Blake Makes It To The Third Round

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Andy Roddick may be retiring, but James Blake is still going strong.

Actually, he’s better than strong, he looks downright deadly after today’s second round win over No. 24 seed Marcel Granollers, 6-1 6-4 6-2.

“Yeah, today’s match was one of the best matches I played in years I think,” Blake said.  “I served really well.  I took care of my serve.  I don’t think he had a breakpoint all match.  That doesn’t happen with me.  I’m not Andy Roddick.  I don’t go through matches like that that often, especially against a guy that’s 20‑something in the world that’s known to be a pretty darn good returner and very solid.

“I think that was a good testament to how well I was serving and how well I was taking care of my serve, which puts a lot of pressure on him, which is going to work out for me.  Any time I get to take chances to take rips on my returns, because I’m serving so well, I think it’s going to be a good matchup for me.”

Blake was able to take the match from the beginning with Granollers not able to handle the veteran’s serves. He looked strong and made very few mistakes.

He credits himself from being healthy and now playing his best tennis in years. In fact, if it wasn’t for this run, Blake may have had a presser today to announce his retirement.

“Everyone’s at different points,” he said.  “I’d say if this was going on three months ago, I might have had a different answer.  I might have been thinking a lot more seriously about it, too.

“It’s funny now, I feel like I’ve got sort of a youthful exuberance out there again.  My match tonight, I think a couple years ago, five years ago, six years ago, I would think this is a relatively routine win, get through it, get to the next round, thinking about that.

“I’m going to try to enjoy this.  I’m excited now.  It’s a lot of fun because I went through a pretty tough time.  With my knee injury and surgery, I really thought it might be time.  It might be time to call it a career.  Now that it’s not and I feel good again, it’s fun.

“It’s so much fun to keep getting better because for six months or so earlier this year, I didn’t feel like I was getting better.  I didn’t feel like I could improve or compete.”

Blake also credits fatherhood for giving him a new lease on life. With the birth of his new daughter, he now sees why life short and to enjoy everything every day.

“Fatherhood has been unbelievable,” he said.  “Now it’s tough to imagine it beforehand.  I didn’t expect it to be so great, so exciting so fast.  It was something where I think I was thinking about it, and I thought, I kind of want the kid to come out at two or three years old, walking and talking and stuff.  I didn’t realize the baby stage can be so much fun, when they fall asleep on your chest, when they’re cooing a little bit, thrashing around on their play mat.  Everything about it is so much fun.

“Now I can’t imagine life before Riley”

And we can’t imagine tennis without Blake. So hopefully he postpones his retirement for a number of years.



The Sharapova Express Derails

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The Maria Sharapova Express hit a derailment today.

The 2006 US Open Champion was supposed to go pretty far in this tournament after fully coming back from her shoulder surgery and receiving the No. 3 seed.

But Italian Flavia Pennetta had something else to say about that with a 6-3 3-6 6-4 win over the Russian by the way of Florida in the third round of the US Open.

“I made way too many unforced errors,” she said.  “I fought back to get myself back in the match in the third set.  I think the first three, four games on every game I had a chance to win that game, whether it was a breakpoint or it was a game point on my serve, and I didn’t win those games.

“When you’re done 1‑4 and you get yourself back in a position where can you win again and start making errors, it’s just too inconsistent to win the match against her.”

Sharapova committed 60 unforced errors with 29 coming in the first set and 12 double faults in the match compared to only 35 self inflicted wounds by her Italian counterpart and only six giveaways.

She said she didn’t “feel comfortable” all game and just couldn’t get on track.

And when she got it in the third Sharapova couldn’t sustain her undefeated 2011 in third set. And even with that kind of confidence, it didn’t matter.

“I never think I’m going to lose the match, no matter if I’m 1‑4 or 0‑5,” she said. “I don’t have that mentality that I’m going to lose no matter how bad or how good I’m playing.  You can’t have that mentality.”

And thus another disappointing Open for the Russian. Even though she went to the Finals at Wimbledon, the 24 year-old leaves Flushing before Labor Day with the hopes of maybe a better Asian season this fall.

“I’m not really looking forward to a 14‑hour flight in a couple of weeks,” she said dryly.  “Yeah, the year is not over.  We’ve still got ‑‑ I think I still have three tournaments to go or so.

“Yeah, once they come then it will be time to play again and raise my level.  Until then, I just have to, you know, keep working in order for me to go out in the match and raise it.”

Youzhny Into The Quarters

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Transforming his Head into a helmet, Mikhail Youzhny looks a little like a military man in issuing his trademark four-corner salute after each US Open victory. On this day the Russian played the role of traffic cop in giving Tommy Robredo the runaround before bringing the Spaniard’s roll to a halt.

The 12th-seeded Russian with the buzz cut trimmed Robredo 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, to advance to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2006 when he beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals before bowing to Andy Roddick in the semifinals.

The 28-year-old Youzhny will face either 20th-seeded Sam Querrey or 25th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Youzhny gained internet notoriety when he slammed his racquet repeatedly against his forehead in frustration during a masochist match moment in Miami.

He actually drew blood in bashing himself in the head, but these days a more stable Youzhny slices opponents apart then transforms his Head racquet into a helmet saluting fans at the end of  a match.

“(It is) just salute for thanks for crowd, you know,” Youzhny said. “A lot of guys are kiss their hands and say thanks, put racquet up and say thanks.  I do like this one.”

Youzhny takes the ball earlier than Robredo, hits flatter and was extremely effective creating court openings he exploited driving his one-handed backhand down the line. It’s a play particularly effective against Robredo, who gives up court space to run around his backhand and fire his favor forehand.

“I like how I played today. Of course, I have some mistakes,” Youzhny said. “I was a little bit lucky in fourth set.  Maybe not a little bit when I have first net ball and breakpoint; but I have some chances in third set. I think first set was Tommy played better than me, but third set maybe I play better than Tommy.  So that’s why second set just Tommy make a lot of mistakes.  That’s it was so easy and so fast.”

Four years ago, Youzhny reduced Nadal into the role of retriever, sending the World No. 2 scurrying from one side-to-side  like a lost tourist trying to avoid traffic while crossing the Grand Central Parkway.

He will likely be doing a lot more running himself against either Querrey or Wawrinka, but has the ability to play with either man. Youzhny is 1-0 vs. Querrey and 2-2 lifetime vs. Wawrinka.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of