March 23, 2003
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What didn't work for you today?
JAMES BLAKE: It wasn't as much as what didn't work for me as it was what worked for him. He served great, returned my second serve unbelievable. Really didn't miss much at all. I'd like to say this is the best I've ever seen him play, but I also saw him beat Safin last week 1 and 1. So these last couple weeks, he's played at a higher level than he had in the past. Today, I guess I just wasn't ready for it.
Q. Does he sometimes remind you more of a super strong Spanish player than a classic American player?
JAMES BLAKE: "Super strong" part seems right. I mean, he's a very strong kid. He can create power from just about any situation. I wouldn't say he's much like a Spanish player because he really goes for a little more on his serve. That was going in today. He attacks a lot more. I mean, if you watch the match, you saw how much he attacked my second serve. To me, it seems like Spanish players back up a little more - I mean, typically. There are guys who are changing that stereotype today. He doesn't really back up much at all. I wouldn't say he plays like that at all.
Q. Do you see any Thomas Muster in him?
JAMES BLAKE: No, I don't think so, besides the strength part. Seems like he, like I said, he steps into the ball, really comes through it. Muster, to me, when I saw him play - obviously, I never played him - he stood a little further back and just ran down every ball and just hit everything heavy. Robby goes for a lot more winners. Today it may have looked easy, but the way he was hitting those balls, it seemed like he was going for winners and they were going in. Doesn't seem to me like Muster.
Q. Is that the way the game is going today? Is he sort of part of a larger trend of people who are playing from inside the court, taking chances, hitting big?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I think the game for quite some time now has been going much more towards just a power-based game. If you can hit the ball big, you know, you're going to have days where you're going to beat some of the top players. You're going to have days where you're going to lose to players that aren't as good as you, but you need to capitalize on when you're playing well. I think that's definitely the way the game is going; towards a lot more power, the margin for error with the technology and everything else involved in tennis. I mean, people are stronger, technology is better, so they can swing and they have more margin for error.
Q. How tough is it to play against him?
JAMES BLAKE: It's tough, but not a big deal. You know, we went out there, fought our hardest, did as best we could, hopefully entertained the crowd. I wished him good luck. I hope to see him doing great things the rest of the week. It's not going to be a big deal.
Q. Did you feel you were going to turn it around there? You were down 5-love, came back, saved set points.
JAMES BLAKE: Uh-hmm. Yeah, I think that 5-3, 40-love, he went for the second serve ace and got it. I didn't think at the time it would be a turning point, but I think it might have been. Then he came up with a great first serve and then a great approach shot and then the same thing on the 30-40 point. Then made two more big first serves. So that really saved - I can't say "saved" him - but that kept him going the way he was going. If I had saved that and got it back to 4-5, that could have been a totally different match. He could have gotten disheartened, I could have gotten more rhythm. I felt like I was getting some rhythm at that point, those three games in a row. Then he just squashed that pretty quickly and managed to keep rolling. So that was a big game and some big points that he played.
Q. You've been where he is today, and many other players have been, too. You're a young player. You got to go on the tour and just feel it for a while. Then, suddenly, the light goes on one day or one tournament or whatever. Your game changes forever. What happens when the light goes on?
JAMES BLAKE: You get confidence. You get the confidence to play a game as opposed to every time feeling like you have to play above yourself to beat a top player, or you have to -- you know, someone has to hurt themselves or just play their worst match for you to get a win in a big match. He'd had some really tough losses, I mean some really bad losses in big matches earlier. I think he was just trying to play a little bit above himself, doing too much. Now he's calmed down and doesn't do that anymore, so he plays much more solid matches. You can see the improvement from when he played Lleyton last year at Cincinnati to when he played Lleyton last week. He was a totally different player. It was just from his having that confidence to go after shots and not go for too much. Now he's playing great and it's a fun feeling for him. I'm really happy for him. You know, he's had two of his best weeks on tour these last two weeks. I hope it continues, because he's playing great tennis. He's a good kid. I really wish him the best.
Q. Is it easy or more difficult to play someone whose game you know so well?
JAMES BLAKE: It's a little tough because, well, I haven't played him in a match in a couple years, but it's tough because he knows exactly what he wants to do, I know exactly what I want to do. It just comes down to a matter of who executes better. There's no feeling-out process, there's no real just-getting-to-know-you phase, kind of. It's right away, you're going to play your game, he's going to play his game and see who plays better. Today, I don't feel like I went away from my game plan too much, besides a couple times here and there, but it was just a matter of him playing better than me.
Q. What's on your itinerary now?
JAMES BLAKE: I got doubles tomorrow and then whenever I'm done here with the doubles, go home possibly for a couple days, then I'm playing in an exhibition tournament in River Oaks in Houston. That's going to be my first warm-up to get used to the clay, that's on clay in Houston. Then get ready for the European clay.
Q. You're going to Monte-Carlo then back for Houston?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, back to Houston. I wouldn't miss that tournament.
Q. Houston is you and Mardy?
JAMES BLAKE: It's a 24 draw. I believe Schuettler is playing. A really strong field - I hear they got 20 guys in the Top 100. Schuettler's playing it, myself, Mardy, Robby. Who else is playing? I'm not sure, Spadea probably. Pavel, Kratochvil probably. I'm not sure, a lot of really good players playing that, though, so it's going to be good practice.
Q. People in Britain are more interested in you now that you have an English connection. Would you mind talking about that connection and the experience of playing at Wimbledon.
JAMES BLAKE: It's great. I hope I have some fans at Wimbledon. I had a pretty good support team there last year, so it's fun. It's exciting for me because it kind of feels like I have two Grand Slams to be cheered at. US Open is still, for me, definitely home; it's where I grew up. But going back there, I see how sentimental it is for my mom, so it makes it that much more exciting for me. Also, just the fact that the tradition behind that tournament is unparalleled in the sport and possibly in other - in all of sports. So for me, that's really exciting. And to now have the fact -- have it kind of out there in the media that the people know I'm half English is a lot of fun for me. Hopefully, the tabloids won't get to me too much, but it's fun (smiling).
Q. Is there Englishness in you?
JAMES BLAKE: I don't know. Maybe I'm - I don't know - I drink tea a little bit, I don't drink coffee. That was from my mom when I was cold and in the wintertime I'd always drink tea. I do actually like a few things from over there. I really -- actually, I'm impressed with the media over there. Some of the papers are written at a very high level. I think that's something that's great. I don't know what other kind of English parts of me there are. I definitely don't have the accent.
Q. I can't think of a "B" word, but you could deal with a "Blake Hill"?
JAMES BLAKE: If it ever got to that stage, that would be very exciting with the way they have Henman Hill there. That's incredible how the fans come out and how they get so excited about Wimbledon, sleeping out on the sidewalks. That makes you just really proud to be a tennis player, to be a professional athlete that fans care about that much. When I see that, I'm amazed, 'cause if I grew up there, I know I'd be doing the same thing that they're doing. So to now be the reason they're doing that is very exciting to me.
Q. You don't have any plans of doing a Rusedski?
JAMES BLAKE: No, no, not at this time. The USTA and Patrick and all the guys in America have been way too good to me to ever think about that. Not that I have anything against Tim or Greg or any of those guys, but I grew up here, this is where my home is.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.