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August 31, 1999

James Blake


USTA: Questions.

Q. Looked a little discouraged at the end there, James. Did you feel that way, too?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. Obviously I'm competitive, otherwise I probably wouldn't have gotten to this point. It hurts to lose. I was a little discouraged at the outcome. Right at the end of the match, I talked to Chris. He said, "Keep your head up, keep your chin up." He's been through a lot. He's made it up to the Top 25 in the world, and fallen back again because of injuries. He's on his way back up. That means a lot, coming from him. He's telling me it is a long road. He also hopefully believes in my ability, so maybe if I do just keep my head up, I can make it to my full potential. I'm going to try to do that.

Q. I know how much playing here meant to you. Did you feel in any way overwhelmed by the moment, or did you feel an extra level of nervousness that may have made you a little more tentative than usual?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, I kind of planned for the actual level of nervousness and tried to make sure that everything I did was a little bit more relaxed. That's why I had like the CD player out on the court, trying to get wet towels to me to kind of calm down on the sidelines, not think as much about it, try to play it like it's another match and make sure I can make it through the whole match without really tightening up or anything. I think I did that. I just maybe didn't execute my shots too well or he was executing a little too well. He really stepped it up. That's what veteran players do. Someone like him, I kind of expect that from him. I didn't really expect the way he played today. It was just another level today. I wasn't there. I know that I need to work hard to maybe be at that level, the level that he played at today. I'm going to try to do that, keep my head up, go back down to some Challengers and play some of those, and try to really work hard and get my level up.

Q. You had a breakpoint in game eight, maybe in the second set. Seemed like after he got out of break, he went on to hold. Seemed as if everything kind of turned against you at that point. Is that how it felt?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. I don't know when it was turning for me. I guess maybe it turned further against me then. I mean, every time I had a breakpoint, he played a tough point. The time I did get a break, I think I played really solid. He never got discouraged at all. He broke me right back, I think. Every time I would come up with a good shot, he would come up with one better. I don't know. I feel a little disappointed since there were so many fans out there rooting for me. But that also made me feel good, that there are still fans out there rooting for me when I'm losing. I'd like to hopefully be a little more ready next year. I'm going to keep working hard. Hopefully I'll put on a little better show and be back here next year.

Q. Did you say you had a CD player out there?


Q. What were you playing?

JAMES BLAKE: It was actually Dave Matthews Band.

Q. Does it relax you?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. Like I said, this has been a dream of mine to get to this point, to get to the US Open. I kind of figured I'd be a little nervous, and I didn't want that to happen, to really cramp up or anything. I wanted to stay relaxed and not worry, take it just as another match. I wanted to take my mind off it during changeovers, really just kind of almost lose focus, not think about it as much. That helped me a little.

Q. You had it with the head phones?


Q. Ever done that before?

JAMES BLAKE: Maybe when I was a lot younger, but not for a long time.

Q. You tuned in between changeovers, plugged in?


Q. Do you think that's a good idea?

JAMES BLAKE: I don't know. Everyone's different. Might work for some people, maybe not for others. I don't know.

Q. What were the wet towels about? Was that another relaxation technique?

JAMES BLAKE: That's another thing just to cool you down. Hopefully I wasn't overheating and cramping up. It's all a precautionary kind of thing.

Q. Are you playing in the mixed doubles?

JAMES BLAKE: I signed up. I hope so. It closed at 4. It will depend on whether or not we get a wildcard.

Q. Your partner?

JAMES BLAKE: Would be Alexandra Stevenson.

Q. Some other minority players have claimed the USTA hasn't done enough to help them out. What's been your experience?

JAMES BLAKE: I couldn't be happier with the USTA. They've helped me out a lot. I appreciate what they've done. It's a really great organization headed by Doug McCurdy and Tom Gullikson and Judy Levering. All of them I have good relationships with. They've been outgoing and extremely nice to me. For me, it seems a little ridiculous because I can never understand anyone expecting a wildcard, except maybe in extreme cases. Like, for example, if Pete Sampras wanted to one day come back and play. Certain people deserve wildcards, maybe if they've done something spectacular in the past. Some of the guys who are expecting wildcards, I've never expected a wildcard in my life and I've never really -- I never really think that is something you should do. Wildcards are really a privilege. They're something to help players out. It's really their decision who they want to help out, who they think deserves it. For me, I'm extremely happy that they gave me this chance to be in the US Open. I think I've learned a lot today, this week. I really do think it will help me. If they don't give me a wildcard next year or if I don't need one, I'm not going to complain, because I've already gotten a few. To me, that's something I really appreciate.

Q. Do you have any insight as to why some of those people have taken such a harsh stance? Some people feel there's a racist thing going on.

JAMES BLAKE: People take the same situation different ways a lot of times. I try to look on the bright side. Some people don't. Some people take things way too personally, think they deserve more, more than they really do. I try to be happy with what I've been given.

Q. You said there was another level of play going on today. What do you think you have to do with your game, with your conditioning, with your mental aspect to come up to that level?

JAMES BLAKE: I think one thing is just getting beat like I did today a few more times. It does kind of hurt me a little bit to maybe disappoint fans or to be out there in such a big match and get beat like that. Like Chris said to me, it's a long road, that's what it's going to take, losing those matches to see what I really need to do, see that maybe I can compete on that level. Then it's just going to take some confidence building, maybe playing some Challengers, hopefully doing well there, getting the ranking up so I can get into more tournaments like these. I don't think there's one specific thing I need to work on, like my backhand, my forehand, things like that. I think it's more just getting the experience and going through this. I really feel -- I know everybody is calling me rookie out there, and I do feel like a rookie because I don't have the experience yet. That's what I'm going to need to get.

Q. You mentioned you have to get beat like this. That's an interesting answer. Most players would run a mile to get away from getting beat like this. Is it because you were on top of the world in the college ranks and sort of have a feeling like you can jump right into the pro ranks?

JAMES BLAKE: No, I don't know I ever felt like that. I hoped I could. I realize it has to come to an end at some point. I'm not going to jump in and start beating Sampras and Agassi. Somebody is going to beat me like this. Today it was Chris Woodruff that beat me like this. That's something that I need because I will do the extra mile, hopefully not to get beat like this. But I think part of the extra mile of not getting beat like this is getting beat like this a few more times. I'm pretty sure everyone from Sampras, Agassi, Rafter at some point has gotten beat pretty bad. That makes you work a little harder. That makes you want to get back there a little more. That makes you a little hungrier. Like you said, I was on the top of the college ranks. I was happy with that. I was still working really hard, but I knew it would have to come to an end sometime. I just enjoyed that ride. Now I'm at a different level, and I need -- I mean, I liked being at the top of the college ranks. I'd like to be at the top of the pro ranks. I'm going to have to work hard at it.

Q. How do you feel about comparisons to Tiger Woods?

JAMES BLAKE: Pretty honored that people think I have that kind of ability, that kind of appeal. I'd be a little more honored if they started giving me his kind of money (laughter). I don't know. I take it just as an honor because he's someone who has done so much, so young. He's accomplished a lot, brought a whole lot of people that didn't know much about golf or didn't play golf into the sport. That's something that I've had a goal of for a long time now, since I've started accomplishing a few things in tennis. I want to get people into tennis. I'd love to get people into tennis. More people playing it, more people watching it, especially people who wouldn't normally be doing it like urban kids, people who don't necessarily have the financial ability to play at a country club or something like that. I'd love to get more people into it. I really like the comparison. I'd like to start putting up results, though, to deserve them.

Q. At Wimbledon when Alexandra and Venus got to the quarters, people were talking, "How does it feel to be one of the first two African Americans to reach the quarters?" Then there was some discussion whether that's a legitimate way of looking at it. There's still a long way to go in terms of breakthroughs in tennis, or is it at the point where we shouldn't even think in those terms?

JAMES BLAKE: I think that's up to you guys. It's going to be what you guys make of it. For me, I would just be proud of whatever I accomplish because I'm going to do my best, and that's really all I can do. If it happens first for African Americans or second for African Americans, then so be it. If that brings more fans in, then I'm very happy about it. If that brings more people into the sport that wouldn't normally be in the sport, I'd love that. For them, I think they did great at Wimbledon. If they think they did great, then I'm really happy for them. I can't say whether or not you're supposed to make a big deal out of it. For me, if I made it to the quarters of Wimbledon, whether I was white, black, Asian, whatever, I'd be pretty happy. To me, it would be a big deal either way. It just depends on how big a deal you guys want to make of it.

Q. In Boston you did a lot with the kids. I know now you're trying to get into the Challengers. Do you have plans for what you're going to be doing in Connecticut with kids?

JAMES BLAKE: It's been a little too hectic this summer with tournaments, traveling all around, just learning a lot. I haven't really figured out exactly what I could do. I've gone back to my tennis club and just hit with some of the kids in the clinics there. I don't know exactly what I can do. I think I need to work on my own game before I can concentrate on that. I need to hopefully establish myself, and then I can really deal with a little bit clearer head, helping out those kids.

Q. Have you given any thought to whether you'll go back and finish your college degree?

JAMES BLAKE: Yes, I would like to at some point. That's something I look forward to. A lot of guys on Tour are never really sure what they want to do. Maybe they hang on to playing a little too long, they're not really happy playing when they're a little older. I know I have something to look forward to when I'm done. I can go back to school, finish my two years. Hopefully over a long career, I can learn exactly what I want to do in life after tennis, then go back to Harvard and concentrate on that, and do that.

End of FastScripts….

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