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January 19, 2004

James Blake


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Change your scouting report a little bit?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, didn't find out till kind of late, so I really didn't know too much about him. Luckily, a couple of the other American guys played him and could give me some pretty good scouting reports. Definitely didn't know nearly as much about him as I did Carlos Moya. Obviously didn't have quite the same weapons as Carlos Moya. That helped me out a little bit. Definitely a change in the scouting report.

Q. Is that strange, getting ready for a big match like that?

JAMES BLAKE: Very strange. Last night I heard about ten different reports about Carlos. Someone said he's in a wheelchair. Someone said he's 100 percent ready to go tomorrow. It ran the gamut of everything in between. After the first, you know, four different reports I heard, I said, "You know what, forget this. I just want to pretend he's 100 percent, be ready for whatever he's gonna do, and all I can control is me playing the best I can." About half an hour before the match, my coach came back in the locker room and said, "You're playing Miranda, do you know anything about him?" That's when I started, you know, kind of looking around to see who had played him. Luckily, I found a few guys who had played him.

Q. Who did you talk to?

JAMES BLAKE: Talked Robert Kendrick, Steve Devries, Rob Ginepri's coach. And Diego, all the guys who played him in any of the challengers. I think Robby played him in Newport.

Q. Who gave you the most accurate scouting reports?

JAMES BLAKE: I hate to say it, but it was the coach I talked to, Steve Devries. The coaches do get a little better scouting reports since they're sitting there watching the whole thing as opposed to worrying about little things like actually executing and, you know, breakpoint, what are you going to do and if you're tired or not or if you're hitting your forehand well. So they're usually a little better at scouting. Steve did a good job.

Q. Patrick McEnroe was saying you improved your serve.

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, definitely.

Q. Talk about how you did that. It's hard to change a service motion or improve serve?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, there is. There are certain things that are just out of your control. I'm never gonna have the flexibility in my upper body like an Andy Roddick or the perfect motion like Pete, as well the flexibility in his upper body. But the thing I can control on mine is to simplify it. I had too many things going on in my serve previously. And I just simplified it, and that made it so I feel like I'm bending the same exact amount every time. And I feel like my toss is in a better position every time, making it so I've got better control. And I feel like I'm getting just as much power with less effort, because I don't have so many things that can go wrong during it and so many extra movements that are taking away from my conditioning and making it so things can go wrong. So I simplified it, and it feels great. I think that helped me today just 'cause I don't feel as pressured on another guy's serve because I feel like I'm gonna get a break because I feel like my return games are kind of up and down enough so I'm gonna hit enough winners to get a few breaks. If I feel that confident on my serve, makes a big difference as opposed to worrying every time I go up to serve.

Q. Is that the way it was sometimes last year?

JAMES BLAKE: Not so worried, but I definitely didn't feel as confident before in my serve as I do now. Now I feel like I know I can get more free points, and I just feel a little more confident that my serve's gonna go in at big moments. I think -- I haven't seen the stats for this match yet but I have a feeling I saved a lot of breakpoints. I'd say about half of those were just big first serves. That's from working on it a ton in the off-season, simplifying the motion and knowing I have the confidence to hit a target on a breakpoint.

Q. Have you set yourself any targets for 2004?

JAMES BLAKE: Get better. Same targets I set every year. I think it's sillily to worry about rankings. I feel like I got better last year, and I'm ranked lower. I had a little bad luck and didn't play as well at the key times, at some of the bigger events. I strung together a few losses, which wasn't a whole lot of fun. But I feel like I improved as a player, especially this off-season. Now I want to keep doing that. I think it's gonna take more matches where I have this confidence in my serve. And I just now know when guys are gunning for me, I have to gun back for them just as hard. That first year, when I kind of broke into the Top 50 or whatever, it was easier because no one knew how to play me, no one had much of a scouting report, and I could just go in there with no pressure at all. Last year, I learned about dealing with pressure and dealing with guys who are coming after me. Now, I feel much more prepared for that, and I'm gonna go after guys with the same reckless abandon that I did before I made it into the Top 50, and I'm gonna -- I feel like I play better that way. No matter what happens this year, I'm gonna go down playing my game. Too many times that year, not that it was that often, but a few too many times I went down playing not to lose. I'm not gonna do that anymore, no matter what the situation. If I'm down 6-2, 5-2, I'm gonna play my game. It means I didn't play my best that day, didn't execute or the other guy played great. Can't hang my head in shame over that. Only time I get really disappointed is when I play not to lose and end up losing. That's not gonna be a winning formula for me. Guys are too good to go out there and play not to lose.

Q. Could you be specific about when that happened, matches stood out?

JAMES BLAKE: The one that stands out in my mind is probably in Rome. I was going into the clay court season, and still not as sure of myself on the clay as I would like to be, but I definitely feel like I can do well on clay. I feel like I have a weapon in my forehand, and I'm fast enough to play a good defense. Unfortunately, I was thinking I could use my speed to just play defense the whole time. And so that was my first tournament on the -- second tournament on the European clay. And I had played where I was really going after it in Monte-Carlo. I just lost a really close match to Coria. Then I thought, "I'm really -- I really can do well on clay." I played Stepanek in Rome and figured, "Okay, I almost beat Coria, one of the best clay courters in the world, I can do well on clay. All I need to do is get through this round and play solid." I find you can't do that. He's too good of a player. And all the guys are. That kind of started a tough run for me. Then I lost the next week to a great clay courter, Gaston Gaudio. I played a little bit better, but still played a little bit not to lose. Went into the French Open, unfortunately that's when my shoulder injury flared up. I kind of went into that injury with a negative attitude just because I hadn't been playing my best tennis and hadn't been playing the way I wanted to play. So that didn't help a whole lot.

Q. What was your off-season training regimen?

JAMES BLAKE: It was a ton of -- well, I took probably only about four days from when I finished in Paris, I took about four days totally off, which was phenomenal because I don't get that very often of just doing nothing and really sitting around and relaxing. And then got right back out onto the track. That's what I started with, doing a bunch of track work. A lot of 800s, 400s, 200s, then, you know, every couple of days throwing a 3-or 4-mile run, then into the weight room. I got a whole lot stronger, which I'm pretty proud of, but I definitely didn't hold up next to some of the larger guys at my gym. But I still felt good about putting a few more plates on the leg lifts and on the bench press and on the seated rows and things. I got a lot bigger and stronger -- not bigger, but I got a lot stronger and in a lot better condition. I was doing tons of track work, tons of time in the gym. About two weeks later I got back out on to the court and it was a matter of hitting a ton of balls. I was doing a lot of side-to-sides, worked out with my coach in Connecticut Brian Barker, down in Saddlebrook with Mardy Fish, Jeff Morrison, guys down here. Actually had Patrick come up to Connecticut to see how I was doing towards the end of the off season. He seemed to think I was doing pretty well. I had kind of had taken it for granted how much work we were doing. He was happily surprised at how hard I was working and what kind of shape I was in. So I feel really good about that.

Q. Do you take any interest in the upcoming American Juniors?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. We actually had a pretty big USTA clinic down in Saddlebrook while I was there. Some really good kids, Bobby Reynolds I think is gonna be good. Amer Delic is gonna be a great player. He's got a huge serve, big game. Brian Baker has also got a lot of talent, he was top 2 or 3 in the world in Juniors. I mean, that doesn't always translate directly into success in the pro tour, but I think he's got a big game. His backhand's one of the best I've seen out of the younger kids. I hear there's even a couple younger kids, they're coming up, they're pretty good. I'm looking forward to seeing that. And I love helping out whenever I can. I mean, these guys are such good guys. Getting to practice with Bogomolov a lot, he's playing unbelievable right now. I'm real happy about that. He's a kid, he drew me in our little practice match session during that training camp, and it happened to be a day when I was playing pretty well. I got on him pretty good. Then afterwards we just sat there and talked for 30, 40 minutes. And I gave him what I learned in my first four years on tour, whatever, and he was just telling me what things he was working on. He's such a good kid. I'm so happy to see him doing well. All the kids are like that. It just happened that I was playing him in the practice match. I love to see the kids do well. It's weird to feel like I can even help them at all, being that I still feel like I'm learning on tour. But whatever I can do to help, you know, it's a lot of fun 'cause I had guys help me like Todd Martin, Alex O'Brien, Jim Courier. Having those guys help me made a big difference in the start of my career, and I still feel like I'm at the start of my career, but these guys are even younger so I'm trying to help them out as well.

Q. Much chatter about Donald Young?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, he's another young guy. Patrick actually told me all about him, saying he's an incredible talent. I'm looking forward to that. It's a little tougher in men's tennis to see someone so young, whether or not it's gonna translate. So many things can go wrong; so many things can happen. But Patrick said this is one of the kids that they're looking at that is gonna be pretty big time. I'm hesitant always to say that because being someone so young, to put pressure on them that early, that can backfire. But I'd love to see it. I hear he's actually a really good kid, too. I wish him the best, and hopefully he'll come up soon. There's a lot of -- little more talk about Kuznetsof off as well, who I hit down with in Saddlebrook. He's a good kid, too, who I think has a lot of talent.

Q. Todd Martin, quick comment about him?

JAMES BLAKE: Unbelievable. I came into the locker room and asked how the rest of the guys did, and Patrick told me Todd did the usual (laughter). I was -- as I was warming up, riding the bike right before I went out on the court, I was watching the scores. Brian, my coach, just noted, "Todd broke back, it's great." I'm like, "You know what, that's incredible. If this was 10 p.m. at the US Open, I'd put all my money on Todd Martin right now. Australian Open, middle of the day, I'm not sure if it's dramatic enough for him." He's like, "I don't know. Think he might do it." I came off the court, hear he won, I couldn't believe it. It's incredible. At his age, the amount of time he took off, it's incredible. It's inspiring to see him enjoying tennis that much to want to fight hard. I'm proud of him. He'll get a great night's sleep tonight, I'm sure.

End of FastScripts….

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