Blake on Verge of First Career Clay Title in Houston

Posted on April 20, 2008

Top-seeded American James Blake bids for his first ATP clay court title as he takes on seventh-seeded Spaniard and first-time ATP finalist Marcel Granollers-Pujol on Sunday at the U.S. Menís Clay Court Championship, a $436,000 event contested on clay in Houston.

World No. 8 Blake is appearing in his second ATP final of the season, having finished runner-up in Delray Beach (l. to Nishikori). Appearing in his first clay court ATP singles final, the American is 10-11 in career ATP finals. His most recent title came in New Haven last year (d. Fish).

Having reached the quarterfinals or better in six of the seven events he has contested this season, Blake is among the Top 5 match wins leaders in 2008.

The 28-year-old Blake improved his career tournament mark to 16-7 in his eighth straight appearance in Houston with his semifinal victory over Oscar Hernandez on Saturday. He also improved his career mark to 35-34 on clay.

Blake is trying to become the third American in the past four years to win the title in Houston, joining Andy Roddick (2005), Mardy Fish (2006).

Blake is looking to win a title at River Oaks for the third time, having won the International Exhibition event in 2003 and 2005. They've been playing a tournament on the grounds since 1931 and only Rod Laver has won four titles. Ivan Lendl is also a three-time champion.

The 22-year-old Granollers-Pujol will attempt to become the fourth first-time ATP winner this year. The three players to have already captured their first ATP title in 2008 are Kei Nishikori (Delray Beach), Sergiy Stakhovsky (Zagreb) and Sam Querrey (Las Vegas).

Granollers-Pujolís previous best ATP result was the quarterfinals in Acapulco (l. to Acasuso) earlier in the season.

Placed No. 84 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, Granollers-Pujol, who lost in Saturday's doubles final (w/Cuevas), is the second player to appear in singles and doubles ATP finals at the same tournament this year. In February, Juan Monaco was runner-up in singles and doubles in Vina del Mar.

Barcelona resident, Granollers-Pujol is attempting to become the fifth or sixth player to win an ATP title this year after saving match point during the tournament. David Ferrer, who is playing in Sunday's final in Valencia (vs. Almagro), is the other contender this week.

Granollers-Pujol is playing a Top Ten opponent for the first time in his career. (ATP Digital Services)