James Blake Interview - September 3


Posted on September 3, 2007

An interview with: James Blake
Monday, September 3, 2007

T. HAAS/J. Blake

4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. After all the twists and turns of breaking back, sort of all came down to two serves in the tiebreak. Could you go over those two points. Did you push the serve maybe too much?


JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I think I was a little indecisive at the end there. I didn't really commit to that serve, and it showed.
I wish I had a chance to maybe look at a second serve on one of those three match points that I had. Came up really big with those serves. Did come down to one or two points there. It's frustrating I didn't win 'em this time.
I got a couple of those in a breaker against Koubek, I got a few points against Santoro. It didn't go my way. I wish it had. I did everything I could. Fought as hard as I could. Broke back in the fifth set. Had the momentum. Felt like I was playing great. He came up big. I feel like I just pushed a couple of balls and ended up playing a little tentative in that tiebreaker.

Q. You were on the court for 12 hours in four matches. How much did fatigue play a factor in that match?
JAMES BLAKE: Not at all. My legs feel great. I like my chances to go out there and play another five setter right now. I feel fine. I'm not physically ailing at all. My legs feel actually good. I was somewhat surprised.
I know I've done a lot of hard work. I was aware I'd been on the court a lot. But I still feel great, like I could run down balls no matter where they were in that fifth set.
It had nothing to do with that.

Q. Does it hurt any less knowing how hard you've worked?
JAMES BLAKE: It's going to sting for a little while. Hopefully in a day or two I'll look back and say it's still not a terrible summer. Made the finals of Cincinnati. Won New Haven. Fourth round here. Finals of L.A. As Peter liked to point out, that was a terrible loss to Stepanek. Otherwise I felt I was playing pretty well.

Q. What happened in that 6-Love set?
JAMES BLAKE: You know, a lot of those games were close. I didn't feel like it was that much of a runaway. I had a breakpoint there in the first game, maybe two or three breakpoints. Didn't convert.
Then he started playing unbelievable. I think he had to hit six to eight just cold backhand down the line winners. Some of those there's nothing I can do. He can get hot like that. He's talented. He's been 2 in the world.
When he's serving well, hitting that backhand like that, he can do that to a lot of players. He took advantage. Maybe I got down on myself a little at 4-Love. I remember I was serving for it, I think I had 40-15 and he actually played two great points.
It wasn't like I was giving anything away. I was pretty happy with the job I did even after getting down a break early in the fifth when he played a pretty darn good game. I fought back and played well, gave it my all.
You know, I can't be too ashamed of the effort I put in.

Q. When you have three match points like that, are you still feeling that adrenaline rush, even though you don't get them?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it's deflating, but I didn't feel like I let that get to me, especially the way I played a couple pretty good points after those on the deuce points to get more match points.
He kept coming up with big first serves. Then to hold in a relatively easy game at 5-All when I just had three match points, I was pretty happy with that.
Tommy returns really well. I hadn't been serving my absolute best, but I came up with some big serves and played a great game there. So I think I showed I am a bit more mature than I was in the past, not to let that get to me.
Just another unfortunate learning experience today where I didn't take advantage in a tiebreaker. But I felt like I was doing everything else I could to do it right.

Q. I know it's early for reflecting, but when you do look back on this US Open, where do you think you'll place the achievement of getting your first five set win?
JAMES BLAKE: I'm not going to make as big a deal out of it as a lot of other people will. Like I said, physically I felt fine at the end of that five setter. I felt that way in a few of the five setters. A couple of them it's been my body breaking down.
That, to me, seems likes ancient history, when I was a little younger, my body was breaking down. Now it's just a matter of a point here or there. If it's not physically, I know it's not really that big of an issue because I've won a whole lot of third sets in two out of three set matches. It's not like I get too nervous or anything.
I won a third set tiebreaker in New Haven against a great player in Mathieu. I know it's not that. It just happens to be I've had a couple very obvious ones, very much at the forefront of the media's attention.
You know, in reflecting right now, I will say that years ago when I was so bummed I lost the USTA National 18 and Under, my coach and I talked about how as you get better and better the matches sting more and more when you lose. Because it hurts right now to lose in the fourth round of the US Open. It hurts so badly to lose in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
We just talk about the fact that that shows how well you're playing, that these hurt so much, because maybe it wouldn't hurt as much if I kept losing first rounds of New Haven, of here, of other places. When the stakes are higher, that means you've done something that you should be proud of when you reflect on it.
I hope in days to come, weeks to come, years to come, I am proud of the efforts I put in. I'm not going to hang my head too low about losing to some great players.

Q. Will you watch the rest of the tournament or does this take your interest away for a little while?
JAMES BLAKE: I'll watch Andy, for sure. I love to see him doing well. Watched him today, his last match. He's playing great. I'm real proud of him. I want him to do as well as possible. I would have loved to have met him in the semifinals and had another thriller.
He's doing great, playing exceptional tennis. I'd love to see him bust through here and win -- take one of these titles away from Federer or Nadal. He's got a tough run obviously. Most likely playing Federer in the next round.
I love the way he's playing, love the way he's competing. Just serving huge, as always. I'll watch a lot of those matches. Hopefully he's got plenty more left.
The others, I don't know if I'll watch as much. I've seen a lot of tennis in my life (smiling).

Q. A couple different achievements this summer. Your book is one of them. Can you talk about the significance of you telling an inspirational story in your life to other people, maybe it affecting them, whether they know you through tennis or not. Is that part of your body of work for your life?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, and it's something -- another thing when I was growing up, I never would have expected, I never would have believed at 27 years old I'd be telling an inspirational story. But I'm really proud of it. I'm exceptionally proud that people are able to relate to me more so than just on the tennis court.
I really don't think many people in this room or in any room can relate to playing in front of 20,000 people on national TV, hearing the crowd go crazy.
But they can relate to family tragedy. They can relate to cancer. They can relate to injuries and illnesses, things that go on in life where everyone's life is a bit of a bumpy ride.
I've never met one person yet that's had a smooth sailing from birth to old age. So it's a way of those people seeing that just because I'm living a charmed life for two or three hours a day on TV, it doesn't mean it's always that way.
And to relate to someone as a human being more so than just a tennis player is something I've cherished in a lot of these book signings. A lot of people have written in to my website, written letters to me, told me it makes a difference. I've gotten a new fan out of them just from people that didn't know much about tennis. That's something I'm really proud of.
I'm just happy I had the opportunity, Harper Collins gave me that chance, that people really do appreciate it. It's something that was a very therapeutic experience for me to write, to go over the ups and downs of my life at such a young age. It really was good for me to get it out and put it down on paper.

Q. Tommy is somebody who has matched you for bumps, ups and downs, injuries, tragedies.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. I remember when I first came back in '05 I did an interview and people asked me, Who is someone that you look up to on the tour? I actually said Tommy Haas, because at that point he came back from a very serious shoulder injury. A lot of doctors said he would never be the same, whether or not he was able to play was up in the air. He came back and got back to the top 10 in the world and is back playing at the top of the game.
He's someone that did what I did before I did. It's someone that is impressive. He's also had family issues with his parents. We're all happy that they're okay now. They had a tough accident, I think that was back in '04.

Q. '02.
JAMES BLAKE: I'm getting old. The years are running together. For him to bounce back, we're all happy to see that. He's a great player and a great champion. Has a ton of talent.

Q. How much of the competitive pain that you're feeling right now will be mollified by Davis Cup coming up, looking forward to that?
JAMES BLAKE: That's going to be hopefully a very good way to ease the pain 'cause I'm looking forward to that, getting back on the practice courts indoors, getting used to a lot of serve and volley points, a lot of quicker points over there in Sweden.
But I'll definitely take a couple days off, just take my mind off tennis a little bit. Probably the only exposure I'll have is watching Andy's matches. Then I'll get real fired up. Sometimes it might be tough after the US Open to really get excited again 'cause to a lot of Americans it seems like this might be the end of the season.
But when you have Davis Cup to look forward to, there's no way you cannot get excited for that. So I'll already be excited by the time I get on the plane to get over there. I'll be ready for Andy and I.

Q. When you go home you'll have extra days because of this early departure.
JAMES BLAKE: Unfortunately.

Q. Is there an indoor place to train, or is that necessary in the days before you leave?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, there's plenty of indoor places for me to train up in Connecticut. I grew up playing indoors. There's a lot of clubs that I know of where they tend to give me a little bit of court time. They're pretty nice to me.
In fact, my mom works at one, so I've got a pretty good connection this. I'll practice indoors plenty. Mark Merklein, my trainer, will come up. I'll hit with him. Brian. My brother. I'll be able to do plenty of drilling. I'm not looking forward to it. They'll have me doing a ton of two on ones, running, get in great shape to battle in Sweden.

Q. Fifth set tiebreakers, just your general feeling about them. How tough is it to play in a fifth set tiebreaker in this kind of situation?
JAMES BLAKE: It's pretty tough, but I feel like I had all the conditions in my favor today. I had the crowd on my side. Court conditions. The courts are suited to my game. It's also suited to Tommy's game.
Any time you get in a fifth set tiebreaker, it's clearly a crapshoot. Just about anyone can beat anyone on this tour in a tiebreaker. When it comes down to one tiebreaker for a match, absolutely anything can happen.
I feel like it's extremely exciting for the fans. It's even exciting for the players. It's a bit nerve wracking for the players, probably for the fans as well that are close to it. But that's the way it's always been done at the US Open. I feel like it's the American way. I love it.
I love seeing 'em as a fan. Tough to play 'em as a player. But, you know, it shows that it's been a pretty fair match up to get to a fifth set tiebreaker. It's probably going to come down to a point or two here or there anyway, so might as well do it with a sudden death type of mentality.

Q. You've had a lot of success here and in New Haven. What are you going to have to do to translate that into the rest of the tour? Summer hard courts are strong for you, but other surfaces, other places.
JAMES BLAKE: I think I won 10 titles, and only two in New Haven. I feel like I'm doing okay in other places. Top 10 in the world for the last couple years. I'm pretty proud of that.
In terms of doing well other places, I have possibly done my best here and at New Haven, probably because I've had the crowd on my side. It's exciting for me. Staying at home for New Haven is a great opportunity for me.
But I've also won in Stockholm a couple times, Sydney a couple times. I feel like I'm not necessarily in desperate need of just proving myself that I can win other places.
But I think, you know, I've done all right other places and can continue to. I'm excited about Davis Cup. I think that will keep my excitement high hopefully for a Davis Cup final this year. I like my chances on the indoor hard.
Just like I said, I've grown up indoors. I haven't done as well in Madrid, maybe getting used to that altitude. Stockholm has been a favorite of mine. We'll see if I can do a little better at Madrid this year.

Q. Did this match demonstrate the value of Hawk Eye conclusively?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, there are a couple of points that could have gone either way. I think at this level, with the amount that's on the line, the amount that can be changed by a quarter of an inch, yeah, it's a great thing.
But I think we're also accepting of human error. If the fans don't like it, if the fans think it's not accurate or anything, we need to go back to one with human error, then I'm accepting of that, too.
But the fans seem to like it. So it's a great thing. I don't need to go to bed tonight now wondering if that serve really was in or out. I looked up. It's in. There's no need to worry about that tonight.

Q. Did you lose your concentration between or during the love game, after the tiebreaker?
JAMES BLAKE: After the tiebreaker? The match was over. I never lost my concentration.

Q. During the tiebreaker.
JAMES BLAKE: During the tiebreaker? No, I don't feel like it. Like I said, I hesitated on one serve. Otherwise I was going after my shots. I missed a couple by an inch or two. Those go in, I have a much better chance to win that tiebreaker. But Tommy came up with big serves, good shots at the right time.

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