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September 21, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. James, you experienced a lot of success against Thomas Johansson in the past. What was different today?
JAMES BLAKE: He played better. Served a lot better. The other times I played him he would serve well in spurts but wasn't able to keep it up for the whole match like he was today.
Last time I was able to take advantage of my opportunities and go after some second serves and put pressure on him. It worked last year in Stockholm. This year in Indy there weren't really very many breaks so he did serve well for most of the time, but so did I.
I don't know exactly what was wrong with my serve. I need to hopefully hit some more tomorrow and figure it out by Sunday. He played a lot better than he has the last few times I played him.
Q. And your energy level, did you feel like it was where it needed to be?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. I mean, I did everything I could out there, but he just played better today. I was trying to get fired up. It's tough to get fired up sometimes when you're down two sets to love, but I was able to do that and still go after my chances.
It's tough when you're not getting that much rhythm and he's hitting a lot of aces and service winners. Some of that was my fault for not getting some of those returns in, but a lot of it had to do with the way he was serving and keeping me guessing. When he was making first serves he was hitting his spots.
Q. How do you like playing on this surface? Very fast, isn't it?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I actually like it. I've been playing great all week. In practice I feel like it's a good surface for me. It's also a good surface for them. I think that was the choice they made, whether to play to their strength and our strength or play to their weakness and our weakness, and I think it was the right play for them.
The best play is to play to their strength. Happens to be our strength too, and today Thomas played a little bit better than me and Andy played a little bit better than Joachim in the big moments. They took their chances and went after their shots and were playing aggressive. That's what this surface is tailor made for.
Q. James, when Patrick announced the team at the Open, he talked about you winning in more away matches as kind of a next step. It's not any secret to you, but these matches are all very different. They're in different places against different people. Is there any commonality for you in making the next step in what you need to?
JAMES BLAKE: You know, each match is different so I'm not going to say there's one thing that's been a determining factor. I think today Thomas served great on a fast court, and that's one of the big keys to victory on a day like this and a court like this.
Other times often it's been on our weaker surface. It's been on clay. So that's been difficult for me to make adjustments to especially indoor clay where I feel it's temporary clay that doesn't always have true bounces and it's tough for us to move very well.
Each one has a different feel. But today I don't relate it to a loss to Berdych or Rochus. I just relate it to Thomas playing well today and me not coming up big when I needed to and not serving my best.
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I mean, I think as James said I give a lot of credit to Thomas. He came out right at the start and was really aggressive on his returns and made some big shots. This is the kind of court where if you get ahead it's harder to come back because you can't really work your way into a lot of points.
Part of my job -- not only saying it's big for James, but it's big for me to help James in whatever way I can. So we both got to come out and be ready and be ready for -- I mean, Thomas played just a great match.
I think that if we had come out maybe a little bit better maybe it could have been different, but it didn't happen. As James said, you got to take each match as its own entity. In this particular match Thomas deserves a lot credit for how well he played.
James has taken a lot of great steps in the last couple years individually and also in Davis Cup, and I'm expecting him to take another one, which is to win a big match for us in an away match. That may very well be on Sunday. Who knows.
But I have all the confidence in him and his ability to step up and play, and that's why he's on the team. There's no even thinking about anything else. James has proven that he's a top 10 player the last two years.
It's fun to sort of sit back and pontificate over various things, but the reality is that James has made incredible progress steadily in his career. He's probably improved more at a later age than most guys certainly that I know have done.
Yeah. Can he improve more? Absolutely. And I think he knows that and I think he will.
Q. James, you mentioned Thomas' serving. His returning, he seemed to be reading your serve quite well. Did you think about mixing it up a bit more?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I tried. Didn't work too well. Like he said, he was reading my serve well. And when he was, he was taking his chances and be aggressive. He is one of the better ball strikers out there on tour. When it seems like a pace doesn't really bother him much he can shorten his swing and take a crack at it. He was doing that well.
If I had the serve of a Joachim Johansson or Andy Roddick, yeah, I'm sure it would have been a lot easier. But I don't. It's just not something I was necessarily blessed with. I don't have that ability. I have to find other ways to win points.
Part of it was the way he was returning and how aggressive he was. But part of it is I got to figure out what I was doing wrong and hopefully improve on that.
Q. Do you have any sense of what you think you need to be working on?
JAMES BLAKE: Not right now. I haven't talked to my coach that much about it yet.
Q. Patrick, in just about any tie Bob and Mike would be expected to win the doubles point tomorrow, but they're playing Aspelin and Bjorkman. What do you say to them, or do you feel they've had so much experience they know exactly what to do?
JAMES BLAKE: There's no doubt they know what to do. There's no doubt they're as prepared as possible. So from that standpoint we couldn't want any other team out there to play in a big moment like this. They live for these kind of moments and this kind of pressure.
They've said all week long this is one of their toughest matches if not the toughest matches sort of matchup-wise in the Davis Cup. You know, Jonas is one of the best doubles players ever, and Aspelin just won the Open and is having a good year all around in doubles.
But at the same time they don't play together that much, so we feel like that's an advantage for us. Maybe they have an advantage playing at home and getting the crowd behind them. Thomas used that to his advantage today. So it's sort of, I mean, open the balls and let's go.
Q. And Andy on Sunday, he's in good shape against Johansson?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I mean, look, you saw how well Thomas can play. Obviously every matchup is different, but it's right now we're just concentrating on tomorrow. Tomorrow is obviously a huge match, but I feel very good about going into Sunday with both Andy and James. I think they'll both play well.
Q. The conversation you guys had after the second set was about as intense as I've seen you have. What kind of exchange did you have there?
CAPTAIN McENROE: It was really just I wanted James to just go out there and go for it, you know, play his game and go for his shots. You know, the other guy was playing great and you got to respect that and tip your hat to him.
At the same time, you've got to go out there and try your butt off. That's pretty much all it was about. I'll leave out some of the other, you know, words, but that's pretty much it.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, that's the gist of it. He said what needed to be said. That's what he's out there for and that's what helped me through the third set. I did my best in the fourth as well. That's all I can do is go out there and do my best. I hope all the guys know that.
Every time I come off the court I get plenty of pats on the back and nods from the guys knowing that I've given it my all. That's what Patrick reaffirmed with me there.
Q. I also saw Andy kind of lean over the boards at one point. Was that a pep talk or tactical tip?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, he just basically told me to make this a long match. Take this into a fifth and make it a real battle out here. I think that helped me just showing that he's got faith in me in a fifth set. If I can come back and fight hard I can give this guy a lot problems. At any time I can turn it right around and get going.
So just basically keeping me positive and staying positive, and that's great to have teammates that do keep you positive.
Q. James, you've had either the good fortune or the curse, I guess, of playing a lot of dead rubbers. Is that valuable, or is it just a workout?
JAMES BLAKE: It depends. I think it's not the same atmosphere, so it's -- I can't say it really prepares me any more. I think when I was younger it made a big difference just getting a little bit the atmosphere of Davis Cup. It was a big deal then, but now when we're home it definitely feels like something that you want to do for the crowd and make sure that they're here to see some good tennis.
You can put on a show for them because they're all come out to support Davis Cup on the road. It's probably a little different. You hop their best guys will come out and play the dead rubber and do the same and try their best.
We'll see. I don't know how to describe a dead rubber. It's a weird situation in tennis that doesn't really happen in other sports. Once a team gets to four in the World Series you don't play the last three games. So it's kind of a strange feeling.
But, you know, we know how to play tennis. It's not that hard for us.
Q. Just curious if there's any scoreboard watching going on. Germany and Russia tied also.
CAPTAIN McENROE: We always follow the scores out of interest, but that's pretty much it. We are entirely focused on what we need do here.
Q. Davis Cups are known for having a raucous crowds. What did you think of today's crowd?
JAMES BLAKE: I thought they were fine. Seemed to be respectful. Very rarely was there calling out during points. Seemed like the only noises that came up during a serve or during points were accidental: A baby crying or one of those little clapper things popping or something like that.
You know to expect a raucous crowd, like you said. They are very vocally supporting their guy, and they have the right to do that. That's part of the game. It was -- for me it's fun to play at home and on the road to get that different feel. They helped him, and I think that has to be part of the reason that he played so much better this time than the last two times I played him.
They did a great job, and I felt like they were pretty respectful.
Q. You were quite unhappy with a couple calls there in the second set. Were those calls crucial for the game, do you think?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, on a breakpoint, yeah, I think that's crucial. But if you have a five-set match one or two points shouldn't totally affect the outcome of the match. I think he played better than me. I would have liked to have had those called, but there's a good chance he would have won anyway.
I can't blame one or two calls for my loss. I have to give him credit for playing the way he did. I thought they were mistakes. It's frustrating to get those at such important times, but that's part of the human error of the game. Got to be able to accept that.
Q. Patrick, just assess Andy's match briefly. How surprised were you at how Pim-Pim played, and what kind of matchup is he going to pose for James if that indeed happens?
CAPTAIN McENROE: Well, I was very impressed with Andy and number one, not knowing how Pim-Pim would play and then seeing pretty early that he was going play well. First or second game or Andy's serve he hit a couple incredible winners.
So we knew then that the guy -- obviously we know he can play when he's healthy, and he showed that was healthy. For Andy I thought he just did a great job of focusing on his serve. You know, I felt like he was getting a lot more chance to break certainly than Joachim was.
That certainly told the store in the tiebreakers. He won the few crucial points that he needed. Mentally he was extremely focused on what he needed to do. You know, didn't get rattled at all by some of the great shots that Joachim had. I was impressed with both guys.
Obviously when James plays Joachim it's a different sort of matchup and one that probably can give Pim-Pim a lot of trouble. James will be able to make him hit a lot balls and just a different kind of matchup.
Q. You were saying that you had some problems on your serve. It seemed strange during the match that you were putting so much extra pressure on yourself . You keep hitting your first serve very hard. Why didn't you just try to get more first serves in?
JAMES BLAKE: Thomas Johansson is an excellent player and an excellent returner, so just to roll serves in, I'm going lose that match every time. I have to go for my shots. I'm not going to be successful at this level just being content with making serves.
That's something you do in the jurors or maybe in college, but not at this level, not with the way he returns. So I have to go for my shots and my serve, and today they weren't going in.
But especially on this court where you can take first-strike tennis kind of and take risks, he would basically being doing the same thing he was doing to my second serves to my first serves if I was just trying to get them in. So I have to go for them, and that really wasn't even going to enter into my mind to just roll it in and let him start teeing off and getting a lot of rhythm on my serve.
Q. Patrick, what's your guess on (indiscernible).
JAMES BLAKE: You know, I don't really spend a lot times guessing to be honest, but he certainly played well today. You know, the question is how he recovers having not played a lot tennis in the last seven, eight months. But he certainly showed that he's capable of playing well. I'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
End of FastScripts