James Blake has no wins to show in two claycourt tournament appearances in 2009 after crashing out in the first round at the Masters Rome. The No. 14-seeded American lost 7-5, 6-3 to No. 112-ranked qualifier Victor Crivoi of Romania, who recorded his first tour-level win of 2009 at the hands of Blake, who is now attempting to halt a slide out of the Top 20 on the ATP Rankings.
Blake also lost in the first round at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, an event where he finished runner-up in 2008.
The American’s problems started straight away when he fell behind 0-5 in the opening set, but brought it back on serve before being broken at 5-6. In the second set Blake went up an early break, but his frustration was evident with screams of “Terrible!” and “That’s your favorite shot!” upon contributing numerous unforced errors, and winning only 35% of second serve points.
“I won a few games in a row because he didn’t play his best — he might have gotten a little nervous trying to close out the first set, and I didn’t put any pressure on him,” Blake said. “I wasn’t attacking, and when I tried to attack I was missing. Just a really bad day.”
Blake said the extremely gusty conditions didn’t favor one player over another.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Blake said. “It was the same for him as me — he did a better job of handling the conditions. I should have put more balls on the court. You’ve got clay in your eyes and you can’t control the ball because of the wind. And when it starts to drizzle, it’s not so much fun but it was the same for him.”
The American and his coach are apparently in need of a huddle, as of right now Blake says he has no answers regarding his poor play on the dirt.
“I don’t know how I’m going turn it around,” Blake said. “I’ve played worse before and turned it around and had some good results — hopefully this time it’ll be the same. I’ll have some bad times and there will be plenty of ups too hopefully still after my career. If I don’t start playing better than I did today, I’ll be out (of the French Open) early though. I need to make some adjustments in the next three weeks.”
Only two other seeded matches were completed before rain halted play prematurely for the day, with No. 10 Stan Wawrinka topping Russian Igor Kunitsyn 6-3, 6-4, and No. 15 Marin Cilic easing past the wildcard Flavio Cipiolla 6-2, 6-2
All-unseeded winners into the second round Monday were Christophe Rochus over Juan Ignacio Chela, Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco easing by Nicolas Kiefer, Serb Viktor Troicki defeating Victor Hanescu, Croat “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic from a set down over Czech qualifier Jan Hernych, and Spaniard Al Montanes over wildcard Potito Starace.
Seeds in action tomorrow in Rome are  Novak Djokovic vs. Montanes,  Andy Murray vs. [Q] Monaco, C.Rochus vs.  Cilic,  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Richard Gasquet in an all-French, Paul-Henri Mathieu vs.  David Ferrer,  Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez vs. Jeremy Chardy,  Tommy Robredo vs. Marat Safin, and  Radek “The Worm” Stepanek vs. Florent Serra.
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