and he needs to prepare for players that are lower-ranked than him, where he's expected to win," the coach said from Austin, Texas, where Querrey is training with Andy Roddick this week. "That's one of the big reasons his performances have been so up and down."
This week's most intriguing tennis reference in a nonsports publication: The Oct. 15 issue of the New Yorker magazine has a lengthy story about recent neurological research on patients in a vegetative state. British neuroscientist Adrian Owen, who studies brain activity in patients who cannot speak or respond physically, told writer Jerome Groopman that he wanted to devise a mental task that would show whether certain parts of the brain were stimulated. "He decided to ask them to imagine playing tennis,'' Groopman wrote.
As Owen explained, "We chose sports, and tried to find one that involved a lot of upper-body movements and not too much running around." (Must be a serve-and-volley fan.) Owen first took brain scans of 34 healthy people to isolate the part of the brain "activated" by virtual tennis, then gave verbal instructions to a woman who had been in a vegetative state since suffering severe injuries in a car accident.
"The woman had to be able to retrieve a memory of tennis -- including a conception of forehand and backhand and how the ball and racquet meet -- and focus her attention for at least 30 seconds," Groopman wrote. "To Owen's astonishment, she passed the test. 'Lo and behold, she produced a beautiful activation, indistinguishable from those of the group of normal volunteers,' he said."
Must read: Anyone interested in a thorough historical review of the match-fixing issue that has preoccupied tennis over the past couple of months should check out Court Coverage, the independent Web site run by Kamakshi Tandon, who is also the Web editor for TENNIS.com. Tandon has assembled a lengthy, informative chronology of stories on the issue, tied together with her own narrative.
Bonnie D. Ford is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.