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August 15, 2005

James Blake


THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, James Blake. Questions, please.

Q. It seemed like you had some opportunities out there, just couldn't capitalize?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, definitely. I think, you know, I played pretty well, but obviously not well enough to win. I really don't think Roger was at his best right now. He hasn't played in a little while, which I don't say as an insult, I say as a compliment. I think he beat me with less than 100% tonight, and that's something that guys on the top are able to do - come up big on breakpoints, come up big in the tiebreaker. He really did raise his game. Puts a little pressure on me when I know I've got to do something special to break him or come up with something a little better. Maybe I tried a little too much on a few of those breakpoints and he took advantage, and then he never gave up, you know. Being down Love-40 on my service game, he still played a great game from there on out. I felt I should hold every time I'm up 40-Love, but I can't fault myself too much for the way I played the rest of those points; he really attacked me on every single one. I wish I could have won it, but, you know, he played pretty well when it came down to crunch time.

Q. Do you feel maybe you almost have to be perfect?

JAMES BLAKE: You have to play pretty close to perfect. You don't have to play perfect, obviously. But like you said, I had opportunities. So a couple of those breakpoints go my way, you know, anything can happen once you get a breakpoint. You can get a let cord, you can hit a line, you can just come up with a big shot. So if a couple of those go my way, I feel like I can at least get the second set. Then if you win one set, you can win two. I don't think you have to play it completely perfect. But, like I said, he wasn't at his best. I don't think I saw his best tonight. I think he will get better as the tournament goes on. That seems to be the pattern with the guys at the top; your best chance is to beat them in the first or second round. He gave me a few opportunities tonight, and now that he's gotten through that, I think he'll be even more of a nightmare for the rest of the guys in the field.

Q. After Washington and this tonight, do you feel it all coming together for you?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. I can't say it's right after that. I think I felt like I was pretty confident going into the whole hard court season. It was just a matter of matches similar to this where it was a couple points here or there that I lost. I feel like it was a matter of time until I strung together a few where I got those wins, because I felt like I was playing pretty well. Luckily, it came in Washington, a place where I'm familiar with, a place where I'm familiar with succeeding. So that was a good feeling. But I've been pretty confident since we came off the grass in the way I've been playing, so I'm excited about that. I'm excited now to go to New Haven, close to home, I'll be staying at my home, in my own bed, which is great. Then the US Open, which is the next best thing to my home turf, it's just an hour away from where I grew up. That's always fun - hometown crowd, tons of fans, tons of friends and family. I feel really good going into those. Hopefully, I won't see Roger in the first or second round in New York.

Q. What was your reaction when you saw the draw?

JAMES BLAKE: It was actually mild surprise. Because the day before the draw came out, Thursday, I was having dinner with Mardy Fish in Tampa and he just asked, "All right, who's the first person that comes to mind? Who do you think you're going to play here?" And I said Roger. He's like, "No, no, I don't think so." Then next day, sure enough, I play Roger. So I was -- felt like maybe that was a good sign, maybe that meant I was gonna beat him. But didn't quite come through.

Q. You come to Cincinnati, it's almost like you're the hometown kid. There's kind of a Cincinnati chemistry. What does that do for your game when you're playing here even though it's not really your hometown? You really had the crowd on your side tonight.

JAMES BLAKE: It helps. I think they're always cheering for an underdog against someone that's so accomplished as Roger. But, you know, that year I played here with Todd Martin and we won the doubles, it seemed like we just had a great time on the court and the fans appreciated that. We did everything we could in terms of signing autographs, being accessible to fans. Todd was towards the end of his career; I was towards the beginning of my career. People could really see the connection we had out there with him kind of being like a mentor to me. I think they kind of saw me growing up that whole week, and that makes for a connection. Any time you have a connection with the fans, it goes a long way. I love playing here. Like I said, that was one of the better weeks of my career and jump-started me to the next week, winning my first career title in singles, too. I've had some good times here. It's such a good feeling to have fans on your side. It's tough enough to play against the No. 1 player in the world, but if you don't have the fans on your side either, makes it even tougher. Having them, it gives me a little boost. When, you know, you get to breakpoint and they're really cheering you on, they really want to see you break, they really want to see you come up with something special, that's a great feeling. Like you said, I'm not from here, but it does feel like it when I'm playing in front of these fans.

Q. Beyond how he plays, how would you say Roger has handled being No. 1 and having the fame that goes along with that?

JAMES BLAKE: I think if possible even better than the way he plays. It's been pretty much flawless. He hasn't changed a bit. He hasn't been arrogant in the locker room; he never is. You know, that's great to see someone that does it with class. He doesn't intentionally get in anyone's face. He doesn't put people down. He goes about his business, he does everything he can, and he's still very accessible to fans. He's accessible, I'm sure, to the media; I'm sure they'll tell you the same thing. To put a -- to add an anecdote to how great of a person he is, when I broke my neck last year in Rome, I got a visit from a couple of the Americans, but I got one note in the hospital and that was from Roger saying, "We'll miss you and we really hope you get back here quickly." That says a lot about a person that's No. 1 in the world and doesn't need another friend out here. He really is a class act. I applaud him for being a champion on and off the court.

Q. What do you think it would take for him to kind of light a fire as far as the American audience coming to his game and his way of play?

JAMES BLAKE: Get an American passport (smiling). I mean, that's the only thing I can think of. It seems that the American fans are going to always be partial to Andy Roddick, myself, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Robby Ginepri. And I do think they appreciate him everywhere in the world, though, because of the way he does go about it. But he's not going to come in with the attitude of even a Nadal or a Lleyton Hewitt or anything like that, he's going to go about his business. It took a little while, I think, for the fans to warm to Pete Sampras. I think he's comparable to that because he goes about his business, he doesn't throw temper tantrums, he doesn't throw his racquet, he doesn't do anything like that, and he doesn't, you know, disrespect any of the umpires. He goes about it in a very honorable way, which I really appreciate. And I think the fans, as he gets closer and closer to history, will appreciate it more and more, that he goes about it the right way. I hope especially parents take note of that and let their kids know that, "All right, this guy's the best in the world and he does it the right way." When I was a kid, I was a brat, and I unfortunately had John McEnroe as No. 1 in the world so I could say to my coach, "Look, he does it." So now hopefully those 12-year-olds that are brats, their parents can say, "Look, he's No. 1, and he's doing it the right way." So I hope kids see that.

End of FastScripts….

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