Will the Real James Blake Please Stand Up
by Sean Randall | March 24th, 2007, 1:20 pm

Is reality finally hitting James Blake and his Top 10 ranking, or is he simply in a funk?

Two weeks after beating Florent Serra at Indian Wells, James Blake loses to the same Florent Serra in a stunner in the second round at Miami yesterday. The loss adds to Blake’s futility of late as the American has now dropped six of his last nine matches.

What’s interesting to look at about Blake this year is that all 14 of his wins in 2007 have come against guys ranked outside of the Top 40. Against guys inside the Top 40, Blake’s winless, 0-3, dropping matches to Gonzo, Malisse and Berdych.

And it doesn’t get better now that he’s losing to Serra, Benneteau and Korolev.

With the next tournament on his favorite hard court surface some four months away in mid July, Blake will now have his work cut out in maintaining his ranking and his confidence on the clay and then the grass in June.

Of course between now and the clay, Blake will have one more look on the hard courts against Spain in D-Cup. But both a resurgent Rafael Nadal and either Tommy Robredo or David Ferrer will be tough tests for the suddenly slumping Blake.

My guess is Blake’s Top 5 days are over (he’s been as high as No. 4), but I still think he can hang around the Top 15 a few more years, which is not a slight against James who I don’t think anyone ever thought would have become a Top 20 let alone a Top 10 or Top 5 player. So for that you have to give credit to James.

If you get Tennis Channel or happen to be on-site down in sunny Miami (I don’t have the luxury of either, I hear ESPN begins Tuesday and the sun doesn’t show here in Mich. until May), tonight’s match between Tiger Woods’ new pal, Roger Federer, and Sam Querrey should be a cracker.

In case you don’t know, Querrey is a 19-year-old kid from Cali who smacks the ball pretty good off all sides. He’s like an updated version of Todd Martin with a bigger game and fewer bandages. He can crush forehands as well as backhands, and at 6-foot-6 he belts a pretty mean serve – I think he’ll be the next American to reach the Top 5, maybe within two years.

What’s great about Sam is that he’s good enough to joke about the matchup with Roger. Said Sam after his first round win: “Federer is not that good, so it would be cool to get my first Top 10 win off him. … If I see him [Federer] in the locker room or in practice, I’ll give him a little stare or something, intimidate him.”

And if Tiger’s in attendance, Sam says he’ll be ready: “I’ll probably get an autograph from Tiger maybe in between sets or something. I’ll bring a golf ball in there with me.”

You have to root for a kid like that, especially one who would go into the stands during a set break to get a Tiger autograph. Plus, word is it’s quite windy in Miami this week, and we know from past matches that Roger’s not a big fan of the wind. But I’m sure Tiger gave him a few tips on handling Mother Nature.

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15 Comments for Will the Real James Blake Please Stand Up

Skorocel Says:

Well, I wouldn’t write James off yet… He’s gone through a hell in these last couple of years, but coped with all these troubles bravely… Of course, this has nothing to do with his current form, which is not exactly stunning – that’s true… But why he shouldn’t beat Nadal in the DC, home + on hard? No one expected him to do any miracles on clay last year, yet he reached the 3rd round in Hamburg and FO (both times losing close matches, but beating the then red-hot Almagro and also Moya en route) + reached the final in Queens…

As for Fed vs Querrey, well, should be pretty interesting! He’s like “a younger version” of Todd Martin – that’s true, but he also reminds me of Joachim Johannson a bit. I’m so sad that the Swede is battling with all these injuries, as I would love to see him play Fed at least once… Not that Fed can’t cope with the big-servers (just ask Roddick), but still Andy was able to steal at least one set in that USO final last year – only because Fed wasn’t allowed to have a look at his service during that set… I would never forget that Johannson’s match vs Agassi at the Aussie Open couple of years ago, where the American could often do nothing but to move from one side of the court to the other after seeing some 50+ aces get whizzed around him… Yes, Andre won the match in the end, but I would never forget that Johannson’s almost freaking coolness – he was like a machine!

Lastly, I wouldn’t exactly say Fed can’t cope with the wind – just remember that crazy match vs Agassi at the USO 2004… That was pretty tough I guess!

blakefan Says:

Damm that picture of Blake is hella old. Time to update the stock photos file.

d Says:

Until Blake gets put ‘in the trunk’ as regularly as Roddick I shall continue to believe in him!!!

kamret Says:

“…James who I don’t think anyone ever thought would have become a Top 20 let alone a Top 10 or Top 5 player.”

You’ve got to be kidding! I’m sure most tennis fans/experts expected him to be at least a top 20. Personally, I never expected him to make it to the top 5, or even the top 10, but a top 20 ranking was a certainty, based on his talent.

Agassi Fan Says:

Fed ate up Sam querry last night.

zola Says:

Blake will be out of top 10 after this tournament. The fact is that there are many young guns, hungry and ready to replace anyone who doesnt show enough interest in their rankings.

Blake is 28. He has the game. he lacks the confidece. He is a Harvard boy, so he is intelligent enough to figure out the best for himself.

zola Says:

I also find it interesting that the world No 1 needs the Moral support of Tiger woods to overcome a 19-year old!

Agassi fan Says:

This world no 1 is 260-16 since the start of 2004. Nobody in the history of tennis has ever been so dominant for so long. So he doesn’t need anyone’s support – he didn’t even have a coach in 2004, and even now, Tony is just a part time coach. Players like Borg, Laver and Sampras lost far more often, even at their prime.

normanmain Says:

i’m a little tired of tiger woods…i’m not a fan of golf and this nike created friendship is getting old..especially when it becomes tennis news..i mean really, who cares?

penise Says:

ditto on the tiger fake friendship

sc Says:

I don’t think there is any chance that Querry will be a top 5 player. I think top 10 is pushing it never mind top 5. There’s only so far you get with the limited game he’s got and the guys coming up round about him are a lot better.

John Says:

In a couple of hours it’s:

Roger Federer (SUI) [1] vs. Guillermo Canas (ARG) Q

Anyone have an opinion on this match?

the guru Says:

Querrey is a late comer to tennis, having only started playing seriously in the past few years. He did not play an ITF event until he played two in the fall of 2003. A year later and with virtually zero int’l experience, he was given a wild card to the US Open Juniors. I was lucky enough to see all of his matches. He went to the quarters before he lost two Andy Murray in three.

This kid has game and will continue to climb. I see him having at shot at the top-10, but only time will tell.

As for Blake, I see him as a perennial 8-20 guy. he will break out of this funk (maybe not until after the clay court season) and start winning again. I don’t see him as a top-5 player on a regular basis.

Sean Randall Says:

One thing to keep in mind about Queerey is that because he’s American he has a huge edge on the rest of his peers. U.S. has so many tournaments – the U.S. Open, 3 TMS – and in two, three years there’s a decent chance he’ll be the top ranked American guy.

And since the young European players – Gasquet, Monfils, Djokovic, etc. – will play most of their events in Europe (along with Fed/Nadal), that will leave tournaments like Memphis, Delray, San Jose, Indy, Washington, etc., with relatively weak fields that a guy like Querrey can exploit. Again, i’m speaking down the road in a few years.

John, on paper Canas should have a better chance of beating Fed in Miami than in IW. In Miami the court is slower, balls are heavier and then there is the wind. But the reality of it is I don’t think Fed wants to, or will, lose to the same guy in consecutive events.

John Says:

Sean Randall says “John, on paper Canas should have a better chance of beating Fed in Miami than in IW. In Miami the court is slower, balls are heavier and then there is the wind. But the reality of it is I don’t think Fed wants to, or will, lose to the same guy in consecutive events.”

Excellent observation.

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