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March 11, 2003

James Blake


MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Surprised how easily things went that first set?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, not with the way I was playing. I was playing as well as I could play. I served great. I was seeing the ball really well, and the return. When that's coming together, you've just got to hope that it's going to continue. Unfortunately, it didn't, and he picked up his game a little bit, then it turned into a dogfight. I definitely wasn't surprised because I was playing some of my best tennis. Unfortunately, it didn't quite continue.

Q. Did you start to second-guess yourself when things went a bit dodgey in that third set?

JAMES BLAKE: Not really. I was still going for my shots. I felt like I was just maybe going for a little bit too much. But I still wanted to just keep going for my shots. I felt like they'd go in. I've practiced with Todd a million times. I know how he's going to play. I know he knows how I'm going to play. I wanted to play my game and see who was going to come out on top. Unfortunately, it came down to a couple points right there at the end. I would have liked to have closed it out a little quicker in that third set. I wasn't really second-guessing myself. I was just a little disappointed in the turn of events after that first set.

Q. When you were coming on to the scene, what was the best thing Todd did for you? Did he take you under his wing in any way?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. He's probably helped me the most out of any player, coach, anyone, other than my personal coach Brian Barker. He's been the most helpful, you know, the closest guy to me on tour. For a veteran, he's helped me in every aspect, you know, with the tennis, off the court, media, anything. I remember a time, Memphis quallies about a year and a half ago, two years ago, I lost a close match after I practiced with him a bunch at Davis Cup when I was a practice partner. Really disappointed. Got on the phone and called him. We talked for about an hour. He told me stories about what he was doing when he was younger, some of the tough losses he had had, just how quickly things can change, how if you keep doing the right thing, it's all going to work out. Hearing that from someone who had done it, had gone through kind of what I had gone through, helped me. I thought we had so much in common, hearing it from someone similar to you makes a big difference in my career. Without him, I might not have even been in this tournament, let alone given the opportunity to beat him. I need to thank him for that.

Q. His best quality as a guy?

JAMES BLAKE: Just being genuine. He's going to be who he is no matter who's around. Whether he's around us young guys who kind of give him a hard time for being an old-fogey or whether he's around someone he truly respects and admires, he's the same person. That's an admirable trait, that he's just always being himself.

Q. Why the Carolina cap?

JAMES BLAKE: I know someone in this room, it's their alma mater. I wanted to please him (referring to J.J. Carter). It's always been one of my favorite schools. It's the only school I really thought about going to besides Harvard. I've always been a huge Jordan fan. My first highlights were seeing him in a Carolina jersey. I was immediately a Carolina fan - still am. Unfortunately, they've been having a struggle this year. But I'm not too worried about them. They'll be just fine.

Q. They beat the Dukeys.

JAMES BLAKE: Which is very important.

Q. Will we see you in Harvard gear later on this week?

JAMES BLAKE: If I had some. I haven't had too much lately. Unfortunately, they're with Reebok. Nike might not be too happy about that one. That's another good thing about Carolina, is they're Nike. If the coach sent me some stuff, instead of all this stuff about me donating money, if you sent me some gear, maybe it would be better. I'm just kidding (smiling). I have plenty of Harvard stuff in the closet at home. It just didn't make the trip this time.

Q. Fonder memories of the Mission Hills challenge?

JAMES BLAKE: The memories are fonder there. I think this is the first time I've won a match here. I definitely had my worst loss as a pro here about three years ago to Rusedski. The memories hadn't been that fun until today. I mean, I've always thought of this place as being a great place for me. It's slow hard, which I think is one of my better surfaces. It's usually not too humid. It's pretty calm. I think it should be a great place for me to play in the future, all throughout my career. I for some reason haven't had the results. Hopefully that will change.

Q. You guys are out there hitting a yellow tennis ball across the net, but some pretty serious stuff is going on out in the world. Many have commented about what's happening. What are your thoughts?

JAMES BLAKE: My thoughts, you can really see it from a couple sides, and I don't feel like athletes or actors or entertainers are really the ones who are most educated in that field to make the best judgments. We can have a lot of influence. I take that very seriously. I don't want to lead people in the wrong direction. I take being a role model very seriously. I want to give the best -- put the best possible image out there. Although I have my own opinions, I mean, I'm sure the US Government hasn't informed me of every single thing that's been going on, everything the CIA knows, every spy plane that's been looking at Saddam Hussein. I can't really say my way is the best way, especially since I know there are kids who look up to me and would take that opinion without really knowing all the facts. I don't feel it's my place to make that judgment. I'm going to support the decisions of our president, even though I didn't vote for him. I just don't feel it's my place to make that judgment. I have my own opinions, but I choose more to keep them to myself.

Q. About Pete Sampras retiring, what do you feel? If you were in his shoes, what would you decide?

JAMES BLAKE: If I was in his shoes, I'd be in a pretty nice house, driving nice cars (smiling). No, I'd take my time and do whatever I felt was right. I feel like he's earned his right to retire on his own terms, whatever he wants to do, not let anyone tell him what he should or shouldn't do. The press for the last year and a half has been telling him he should retire. Then he showed everyone he wasn't done by winning the US Open. That's an amazing feat to win one Grand Slam. He did it at the age of 30 or 31 when he hadn't won a tournament in a year and a half. In my opinion, he can do whatever he likes. He's earned that right by being the greatest player ever. I don't know where his mindset is now. He's obviously pulled out of quite a few tournaments so far this year, so I guess he's not ready. If he hasn't picked up a racquet in a year, he's still a threat to win Wimbledon. If he wants to come back and play that again, all the guys in the locker room would probably have mixed emotions, we'd love to see him back there, but we wouldn't love to see him on our side of the draw. It's great for the game if he does come back and keeps playing. He's a legend and true champion. I leave it up to him. If I was in his shoes, I'd do whatever I felt was right for me because he's definitely earned that right.

Q. Talk about your next match.

JAMES BLAKE: Sure. I haven't played Chela. He obviously had a tough one today. He's a great player. He stands pretty far back and just really hits the ball hard from the baseline. I've watched Andy play him a couple times. I think he played him in Miami last year and at The Open. They had some great matches. I've seen how he's done against him. You know, he's a very talented player, just makes you work really hard. I know tomorrow's going to be a dogfight. Maybe that will help me, that it's at night. I don't have to deal with the heat. He's probably used to it a little more than me, being from Argentina. I know it's going to be a tough one. I know he doesn't have a whole lot of weaknesses. He's solid from both sides, has a good first serve, returns really well. I'm not going to worry as much about him really. I'm going to have my plan A, which is always to go out there and try to end points on my forehand, get to net, use my athleticism and my forehand to try to win points. If that doesn't work, I'm sure my coach watched him quite a bit today and can give me a good plan B if that's not working.

Q. Are you happy playing under the lights? Is that a problem for you?

JAMES BLAKE: No, it's not a problem for me at all. It takes a game or two to get used to it. I played probably three matches under the lights last week in Scottsdale. It's the same for both players. I've never really had a problem with it.

Q. I'd like to ask a Davis Cup question. Been a good while since an American captain has picked a doubles specialist team. The Bryans have had some pretty good results. Any thoughts on their being selected next time around?

JAMES BLAKE: I know Patrick selected a doubles specialist team when we played India two years ago in Johnson and Palmer. Unfortunately, they came up short against Bhupathi and Paes, one of the best teams in the world. I think his thinking after that was that if Andy and I were to get hurt at that time, the match could have been in jeopardy, and that might have been the only chance that match might have been in jeopardy. I think he feels with me playing doubles, Mardy Fish playing doubles, Taylor, someone that can play both, we still have a good chance of winning the doubles, as Todd and I proved in France, Mardy and I in Oklahoma City. Putting the Bryans in would increase the chances I feel a little bit, but not necessarily a ton, especially since it would be their first tie, they never played before. That makes a pretty big difference. It also gives us the option of if one guy happens to be playing really well that week in singles, we can put him in. If one guy gets hurt, we have a backup. That's the way I think Patrick feels, but I don't want to necessarily say that's definitely the way it is. Obviously, he's the captain and there's a reason for that. I kind of like the way he's been doing it. I've also played quite a bit of doubles, had some pretty good success. I feel pretty comfortable on a doubles court, especially in Davis Cup. I feel like I've got a decent amount of experience and can come through.

End of FastScripts….

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