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March 17, 2008

James Blake


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You had some pretty long, tough matches with Carlos in the past. Today, after a slow start, let's say, things certainly picked up and you played very well. Are you happy with that?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, very happy. I've had a lot of tough matches with him. I think that evened the score. I think we're 6 and 6, which is the most frequent opponent of mine on tour is 12 matches.
We know each other's games really well. Beforehand I talked to my coach about the fact that almost every single match I've played with him there's been ups and down. One of us having match point, one of us having being down big and coming all the way back.
This one, even the first set I was down a break, second set I was up a break, and he got it right back. I think playing a guy like that, there's no way to expect to go through it smoothly. So really happy with getting through it in two sets, and either way just getting the win was something I was proud of. This was the first place I ever beat him. That held a lot of memories for me, because he was a guy that beat me a couple of times early in my career, and I thought -- I wondered in I'd ever get over that hump and be able to play a top player like him.
To beat him here when I felt like I was I was playing really well the first time was a big steppingstone in my career. Today brought some fond memories.

Q. Last two games were pretty amazing.

Q. Backhand up the line on the return.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I was a little lucky. To be perfectly -- I did actually guess right. I guessing and hoping he was going put it there, but I definitely didn't mean to put it that close. It was right on the line.
I was just trying to kind of guide it up the line and make him to start out the point running. Sometimes when you aim in one place you miss it a little and it ends up being better than what you aimed it for.

Q. Would you ever not play in the Olympics, given the opportunity?
JAMES BLAKE: Tough to say, but right now I'm playing this year, for sure. As long as they give me the opportunity, as long as I'm healthy, I'm going to play. I can't speak for anyone else. What's going through their mind, different motivations.
Obviously in tennis, the Grand Slams are the priority. The Olympics is -- isn't something that a lot of people talk about with their careers, except for maybe a few of the guys, like Nicolas Massu and Mardy Fish.
But I think if you talk to maybe the Andre Agassis and the Pete Samprases, the Jennifer Capriatis, the Lindsay Davenports, the Grand Slams might mean more to them than the Olympics just because it's not our focal point of the year. Our focal points are generally the Grand Slams.
For me, I've never been there. Never been a part of the team. For me, it's a huge honor, and I want to be a part of it. If I play it, you know, if I've played in the -- if I played in the Olympics three times and I see what goes on there, I've experienced it, and then it is right before the US Open and I need to get ready for that, maybe I wouldn't. But right now, it's high on my priority list.

Q. But you're willing to accept that maybe it could hamper your level going in or your chances of doing well in the New York?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, but I've dealt with the fact that this is a very individual sport. Some things work well for some, some work better the other way. You know, I feel like I'm going to go there and get the best competition possible.
Roger is playing. I haven't heard for sure if Nadal is playing or Djokovic or all those guys, but my assumption is all those top guys are going to be playing, except Andy. I think the competition is going to be very tough, so to get in the tournament where you're playing the top competition, even if it's halfway around the world, you're still preparing pretty well for the US Open, I think, and this year I'm planning on that week off after it to get ready for the US Open.
That's something I haven't done in the past. Maybe that will help me be rested and ready for the US Open.

Q. Have you talked to Andy about his decision not to play?
JAMES BLAKE: We talked a little bit about it, but not nothing in particular. Just asked if he was going, and he said he doesn't think so, and we moved on from there.

Q. How would you describe the state of American men's tennis?
JAMES BLAKE: Pretty good, in my opinion. We're the Davis Cup champions. Right there, I think -- it speaks for itself in terms of that's kind of the pinnacle of tennis and of a country's accomplishments in the world of tennis, so really proud of that.
We've got two guys in the top 10. Andy's already won a title this year. I've been in the finals and quarters of a slam, and the Bryans are every tournament, every year in the finals of slams, winning slams, finals of Masters Series, winning Masters Series.
So we've got the best doubles team in the world, two guys in the top 10, and some guys soon that, in my opinions, soon to be making waves with Donald Young, John Isner, and even Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri basically on the comeback trail from having some sub par results in their minds.
So they're going to be very dangerous coming up as well, so I like the way we're looking.

Q. Combo question: Young and Isner, who do you think has the bigger upside?
JAMES BLAKE: It's tough to say at such a young age. I'm actually terrible at that. Every time these kind of water cooler talks come up about who's going to be successful, if anyone is -- anyone wants to read this, don't employ me as a scout, because I've said some guys are never going to make it, and I don't want to name names, but they've made it to top 5 in the world when I said I don't think they'll ever get to be top 50. Some guys I thought are sure things and have not panned out.
So I'm not very good at that, but both guys have a ton of talent. I think Donald might be a little more talented in terms of his movement and his hands and everything around the net, but it's tough to say that a guy doesn't have a huge upside when he's 6'9" and serves the way John Isner does.
So it's a matter of him being able to control the rest of his game. I think right now Donald might be a little more advanced in terms of all his skills and his all-around game. But with that serve, it took a guy like Karlovic a little while to come into his own with the rest of his game and not lose so many 6 and 6 matches and actually find ways to break guys. Now that he has he's top 25, and that might be the path Isner is on.

Q. And if I could, Carolina basically has sort of four home games. Possibility. Disappointment if they don't cut down the nets? What's your prognosis?
JAMES BLAKE: I like their situation. I really do. Heard on ESPN that's the toughest section, Tennessee is the toughest No. 2 seed. But I like the game against Carolina. I like Carolina's chances in that division. I think Louisville might even get Tennessee before that. Carolina's looking pretty good the way they've been playing, going through the ACC tournament the way they did, and I like their chances of being in the Final 4.

Q. Will you be disappointed if they don't win at all?
JAMES BLAKE: I'm always disappointed when they lose, but I think -- I mean, knowing -- being an athlete, knowing how hard it is to go in as a No. 1 seed and succeed and go in and kind of deal with the pressures and the expectations, I'm always amazed at college athletes, at how mature they are and how well they deal with that kind of pressure.
Because when I was that age, there was no chance I was dealing with that kind of pressure in college tennis compared to them being on ESPN all the time. I'm really impressed with the poise a lot of those guys show. If they do it, I'll be very, very impressed. If they don't, hopefully -- maybe that'll get Tyler Hansbrough back one more year. Maybe it'll be a blessing in disguise.

Q. James, your inability to call talent notwithstanding, just to take you back a few weeks to Kei Nishikori, can you say what about his game was particularly impressive?
JAMES BLAKE: From the ground he was just rock solid, didn't make many mistakes, didn't give them any points for free. I didn't feel like I returned as well then. His return isn't yet a weapon, I don't think, or a big weapon the way some of the guys on tour have it.
I didn't do enough to attack that, but once we got into the points -- I feel like usually when I get in the points with guys I'm in really good shape. He stepped up and played great the whole time, didn't ever back down, didn't start missing or making mistakes or getting nervous or anything. He really played great.
I think his groundstrokes are very dangerous. He's got a solid backhand, can rip it up the line when he needs to, and his forehand is solid, as well. Moved really well. I think his serve can become more of a weapon and he's -- he's got a bright future, I think. But like I said, maybe I you shouldn't judge by me.

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