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Saturday, March 14, 2009

March 16, 2009 - James Blake

Hello once again. I hope everyone is doing well. It’s been a very good tournament so far. The crowds have been amazing and the weather has been great.

I managed to get through my first match even though I lost the second set. It was nice and warm during the day, but I played the second match of the evening session and it was a cool night, which made the conditions a little bit slower. I was happy to win and now I can focus on my next match.

When you play on the tour, there are no easy matches, no matter who you play. Sometimes you might see a score of a match that may look like an easy win, but I’ll tell you with the depth in men’s professional tennis these days, there are no easy wins and every match is tough.

In my first blog earlier this week, I mentioned that this tournament will always be special for me because I reached the final here in 2006, but there is something that happened in nearby Rancho Mirage at the beginning of my pro career that was also very special.

It was back in 2000, the year after I turned pro, when I came to the desert to play in a USTA Challenger at the Mission Hills Country Club. The week before, I had lost to Andy (Roddick) in the second round at a Challenger in Burbank, but in Rancho Mirage everything started to click.

I beat Bob Bryan in the first round and I went on to reach the finals, where I beat Cecil Mamiit to win the tournament. It was the second Challenger title of my career. I remember getting the winners’ check for $3,600, but the important thing was the confidence it gave me. It was a really good feeling I had knowing that I could compete on the tour with those guys.

One interesting thing I remember from that tournament was that Bob (Bryan) was debating just concentrating more on doubles. I have to smile knowing I may have had something to do with him and his brother becoming one of the best doubles teams of all-time.

For sports fans, this is an awesome time of the year. Besides all of the tennis going on, there is the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I always get together with friends and fill out tournament brackets.

If you didn’t already know, I’m a big North Carolina Tar Heels fan and I’m pretty happy they got the top seed in the South region. I hope they go all the way this year.

Besides following the basketball tournament, I’ll be following major league baseball as soon as the season starts. I’m also a big Mets fan and I hope new relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez will help the Mets into the playoffs this year.

My coach is telling me it’s time to hit the practice courts, so I’ll say good-bye for now.

All the best.
James

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March 14, 2009 - James Blake

Greetings from Indian Wells everyone.

The good folks at the tournament here have asked me to put together a short blog this week, so I was more than happy to do it.

I love coming to Indian Wells at this time of the year when the weather is nearly perfect for playing tennis. For the most part, I play well here and I have a lot of good memories from the tournament.

In 2006 I had a “dream” tournament when I won five straight matches to get to the finals. It would have been great to win that last match and take the title, but Roger (Federer) was just too tough that day.

I’ve already noticed that this year’s tournament has a little bit of a different feel here because it has a new sponsor, BNP Paribas. I’m familiar with them because they sponsor Davis Cup and they’re a pretty big tennis sponsor in Europe.

The other day I happened to check out the men’s qualifying draw which was played this last Tuesday and Wednesday. I was happy to see guys like Kevin Kim, Robert Kendrick, Todd Widom, Michael Russell and Brendan Evans get to the main draw.

These guys spend a lot of time on the USTA challenger circuit during the year and they work hard, so it’s nice to see them win a couple of matches and get into the main draw of a big tournament like the BNP Paribas Open.

Sometimes as an American tennis player, you hear fans ask, “What’s wrong with American tennis?” If you look at the first round of the main draw, you’ll notice quite a few Americans won first-round matches including Kendrick, Widom and Russell. I was also happy to see Taylor Dent come through with a win. He’s been training hard during his comeback.

When I got here, someone asked me if I had brought my golf clubs with me. I actually didn’t this year, but who knows maybe if I have a chance later, I’ll get out on the greens.

Speaking of golf, I’ll never forget the time a couple of years ago when I went golfing at the Dunes at the La Quinta Resort here with my coach Brian Barker, Mardy Fish and Scott Humphries.

We were on the seventh hole, which is 202-yards and a par three. I used a four iron and I drove the ball, but didn’t see it drop because it rolled behind a little hill. When we got closer to the hole, I didn’t see any balls down there and then I started thinking it might have gone in.

Sure enough, it was a hole-in-one. To tell you the truth, I was excited, but it wasn’t my first one. I actually hit one about four months earlier back home in Florida.

I just found out that I’ll be playing Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the featured match on Saturday night on Stadium Court. I’ve beaten him in all five of our previous head-to-head matches, but four of the five matches have gone to three sets. He’s a dangerous player and I certainly won’t look past this match.

If you’re at the tournament in Indian Wells, I hope you have a good time at the BNP Paribas Open. There is going to be some great tennis during the two weeks.

Until next time.
James

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