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January 20, 2007

James Blake


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. It was very tight early. What is your assessment of the game?
JAMES BLAKE: As you said, it was very tight. You know, that's a match that without confidence there's no way I could win. Going for my shots on set points, it shows just how close tennis is, how quickly it can change, how close all the guys are on tour. 'Cause if you change literally two points in that whole match, it's a completely different match. If he wins the set points in the first set, four set points in the second, any one of those goes a different way, that's a whole new match.
I'm lucky to get through it. I thought I played well on those set points. I played smart. After that I felt like I got my confidence and really got rolling. That's what happens. When you're playing confident, you never think you're going to lose those points. That's the way I felt.
It was a good feeling at the end of the match to know that I got through a match where easily it could have been the other way.

Q. Is it tough to play a guy that you know so well and you're friends with?
JAMES BLAKE: It's a little tough. He's one of my best friends on tour. I wish him all the best. I told him after the match I really think this is going to be a big year for him. Looking forward to great things.
Hopefully we won't have to play each other in the early stage of tournaments. Looking forward to getting him to being seeded in these Slams, being a real force to be reckoned with like he was a couple years ago.
It's tough because I want the best for him, but obviously I've got to go out there and do my job. I want to win when I'm playing. No matter who I'm up against, it's tough. But we're professionals. We go out there and we do that. We do our job.
If because of this I've got to buy him dinner or a couple of beers tomorrow night or something, so be it. But that's just the way it is. I know there will be times throughout our career where he'll get the better of me and I'll hit him up for a dinner the next night or something.
We're good friends off the court. Once it comes to playing, as you could see, we're fighting our hearts out.

Q. Either way, González or Hewitt, two guys that have given you some problems. Talk about both of them.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, both great players. That's probably why they've given me problems.
Lleyton has proven that he can fight hard no matter how little match practice he has, coming back on Mike Russell. He's obviously going to have the crowd with him. That's going to be a tough match-up no matter what.
I finally got a little bit off the schneid by beating him last year in Las Vegas. That was a great feeling. He got me back on the grass. Interesting to play him on the Rebound Ace again and see who's playing better right now.
Definitely not an easy match-up in Australia. But the way I'm playing, I feel good. Hopefully I can control more of the points against him. He has a way of sneaking out of a lot of those, so it would be tough.
Fernando, a totally different player. He's going to attack me and take huge rips with the forehand. We'll definitely have a few battles going forehand to forehand, trying to find each other's backhands.
He's given me problems last few times, but I've had some success against him earlier in his career. Hopefully I can draw on that and get back to the winning ways against him. He's playing pretty confident right now as well.

Q. Where do you rank his forehand against ones you've faced?
JAMES BLAKE: It's up there as one of the best. I really have always had a great admiration of Carlos Moya's. I think his is one of the best. I think Roger's obviously is incredible. But Fernando's got to be pretty close to being next up there. Monfils is showing some flashes of brilliance with his, how hard he can hit it.
But I think to take it day in and day out, Fernando's, just from being on tour longer, being on tour longer and more experience, he's proven that his forehand is one of the best in the world, more so than Gaël.
But you never know in a few years. It's up there in the top three or four I think.

Q. What was it like playing with the roof closed? Seems a little chilly in there.
JAMES BLAKE: I grew up in New England. I loved it. I've played an indoor tournament so far. I think it's been beneficial for me so far. It could be a detriment, I know, as it comes time to my first match outdoors, whenever that is, if it's Monday.
Hopefully I keep going through. If I play indoors again, Wednesday, whenever it is, just not having that experience where I've been outdoors yet. I had to go for a run the other day just to be out in the sun and feel like I've worked in the heat 'cause before I came down here, I was practicing indoors in Connecticut.
That was part of the reason to play Sydney. That's part of the reason I was so happy I did so well in Sydney. I got four matches in the sun, feeling really good in the heat. Then I come down here and I play three matches indoors. It's tough to have that experience.
Maybe I feel like I'm an indoor player again. But I got to -- I know I'm going to have to play outdoors here some time. I hope I'll be able to adjust quickly. But playing indoors today felt great. I love it. I grew up practicing and training indoors. It's pretty comfortable for me.

Q. Would you say looking back at your career to this point in Slams, has there been any point - aside from the very early times when you had some cramping issues - when the fatigue factor has come into play for the second week for you?
JAMES BLAKE: I definitely had a cramping issue a couple years ago in the French Open against Wawrinka. That was possibly due to playing an indoor in Tunica, five matches, straight to Forest Hills, five matches on clay, and then flying across the Atlantic to get three matches in quallies, then a first round match, and then the first day that was hot was the day I played Wawrinka. It was very hot in five sets. I had a cramping issue.
I feel very good about the fact I've done everything I can now to try to stop those problems and hiring Mark Merklein as my trainer. He's been doing great things in terms of making sure my diet is right, making sure I'm warmed up right, and I have things to eat and keep me hopefully -- balance all my vitamins out on the court.
I hope he solved the problem, because it has been a problem in the past dealing with the heat and with going five sets or whatever. I don't know what it is 'cause I feel like I'm in great shape and I never cramp from being tired, I cramp from -- I really just don't know what it is, whether it's a lack of a certain nutrient or what.
But I hope whatever Mark has done has fixed it. I got full confidence in him, so we'll put it to the test I'm sure in my first outdoor match here.

Q. What did you have to say to Robby right at the net?
JAMES BLAKE: He said to me, Let's get a Grand Slam. That means a lot to me that he really thinks of us as a team. If he had won, I probably would have said the same thing, that we want to bring a Slam home to the States. Roger has been hoarding them all in Switzerland. We'd like to get one back in the States.
Then I just said, You're right there, too. You got the game. You know you have it. Just feeling good about it, feeling confident. 'Cause a lot of times that's the difference, a set point here, a set point there, a breakpoint here, a breakpoint there, feeling confident to go for your shots on those. When you feel confident, it seems like they go in a lot more.
He's got that game. He played top five tennis for six months. That didn't go anywhere. It's just a matter of him feeling confident again. Feeling like he can play that. I think he's right on the edge. I think he's right there.
I wish him the best. Coming up we got indoor hard courts in the States, then Indian Wells and Miami. I look for him to do some damage.

Q. What is your memory of that Lleyton match here?
JAMES BLAKE: Lleyton match here?

Q. Yes.

Q. Wasn't pleasant?
JAMES BLAKE: It wasn't. For me it was a great feeling because I had just come back from so many down times, just to be out on the court was a great feeling. To have some pressure moments, I won the first set, just barely remember that. The second set, I had a set point.
Completely just dumped it back in into the middle of net. I remember that. Just the feeling of having the crowd into it, excited. I think I saved a set point with a big backhand after that. Just to get that feeling out on the court was great for me.
I'm pretty sure I wasn't healthy at that point. My zoster was still affecting me. The next week I still didn't feel good. Then I had my ups and downs for another two or three months where I really wasn't sure I was healthy. When I got to San Jose, I remember practicing indoors, not being able to see very well because it was still affecting my vision.
For me it was just so great to be out there and feeling good, the feeling of the crowd, knowing that I could still hopefully do this for a living. It was tough to lose to Lleyton, but at least I lost to a great player in his home country when he was playing well. I remember not having so much fun in the third set when he beat me 6-0.
I was literally at that point happy to be here. I know a lot of people say that's a terrible attitude. You never want to just be happy to be somewhere, you want to win it. That's the way I feel now. But at that point I was just happy to be healthy, happy to be playing. So I have that memory.
Of course, I wish I could have won. But I'm realistic in knowing had I won, I probably would have lost the next round because I wasn't fully healthy at that point. If I had, it would have been great for me at that point, but I don't think it would have made much difference in my career.
It was a matter of waiting till I got healthy, having that patience, dealing with everything else that was going on in my life. Now the most important thing for me is winning matches. I feel confident about it. I hope it will be a different result if I do play him this time. You never know. Like I said, he's a great player.

Q. Did you say you're going to go out with Robby for dinner?
JAMES BLAKE: Probably not tonight. I think room service is my plan for tonight. It's getting late. If he's still around tomorrow I'll give him a call, and hopefully I can treat him to dinner.
I think he's been having good luck so far at the casino. Hopefully that will rub off on me, and maybe we'll go put down a few bets and have some fun.

Q. What do you play?
JAMES BLAKE: I've been playing some baccarat and a little blackjack. I love baccarat a lot. It hasn't been treating me well this year. Most years I've done well here. I need to change the luck a little.

Q. Are you playing Davis Cup against Czech Republic?
JAMES BLAKE: As long as Patrick McEnroe wants me on the team, I'll be there. I hope he wants me. I feel like I've been playing pretty well. This team has come together great with Andy, myself, the Bryans. I'm looking forward to it, yeah. It's going to be a quick change going from Rebound Ace to hard to clay. It's probably going to be the same for them.
We're looking forward to winning a clay away tie, which has been a bit of our kryptonite in years past. But I'm looking forward to it. The guys are a great group of guys. It's a long trip, but we're going to get over there as early as we can, be prepared. Just having two guys, myself and Andy, playing so confidently right now, I like our chances. The Bryans for us put so much confidence in us that they're going to get that doubles point.
I like our chances. I just really love -- that's another thing I've missed when I was hurt and sick, is being a part of that team. I just love it. As long as I'm available and healthy, Patrick McEnroe wants me on the team, I'll be there.

Q. Do you feel like U.S. team is heavy favorite?
JAMES BLAKE: I wouldn't say a heavy favorite. Anything can happen in Davis Cup. There aren't many heavy favorites ever in Davis Cup, especially away. The crowds can get to you. The surface can be tricky. Anything can happen. When you have a player as talented as Tomas Berdych, it's not we're a heavy favorite.
Like I said, I really like our chances, with how much our team has come together, how much we enjoy being around each other. I've always felt those are the types of team that overachieve. Just the fact that we really care about how each other's doing. If I'm in my room, if Andy's playing, that's the only thing on my TV. I'm watching him, hoping he's doing well, living and dying on his points. I really think he's doing the same. The Bryans are the first ones -- when I get back to my hotel room, I have a feeling I'll have a message from them saying, Good job tonight. When I see them playing, it's the same thing.
We all care about each other. It's hopefully a team that's going to overachieve. I'd like to think we're a favorite to win it. It's tough to say that with an away tie.

Q. Have you ever been to Czech Republic?
JAMES BLAKE: I've never been to Czech Republic. I've heard Prague is beautiful. Haven't heard too much about Ostrava. We'll see. I hear we're playing in a hockey rink, 3,000 people.

Q. 6,000.
JAMES BLAKE: Great, even better. Hopefully they'll fill it and we'll have some fun. I'll learn something about the Czech Republic. It's for me another perk of the job, getting to see new places, learn new cultures, hopefully win a few matches.

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