James Blake Interview - August 17

Posted on August 18, 2007

WESTERN SOUTHERN FINANCIAL GROUP MASTERS

August 17, 2007

James Blake

CINCINNATI, OHIO

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You had twenty unforced errors the first set and nine the rest of the match. What happened there? Did you calm down? What changed?
JAMES BLAKE: Just started playing a little better. I don't know how to explain it. My game is one that's pretty aggressive and I go for my shots. So there are times it looks like I'm probably playing stupid, but it's just because that's my game and it's gone off a little.
When it's off a little it can look pretty bad. In that first set I thought I did great job of still kind of hanging in there. I still had my chance. If I maybe played one or two points better in that 5-6 game I could have had it into a tiebreaker.
And then with the way I play anything can. I can play aggressive and go after it and just hit a couple winners in that breaker and be up a set ven though I didn't play my best. That's just the way I play.
And it started getting better in the second and third sets. I think sometimes it's tough when you play a really, really good match to come out the next day because you don't know what the expectations are. Are you going to keep that level up? Are you going to be disappointed if it's not exactly the same?
So I felt like I did a great job mentally after losing that first set and not playing my best of just hanging with it, still serving well, and I didn't get broken after that and still going after my shots but they were going in.
In a way it makes me look smarter but it's the same game all the time, it's just better execution in the second and third sets.

Q. Considering how you came into it tournament taking it easy because of your stomach muscle, how odd does it seem to you that you're the furthest you've been in a Masters Series tournament since Indian Wells of '06?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, maybe it's a sign that I need to rest a little more sometimes. I don't know. But maybe it's also just the lack of expectations coming in. I try not to have too many expectations going into any tournaments, but I think it's natural to have some when I had such a good year last year.
This time I really didn't know what to expect. I was mainly just trying to be healthy and making sure I was cleared to play. Since then it's just been great. I do think there's something to be said for guys that are well-rested, and that's why we've, as a player council, have asked about shortening the season, and have gotten it lengthened and gotten more mandatory tournaments on the schedule in 2009, which is probably not ideal for these type of injuries or any type of injuries and for the length of our overall careers.
But I like the fact that I had a little bit of a rest and now I'll hopefully be fresh all the way through the US Open.

Q. Did you change anything in the second or third set, or tell yourself anything to kind of stop making unforced errors?
JAMES BLAKE: Not really. I mean, I was still going after my shots the same way. The only thing I was thinking about was maybe taking advantage of his second serve a little more. Because he wasn't serving nearly the way he was in Indianapolis but he was playing much better off the ground.
So it was a very different match from Indianapolis where he was just serving unbelievable, and I felt like when I got into the points I was taking advantage of those. But here he was playing great defensive tennis, and when he got the chance he was taking rips and playing really well.
He just didn't serve well, and that was something I maybe wasn't really expecting. So I was maybe going for a little too much off his second serves early on, and then when I saw that I was getting a few more second serves maybe I wasn't going for as much but trying to be aggressive with the shots after that, with the shots after that, and getting the first ball in and then taking my chances.
Worked out better, and luckily he didn't start serving the way he was in Indianapolis. Maybe he was a little tired from a few three-setters earlier this week or just a lot tennis this summer. I don't know, but I started playing a little more aggressive on the shots after the return.

Q. And can you talk about match point? He said it was probably one of the craziest things he's been part of.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. It was funny, because when he hit that first one -- I talked to him in the locker room. When he his that first one I thought it was out. I thought I had already won the match. I looked up and I was like, Oh, no. It's coming in. The wind or whatever is holding it in.
But I'm like, Oh, that's coming in. And I -- all I wanted to do as get it to his backhand and not give him backhand and not give him a chance to just rip a forehand winner. I got it to his backhand, kind of pushed it there, and he made me hit another volley.
That next one that he threw off I thought -- I was like, All right, this one is going short enough I was just going put an exclamation point on it. It was so close to the net I was worried it was going to hit the net and just drop over, so I had to get back.
Saw him running in and I knew he had kind of conceded at that point. I wanted to make sure to get it away from him. I didn't want it hit him. But it was great scrambling from him. When your backed against the wall and about to lose you do anything to stay in the point, and he did.

Q. When did you think about tonight's match being in solid out -- beyond sold out, center court, the crowd, you and Sam going against each other.
JAMES BLAKE: It's a great feeling having an all-American quarter. Especially such a young kid with a ton of potential. Like I said, he played so much better off the ground this time. And when he puts that together with serving well, his potential is just off the charts.
So it's fun to play against a guy like that, a guy with a great attitude. I don't think he threw his racquet once or yelled once like a lot of young kids will do. He has a great demeanor and just a classy guy at such a young age. So it's fun to play against a guy like that.
And then the crowd makes it that much more exciting. Like you said, I haven't been in a quarter since last year in Miami, so it's a good feeling to be in one in the States with the crowd behind me and just having fun and making sure that they're still behind us to see some good tennis.
I was excited, and I think you could see it in some of emotion that I showed out there today. Sam is a great player, and like I said earlier in the week, it doesn't matter if I see a seed in the quarters or the semis or a wildcard or a qualifier, I know if I'm playing someone in the quarters of a Masters Series they've played great tennis to get there.
So I'm not thinking about whether or not it's a good win or paper or against a high-ranked guy, it's someone that's playing like a top 10 player at that point probably.

Q. How is your stomach feeling?
JAMES BLAKE: Ut's feeling great. It's getting better and better. I was really careful with it the first couple of matches, and I still being a little careful with it. But it's just feeling great. I'm excited I made it through a three setter this time without any noticing it. I can't really complain.
I'm excited. I was coming into this tournament thinking I'll have to break a lot and I've only gotten broken twice in four matches, so something is working out pretty well.

Q. Are you going stay and watch or are you outta here?
JAMES BLAKE: I'll probably watch as I'm packing up and getting ready to go back just on TV. But I think my coach will stick around and watch. I've played Davydenko quite a few times but I haven't played Ferrer in quite a long time. It'll be good for Bryan to watch.

Q. You came in here without any expectations. How have they changed now?
JAMES BLAKE: Still pretty much the same. I'm still making sure to be careful with my stomach and make sure I'm ready for the US Open, but this is now a great opportunity for me. Playing in the semis of a Masters Series, I haven't been here since last year at Indian Wells, so I'm excited.
I've had some success here in doubles but never in singles. So it's a really good feeling to kind of give back to these fans that have support me for a while. My expectations are still that I'm playing in the semis of a Masters Series, so it's still a great player. Whether it's Ferrer or Davydenko, they've had some big wins already this week.
Davydenko kind of routinely beating Berdych, Ferrero beating Roddick. Those guys are both playing great tennis. Either one is going to be easy. I won't hang my head in shame if I lose to either one of them, but I'll be very proud if I can go out there and get a win against one of those top players.

Q. How do you match matchup against Davydenko?
JAMES BLAKE: I've been fortunate to play him every time on hard courts, and I've played some of my best tennis. I think I'm 4-0 against him, maybe 5-0 actually. I don't know, I've played great. I try to attack him. He's not a guy that overpowers you with just one shot or serve or anything like that, so you get a chance to get in the points a lot.
I try to take my chances and be aggressive, and the aggressive play has paid of the last few times I've played him. But we've had some battles. At the Masters Cup last year I think he had me a set and a break up. He was playing unbelievable. There was nothing I could do get a sniff that time, and then I just kind of clawed my way back and played some good tennis again to get a win.
But I know it might have to happen again where I just scrap out a win. He's a great player that just wins match after match after match. Ferrer I really haven't played since 2002. I might have to call Andy and see if he's got some tips for me.

Q. What's the opinion on the Davydenko gambling scandal?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I don't want to prematurely say anything that anyone's innocent or guilty or like that. I think we all learned from the Duke case not to do that. I'm sure the temptation is there in the locker room from some people are, you know, not of the greatest moral standards.
But from what I've seen in the locker room the guys are very ethical and they've been great. I haven't heard of anything factual that's been proven yet. So I know the temptation is there, but I think the guys in the locker room have done a great job of not letting that kind of situation affect us.
Since it's a one-on-one sport that's where, I guess, the most temptation is. As we've seen in boxing people think it's rigged when you can just get to one person and they can be kind of bought. It's too much of a temptation. But I think the guys have done a great job and not let that into our sport. Our sport has too much tradition and too much history and the guys are too well versed on that to hopefully let anything like that happen.
That being said, if anything does come up factual, then whoever is guilty, in tennis or out of tennis, needs to be punished to the full extent of the law, I think, because we -- our game is so historic and traditional that we can't have anything like that enter into it.

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