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January 15, 2008

James Blake



Q. He broke you back in the first set. Once you got over that it seemed to flow.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I mean, I was actually a little surprised that wasn't more up and down. After the first few games I felt like I was playing great. Got a break. Felt like I made a couple mistakes.
In a three-out-of-five-set match against a guy that's a former top 10 player, has a lot of confidence against top players, I figured it was going to be a lot of up and down. I just kind of braced myself for that, tried not to let that affect me, keep going forward, tried to get the set. Taking it to him and playing my game. If I make a couple mistakes, I make a couple mistakes.
I kept playing well. I don't know if maybe he got down on himself a little. I don't think that was exactly his best tennis ever, but the way I was playing I hope that had a big affect on it. So I was pretty pleased the way I didn't react too much to getting broken back or anything like that.
In the first Grand Slam of the year without a lot of matches, it's a good feeling to know that I still have that mental ability with me.

Q. How tough was it to recover from Sydney? That must have been disappointing.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, that was tough. Fabrice is a tricky player. He gives just about everyone on tour headaches. I managed to beat him every time before that, but this time he got me. He was being Fabrice. He was getting to a ton of balls. He was coming up with shots that you would never expect. He was putting balls in difficult positions for you to hit winners.
That's a tough match to lose because he gives you a lot of chances to hit balls so you feel like you're kind of in control. So when you lose that one it's tough, but that's why he's been on tour for 20 years.
You know, he knows how to win those matches. It was difficult. But I still feel like my preparation was good. I got here pretty early then, got a lot of good practice in. I actually wasn't practicing that great after that match, so I was really, really happy with the way I played today because I put a couple bad practices out of my head and didn't let any of that affect me. I was able to come up with some of my best during the match.

Q. Did you give Isner a scouting report before the match?
JAMES BLAKE: I tried to, but apparently it wasn't a very good one. I think a lot of guys, their first time against Fabrice, have a tough time. I was a little wary of that with him, that it would be tough, 'cause it's like no one else you've played.
I knew it would be difficult for him, especially the way Fabrice returns, and it was. But it will be a learning experience for him. I got a lot of confidence that John's got a bright future ahead. Hopefully this won't set him back too much.

Q. He broke Andre's record for Grand Slam appearances today. Can you comment on his longevity?
JAMES BLAKE: Impressive. Very, very impressive. What is it, like 62?

Q. Yes.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, that's incredible. I have no idea what I'm at, but I know I'm never going to be at 62. It's impressive, especially the way he plays.
Andre started so young, had such incredible hand-eye coordination, and could make matches short and could kind of minimize the amount of movement he did on the court with just his ball-striking ability and his power. So that makes sense for how good he was for so long, to be able to do what he did.
But for Fabrice, he puts a lot of wear and tear on his body, to play every match. Playing singles and doubles, I think he usually plays mixed, too. To be doing that is very impressive. It shows how much he loves the game. I'm sure he doesn't need to do it for the money anymore.
He's definitely just doing it because he loves the game. You can see it when he's thinking out there, when he's down and he's changing his tactics, when he's up and he's smiling. He just loves the game.
It's really something that the young kids could watch and learn from. I don't know if they're going to learn how to hit his slice forehand, but they can learn with his attitude and intelligence, ways to think your way around the court.

Q. How much of a springboard do you think the Davis Cup is going to be for you this season?
JAMES BLAKE: It's tough to tell. I mean, it was so emotional to get through that and to celebrate with the team and just to feel -- still to hear Davis Cup champion in front of my name is something that gives me chills and is something that is so thrilling and is something that can never be taken away.
So much of your career, every time you have a first, every time you do something new, it's another accomplishment you can be proud of that won't be taken away.
That one is one that so far has been the biggest thing I can hang my hat on and the best memory and the brightest memory for my career already.

Q. Did it give you more confidence?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. It means that I know I can come through in big matches. I felt like I've always had that confidence, but that just maybe showed other people that I have that confidence, as well. To come through in a big match like that, contribute to a team, it's definitely going to help.
Any time it's a close match, I think there isn't any -- I can't speak from experience, but I don't think there's any other pressure like serving for a Davis Cup -- serving in the Davis Cup final for the match or playing tiebreakers in a Davis Cup final.
I don't know. I'll have to ask Andy about serving for Grand Slam titles, but I think he said the same thing: That there's no pressure that's the same.
Knowing that, hopefully I'll have opportunities to have a lot of pressure on me in a lot of big matches in Grand Slams and Masters Series and things throughout the year, but I can always draw back on that and know that I can come through in a big match and against a top player like Mikhail Youzhny.

Q. How different are these courts to Sydney, if at all?
JAMES BLAKE: I think these might be a little quicker, but that could also be I was maybe surprised by how the ball was bouncing at Sydney. Maybe I expected them to be faster and they weren't as fast. It could have just been my surprise. It also could have been the way Fabrice was playing.
But here it seems like the ball goes through a little quicker. I still think it's a very medium and kind of fair court. I think the big hitters can hit through it, the counter-punchers have time to get to balls, and especially as the balls fluff up it makes it tougher for the big hitters, I think.
But it's not ridiculously slow and it's not as fast as I would have expected it to be.

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