Tuesday, August 30, 2011
James Blake, USA
|Jesse Huta Galung, The Netherlands|
Blake has been a true journeyman over the last year on tour, making trips to out-of-the-way places like Tallahassee, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Winnetka, Ill. But the off-the-beaten-path approach seems to be working out for the American, who recorded his eighth win of the summer with his four-set victory on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Blake, once ranked inside the top 10 and is best known at Flushing Meadows for his epic five-set quarterfinal loss to Andre Agassi in 2005, has struggled with injury in the last two years and at times has contemplated retirement. He began 2011 outside the top 150.
I was thinking about every match I've played on this court and Arthur Ashe when I walked out tonight," Blake said on court after his win. "I've come full circle. I appreciate every single one of those matches."
But after losing in the second round at Wimbledon this year, Blake took his chance in entering a Challenger tournament at Winnetka and won it -- giving him the confidence to move forward.
He continued to move forward on Tuesday, blasting his big-weapon forehand and serving well when it mattered. The American, currently ranked no. 63, opened the match with an ace and closed out the first set by breaking Huta Galung's serve for the third time.
In the second set it was much the same for Blake, who jumped out to a 4-1 lead and saw the set through with a running forehand up the line that just landed in. Huta Galung challenged the call, but the ball had dropped landed on the baseline, giving Blake a two-sets-to-love lead.
After a hiccup in the third set, Blake's late afternoon match slowly drifted into the evening, the lights on Armstrong springing to life as darkness fell. Blake went down a break in the fourth set, gesturing to his box in confused frustration and arguing with the chair umpire at times. But the 31-year-old New York native used a well-timed backhand lob to earn two break points in the eighth game of the set and prevailed on his second opportunity as Huta Galung sprayed a groundstroke long.
Blake used the break to spur him, his mom and brother cheering him on from his player's box. Holding serve for 5-4 in the fourth, he shouted, "Come on!" as he trotted to his chair. It would be the next game where he would break Huta Galung for the match, the world's No. 160 crumbling under the pressure from the American crowd.
Blake sprung out to a 0-40 lead on Huta Galung's serve in the tenth game and sent a blazing forehand return up the middle of the court for a winner, letting out a loud scream in victory.
"This is where it all started," Blake said, remembering his five-set encounter with Lleyton Hewitt on Armstrong in 2001. "I can win any match out here with this crowd behind me," Blake said. "I have a good shot in the next round. I'm just happy to be here."
Blake is set to take on No. 5 seed David Ferrer in the second round.