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January 23, 2004

James Blake


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. How are you feeling about the start of 2004?

JAMES BLAKE: Pretty good so far. I played great at the Hopman Cup. That was good to see. It was the first time in real match experience I got to hit kind of my new serve that I've been working on. Felt great. I've really made a commitment to this year playing my game. I'm going to go for my shots and not worry about, you know, other people saying I'm making too many errors or whatever. If I make too many errors, that means I played bad, and I'm probably going to lose the match. But I'm going to go out playing my game. So far I've done that and I feel really good about it. I'm in the fourth round and hopefully can go further. This is the farthest I've gone in a Slam to date. I want to keep going. It's a good feeling so far, but I want it to continue.

Q. When you broke serve in the first game, up 4-Love, how were you feeling at that point?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, actually at that point I was feeling like I -- I didn't want to get ahead of myself and I had to realize it's a long way to go. Because this guy is coming back from two sets to love down I know in the first round. He's won five matches in a row so he obviously has quite a bit of confidence. And he was actually a very good player. I just happened to play better each round this tournament. I played really well. I was very happy with my second-round performance, and then today I got even better. So I was extremely pleased with that. But I really didn't want to get ahead of myself. I know 4-Love, it's pretty easy to say, "Okay, I'm going to win this set, just kick a few serves in, try to rip a couple winners." But I wanted to keep the exact same intensity so I didn't have to change it in the second set. If I won it 6-0 or whatever, I wanted to keep that up and not say, "Okay, I'm so far ahead, it doesn't matter," because then you can get down one break in the second set, because it's so easy in men's tennis to get down one break, and you never get a look to get the break back. I didn't want to let that happen after how well I was playing. I just tried to stay focused.

Q. Are you happy with all the American men being in one side of the draw?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, I mean, I guess it's good because there's a pretty good chance hopefully one of us will be in the finals. But, you know, it's kind of tough. It was weird when I saw that in the draw. I'd probably like to see us spread out a little more because, I mean, you got a great match-up with Andy and Taylor, but I think they're both playing well enough for that to be a quarterfinal match-up or semifinal match-up or possibly even a final, the way those guys can play. But that's some of the luck of the draw that comes in tennis. You know, I'm sure it will even out throughout all of our careers. Hopefully, we all have plenty more Grand Slams where we can compete and I'm sure we'll play each other a lot of times. But, you know, it's just one Grand Slam. Hopefully one of us will get through to the finals.

Q. Are you enjoying making the Davis Cup selection difficult for Patrick?

JAMES BLAKE: (Laughing) Yeah. We want to make his job tough, make him earn those big bucks he's getting. We all really like to think that it's hopefully a good problem to have, that he's got quite a few guys that are playing some of their better tennis. And we're also very conscious of the fact that he does have a tough choice, but whatever choice he makes, we're going to be happy for that person he picks or those people that he picks, because he's got, you know, the No. 1 player in the world, the No. 1 doubles team in the world, and then four or five guys that are playing some great tennis. I'm confident no matter who he picks that we're going to have a great match with Austria. I'm confident we're going to win it. So I'm not -- whether I'm part of the team or Taylor or Mardy or Robby or Vince, whoever, I mean, Todd is playing great, whoever he picks, I've got full confidence that we can beat Austria, maybe come down here to Australia and have a lot of success.

Q. You think you've done enough to deserve a spot on the team?

JAMES BLAKE: Like I said, I'm always waiting for that call, you know, just very happy to accept that call. But, you know, I don't know exactly what goes into his decision. That's why, I mean, he devotes pretty much his entire year to Davis Cup. For me, I'm trying my best to get on that team. But I'm -- my job is just to go out there and play. Like I said, I have confidence in myself going into that tie, but if he has more confidence in Taylor or more confidence in Mardy or Robby, you know, then so be it. He made the right choice in Slovakia. Mardy played great to beat Kucera. So I can't be disappointed in anything there. I think Patrick's done a great job as captain and I'm sure he'll continue to. I'm not going to say I deserve it and I'm going to get into any kind of battle with him. I feel great about whoever he picks.

Q. Are you surprised at the ongoing interest in your locks?

JAMES BLAKE: A little bit. I changed my hair about a million times when I was a kid, and barely got a second look. Now it's a little bit bigger of a deal. You know, I used to do this all the time. I just shaved my head. It made it so easy. I didn't go to a barber basically my entire life. Just take a pair of clippers, shave my head. That was how I had it all through college, most of high school. I had one year where I had braids like I had here last year. I just changed it around a lot. I like variety. I change kind of styles of clothes a lot, I change my hair. I just like keeping people guessing. This is fun. It's also fun, you know, when I can just put a hat on and walk around. I say, "Hi," to people, they don't recognize me. I'm like, "It's James," just keep going. It's fun not being recognized a little bit. I think it makes me a little bit self-conscious about the fact that I was only recognized for my hair maybe. But it's fun.

Q. You talked about you've changed your service style a little. What else have you changed in your game in the last 12 months or so?

JAMES BLAKE: Not much actually. It's just the actual way I'm executing has changed. The fact that I have a lot of confidence now in just playing my game as opposed to trying to adjust to other players. I think this time last year was around the time I was getting up to my highest ranking. At that point there were guys who were gunning for me and I just wanted to protect that. I wasn't thinking about having the same kind of hunger that got me there. I was trying to play a lot not to lose. That kind of came back and bit me. I know now that to execute the way I want to and to keep getting better, improving my ranking, improving my tennis, I need to just play the way that got me there in the first place. That's with no fear and just going for my shots when I have them, and not letting other people dictate to me. So now it's been pretty simple. A lot of the game plan talks I've had with my coach before each match have been very simple. It's, "Okay, this guy, maybe his backhand is a little better than his forehand." Then it's just, "You're going to go out and play your game. You're going to take your rips, you're gonna come in, you're gonna attack one side." That's it. The difference is really just the way I'm executing. I haven't changed any of the strokes. My forehand, backhand, volleys, nothing's really changed, it's just a matter of how and when I'm hitting them bigger.

Q. Was your level that much higher today? Was it a good match-up for you? Was he off?

JAMES BLAKE: I don't feel like he was off, which is a very good thing for me. He's won five matches in a row so he's got a lot of confidence. I think he had a lot of confidence coming into the match. I feel like I played pretty darn well. I was really happy with my performance in the second round, and even happier with the way I played today. I haven't seen the stats, but I'm pretty sure I served a really high percentage of first serves. I didn't double-fault much. I had a bunch of winners. There were a lot of shots that maybe aren't going to go in on other days, but I was just playing really well. I tried to keep the same intensity the whole match, which I was really proud of, that I kept coming forward and attacking him. I don't think he liked -- I don't think he likes people taking time away from him. I made it a point to do that, to maybe chip and charge once in a while, to really get in and attack him. It was effective today. I'd like to think that it had more to do with me than him. So I'm definitely confident in the way I played today.

Q. Back in the fourth round here. Back in the fourth round of a Slam. What is it going to take to have that big breakthrough? How are you preparing?

JAMES BLAKE: Like I said, a real simple game plan: I'm going to go out and play my game next match. I'll play either Safin or Martin. I've played them both before. I know both of them, it takes me playing well to win. So I'm not going to go out there and play not to lose, and let one of them just go out there and roll me. I know that's what would happen if I did that. I'm going to go out and play to win, go for my shots. If there' missing, I'm probably going to lose. If I play not to lose, I'm definitely going to lose. I have a better chance if I go out playing my game. I feel like I got just as good a chance as either of them if I go out playing my game. I'm going to go for my shots. They both have big serves that can be very effective. I'm going to, you know, have to take my chances on some returns, maybe guess a little bit, try to stay in my service games and kind of dominate on those.

Q. Have you ever gotten to a round of a Slam like this feeling like you've exerted as little energy as you have?

JAMES BLAKE: The only time I've gotten this far was last year here. I definitely exerted a little bit less energy this year. Especially last year, I was playing doubles, too. It definitely feels good. I know these guys are in five sets. Todd had a five-setter the first round. I'm very surprised that I've gotten here without having, you know, any five-setters. I felt like my match with Nicolas was pretty long, though. It was a really good match. It took a little something out of me. All the fitness I've been doing, I haven't been that worried about it really, especially since it hasn't been that hot. The only thing I've ever felt like I've had problems with is a little bit the heat sometimes. But I'm not really worried about my physical fitness right now, which is an absolutely great feeling to have.

End of FastScripts….

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