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.

 

 

Fish and Querrey Split Against Colombia

Patrick McEnroe wanted to make a statement with this Davis Cup team. Instead of going with the veterans, who have helped him over the past 10 years, he decided to make his swan song with youth by taking Ryan Harrison, John Isner, and Sam Querrey with him to Bogota.

Yet, it was the old man of the team in Mardy Fish who save the United States in their Davis Cup match against Colombia.

The 28 year-old Fish, who has made a tremendous comeback this year, pulled out a five set thriller over Alejandro Falla 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the best-of-five.

And it came in handy, because Querrey was not able to pull off the sweep, being downed Santiago Giraldo, 2-6 4-6 7-5.

“We’ve been in this situation before a few times — in a relegation match at 1-1 going into doubles,” McEnroe said to reporters in Bogota. “I feel good about our doubles. We have three players who have played together so there are a lot of options. I like that we have three or four players available tomorrow and Sunday.”

Both Fish and Querrey seemed to have problems adjusting to the altitude. At an estimated 8700 feet, it is the highest elevation either player has played. And McEnroe believes the higher elevation was the reason both players dropped the first set of their respective matches.

“The first set of both matches was pretty rough for us,” McEnroe said. “We practiced well all week, but you can’t simulate match conditions. Moving forward I think we’re in good shape now that the guys have gotten a match under their belts at the altitude.”

Querrey also said he was caught off guard during his match.

“I wasn’t surprised how well he (Giraldo) played,” Querrey said. “I have seen him play before and he hits the ball low and flat which is perfect for these conditions. It is difficult to adjust to the altitude.”

Fish, though, was able to adjust to the heights and even took the send and third sets in the match, but couldn’t close it out in the fourth. It took a veteran’s fifth set for Fish to pull out the match.

“The key was staying ahead in the fifth set,” Fish said. “I had some tough games to hold but was always able to stay ahead of him. When he (Falla) had to serve to stay into it at 5-4, that’s when all the pressure kicked in.”

It was also difficult to get adjusted to the surface. After two months on the hard courts, this series will be played on red clay, something most of the Americans consider their worst surface.

“He (Falla) hits the ball flat and I think he would have preferred a hard court,” Fish said. “We both would have preferred to play on a hard court. Maybe the tennis would be a little bit better.”

Tomorrow it may be as doubles take place. Colombia is expected to field the team of Robert Farah and Carlos Salamanca. The Americans have announced they will counter with Ryan Harrison and John Isner, although Fish said to reporters after his singles victory that he would be ready to step in.

Reverse singles are Sunday.

If the U.S. loses this quarterfinal, then it will be eliminated from Davis Cup play in 2011, only the second time in the country’s history.

Wozniacki Has Bright Future Ahead

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s not easy losing the US Open after a tremendous run, but Caroline Wozniacki has nothing to be embarrassed about.

“There was nothing I could do anymore,” she said. “I lost the last point and I lost the match. She just played better than me. I really did my best. I tried my hardest, and I had a great two weeks. I think it’s just about enjoying the moment, enjoy and enjoy that you were in the finals and just be happy about that.

“Because, I mean, if I started saying, Oh, I should have won, I should have done this and that, I think that would be kind of a sin. I’ve really done great, and I think I should be proud what I’ve achieved.”

Wozniacki didn’t lose the match because she wasn’t talented enough to stay with champion Kim Clijsters – losing 5-7, 3-6 – but the 19 year-old lacked experience. You can see it in the first set as the veteran Belgian lost four games in a row, but then started to make adjustments to Wozniacki’s game.

And although, Wozniacki was two points away from the set, Clijsters would not let her Danish counterpart close her out.

That’s the mark of a champion.

“The first couple of games I wanted to get into the match,” Wozniacki said. “I wanted to just know what I’m up against, and I fast found out that I’m up against a really strong player that doesn’t give away any free points.

“I really had to fight for it. I mean, she played really well. She played aggressive. I mean, yeah, she’s playing really well.”

Clijsters used her experience to move up on Wozniacki as the match went on. Playing on the baseline for most of the first set, she learned that she could come in and volley the ball against her opponent.

The first set was also a return game with six breaks and neither player establishing their serve, but Clijsters was able to do that in the second, which made Wozniacki easy pickings.

“Actually, I feel like I’ve been serving really well the whole tournament, and also today I had parts where I was serving well,” Wozniacki said. “I think, I need some more experience. And, I mean, of course, when I came to the net I was doing the right thing. Sometimes I just missed, and that’s tennis. You can’t hit everything straight.

“But of course all the volleys I wished I could have, you know, finished them up.”

That will come in time. Wozniacki established herself as a force on the tour this year with seven finals under her belt. Although for the first week and a half of the tournament the story was Melanie Oudin, this 19 year-old was the real story and one that has a very bright future ahead.

“Obviously I don’t like losing,” she said. I’m a competitor and I love winning. But I think I’ve had some great weeks here. I mean, I was in the finals of a Grand Slam. I’m only 19 years old, like you were saying.

“I mean, my ranking will go up again, and I’m just happy the way I’m playing and the way I’ve been progressing so far. I feel like, yeah, I’m playing good tennis.”

And that’s all that matters.

A The Old Age of 26, Clijsters Is Enjoying Her Tennis Life

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Tennis may be the only sport where 26 is considered old. And Kim Clijsters is feeling it. The comeback kid on the tournament – who beat China’s Na Li in straight sets today, 6-2, 6-4, to earn a trip to the Semifinals – knows she’s not a teenager anymore.

“I definitely think my face has definitely changed over the years,” said the unseeded Clijsters. “I think when I was 15, 16 coming on, I remember Wimbledon, when I did well there, you know, I really had to stop myself from like asking everybody for autographs in the locker room and everything.

“I just remember just being so in awe with everything that was happening around me and then playing on the center court and everything. It just overwhelms you a little bit. You kind of just forget what you have to do out there to play good tennis.”

Yet now Clijsters is a veteran and even though she’s been away from the game for two years, the 2005 US Open Champion knows that an older tennis player needs to play wiser, yet sometimes you have to go past your limits.

“I believe that you shouldn’t focus on stopping at your limit,” she said. “I think you can always improve and improve, you know, where, in a match you don’t have to reach that far. I think that’s why we train and that’s why we have, you know, very intense workouts months before you get to a tournament is so that you can go out there and not worrying about, you know, I’m getting close to my limit. I have to slow down a little bit or anything.

“So I think that’s something that is mentally very important I think for any player, is knowing that, you know, I’ve worked out a lot harder in practice or in the gym or anything, so I know that I’m capable of doing it during a match, whether it’s a three-set match or even for the men a five-set match.”

Although overshadowed by up and comers like Melanie Oudin and Caroline Wozniacki, Clijsters has been one of the major stories at the Open, she will face the winner of Serena Williams/Flavia Pennetta match later tonight.

Much like Clijsters, Williams is a veteran on the tour – she’s actually a year older than Belgian – and they faced each other 10 years ago when they were just teenagers, like the 17 year-old Oudin and 19 year-old Wozniacki.

“I remember playing against her here a few years ago or many, many years ago, let’s say,” she said. “I think it was 2000 or ’99 even, so ten years ago -whew – where I was kind of in a similar situation as maybe Oudin or someone where you’re up and you’re playing those big matches.

“But it was fun. It’s just great. But that’s where I first saw, you know, the type of players that, you know, the type of player that Serena is. She was missing a few more shots. I was kind of just bringing a lot of balls back and she was kind of missing them. But then at 5-2 in the third set where I was up, she just, bang, started going for aces, started hitting winners. Like something switched in her head.”

Yet, Williams needs to beat Pannetta to have a date with Clijsters, and the crafty veteran will be ready for either player.

“You know, she’s a good friend, and I was extremely happy for her when she reached a top 10 ranking,” Clijsters said. “Probably I think it was after Cincinnati, she got to her first top 10 ranking. So that was really nice to just see that. She’s worked very hard and she’s a fun girl, as well. She’s improved her game.”

And if Clijsters is able to move on, she could face one of the teenagers in the Finals, something, the youthful veteran would look forward to challenging.

“I love watching Oudin play, Wozniacki, Wickmayer, it’s so much fun for me to just watch on TV and see the emotions that come out of them when they win a match,” Clijsters said. “I get so happy when I just see that.

“But then again, I think, you know, I’m talking to like my coach and everyone, Wow, she’s only 17. They were like, Yeah, but you were like that. You don’t think like that at the moment. You don’t really think about the age or anything. Unless like now that I’m older, I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, you know, they’re young.’ You see that, the new face that’s still on there. They enjoy everything so much and they look at things in a different way when they get to a Grand Slam, because it’s so new.”

Spoken like at true veteran at age 26.