Blake Wins New Haven, Safin Pulls From US Open, Davenport Cracks on Gimel"blog"

Posted on August 29, 2005

Nadal, Agassi, Williams Sisters Kick Off US Open Monday

Blistering balls past Max "The Beast" Mirnyi in a practice session Sunday at Flushing Meadows, world No. 1 Roger Federer displayed his Swiss army knife of weaponry that has made him the favorite to repeat as champion at this year's US Open.

Earlier in the day, Andy Roddick showed why, along with Rafael Nadal, he is one of the few players who could truly test Federer at this year's Open, putting on an ace-and-forehand clinic in a practice set against Brit "Grinning" Greg Rusedski.

35-year-old Andre Agassi, addled by a back injury requiring cortisone shots, will be another player with Week Two intentions, showing he can still hang with the young guns earlier this summer with an L.A. title and a three-set loss to Nadal in the Masters Series-Canada final.

For an in-depth look at the men's draw, see:

Former US Open champ Marat Safin withdrew from the event Sunday with his ongoing knee problem (see: News, Notes, etc.).

On the women's side the plethora of injuries and illnesses that sidelined the top players during the U.S. summer hardcourt season have apparently healed somewhat, with Lindsay Davenport (back), Maria Sharapova (back, chest injury), Justine Henin-Hardenne (leg), Serena Williams (knee), Venus Williams (flu), Svetlana Kuznetsova (back), Anastasia Myskina (ankle), and Alicia Molik (ear infection) among others all posting this week in New York.

Davenport showed that tennis is a lot like rising a bike, picking up a racquet last week after an extended layoff to win the New Haven title (defeating Amelie Mauresmo) and re-take the No. 1 ranking from Sharapova.

Kim Clijsters gets the nod by many as the favorite to win her first-ever slam, with the former No. 1 sweeping to the US Open Series crown after a hot summer run that most recently included a win over countrywoman Henin-Hardenne in the Toronto final.

Kuznetsova, last year's champion, was in poor form even before her recent back injury, and after a horrible summer is given a less-than-zero chance of repeating her stunning run of 2004 where she defeated Russian countrywoman Elena Dementieva in the final.

Scheduled for the women Monday are (8) Serena vs. Chan, (10) Venus vs. Fujiwara, (1) Sharapova vs. Daniilidou, (4) Clijsters vs. Muller, (5) Kuznetsova vs. Bychkova, Washington vs. Mirza, Ashley "Anna 2.0" Harkleroad vs. Fabiola "The Fabulous One" Zuluaga, (21) Safina vs. Camerin, Dabek vs. (33) Douchevina, (26) Vaidisova vs. Peschke in an all-Czech, (18) Ivanovic vs. Lee-Waters, Irvin vs. Nakamura, Anne "Kosmo" Kremer vs. Raymond, Pastikova vs. Grande, Lisjak vs. Loit, Schruff vs. (28) Flavia "Of the Day" Pennetta, Pratt vs. Morigami, Perry vs. (14) Molik, A.Bondarenko vs. (30) Sugiyama, Pin vs. (20) Daniela "The Walking Stick" Hantuchova, (25) Schiavone vs. Kostanic, (9) Petrova vs. Birnerova, Randriantefy vs. Gambale, Zheng vs. Benesova, Mamic vs. Vento-Kabchi, Peng vs. Laine, Strycova vs. Bartoli, Granville vs. (22) Farina Elia, Pous Tio vs. Kirilenko, Jidkova vs. Castano, Salerni vs. Kirkland, and Domachowska vs. Peer.
On tap for the men Monday are (2) Nadal vs. Reynolds, (7) Agassi vs. Sabau, Gambill vs. Massu, (29) Haas vs. Luczak, Fish vs. "Dr." Ivo Karlovic, (9) Gaudio vs. Baker, (8) Coria vs. Mantilla, Bastl vs. Jenkins, Summerer vs. (18) Ljubicic, Daniele "Choppin'" Bracciali vs. (19) Robredo, Okun vs. (10) Puerta, (14) T.Johansson vs. Zabaleta, Hernych vs. Xavier "X-Man" Malisse, Behrend vs. Bjorkman, (23) Novak vs. D.Norman, (24) Youzhny vs. Florian "Oscar" Mayer, Galimberti vs. "The" Donald Young, (13) Gasquet vs. A.Martin, Soderling vs. Juan Ignacio "The Spitting Snake" Chela, Elseneer vs. Andreev, Saulnier vs. Tipsarevic, Juan "The Principality" Monaco vs. Ricardo Mello "Yello," and Kohlschreiber vs. (32) Berdych.

Blake Grabs Pen for ATP New Haven Title

A rain delay helped unseeded American wildcard James Blake write his first title of the year in the books Sunday at the ATP stop in New Haven, the Pilot Pen Tennis, coming from a set down to defeat No. 5 seed Feliciano "F-Lo" Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

"Still seems like a dream come true," Blake said. "Never seemed possible at the beginning of this week. It couldn't have been more perfect to do it in front of my friends and family. I know there's going to be a little bit of celebrating in Fairfield."

Blake was cheered on by the "J-Block," a large group of family and friends giving the American from nearby Fairfield, Conn., the hometown advantage. When Blake went up a break 3-0 in the third he applied extra pressure as the Spaniard's confidence wilted, utilizing advice from coach Brian Barker during the rain delay.

"After the break, I made a little bit of an adjustment," Blake said. "I moved back just a couple of steps, trying to see if I could get looks. If he hits the corner, it doesn't matter where I am standing, it is going to be an ace. I just had to accept that he was going to get his aces...Once I got that first break (in the third set), having the sense it was almost over was great. Having that crowd to front run is great."

It was the second career title for Blake after Washington in 2002.

Lopez had also won only one career title going into New Haven, last year at Vienna, and was undecided as to whether the rain delay played a part in the final result.

"It's tough to say. The match at that time was more my way," Lopez said. "After, he gets a break, I break back. The match was close. After he wins the second set, it was completely a different way."

Blake improved to 2-4 in career finals.

In the doubles final, the Argentine team of Gaston Etlis and Martin Rodriguez defeated American wildcards Rajeev Ram and Bobby Reynolds 6-4, 6-3 for their first title of the year.

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Andy Roddick
looked sharp, besides some backhand passing shot problems Sunday, warming up and playing a practice set with Britain's Greg Rusedski...James Blake hit 45 aces last week at New Haven...American Rick Leach will make his 20th consecutive (21st overall) US Open appearance in doubles. Leach has won three of the four Grand Slam titles (except Roland Garros) during his career, and is playing in his 74th career (and reportedly last) Grand Slam tournament...Andre Agassi is playing in his 20th US Open, tying Jimmy Connors for the most appearances at the US Open in the Open Era (since 1968)...Andy Roddick somehow remains at No. 10 on tour in First Serve Percentage (65%) according to ATP MatchFacts...Brian Barker, James Blake's coach since he was 11, on his pupil winning Sunday in New Haven: "I think it is the greatest feeling you can have," Barker told the New Haven Register. "I can't help but to think back to where he was last year at this time, how down he was and how physically hurting he was. All his friends were around him picking him up the whole time. He wanted to do well here, partly for himself and partly for his friends and family. It seems like a dream that he could win a tournament in New Haven, Connecticut. We have grown. We are, obviously, coach and student, but we are also great friends. There are so many ups and downs. Anybody who plays sports goes through ups and downs, and James is no different. This feels so special thinking about all of the downs. You think about all the tough times that he has gone through, seeing James and not only seeing the tennis player that he has become, but also the person that he has become. It makes it such a fabulous feeling as his friend and his coach."...Marat Safin wised-up and pulled from the US Open due to his bum knee: "Although Marat wanted more than anything to play and has tried whatever he could to be ready, as a professional tennis player he has had to admit his body is saying it is too soon," said a statement on Safin's website. "He will return to Italy to continue treatment and ensure that his knee is fully recovered. It is not known how long he will be out but this time he will make sure he does not rush into returning." Safin competed in Cincinnati against his doctor's advice...Best Sunday moment at the US Open: with TVs in multiple locations around the men's locker room, the bustle of activity came to an almost complete halt during the televised Arthur Ashe Kid's Day skill competition to see players such as Andre Agassi and Serena Williams try to hit on-court targets with forehands and backhands...Get ready for another Genworth Financial ad with Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf to debut this week on the tube in the U.S...Music News: Mandy Moore plans to address her split with Andy Roddick on a slew of songs written for her upcoming album: "I've co-written the whole thing and I spent the last year writing. I think it's gonna surprise people. It's a very sophisticated, cool, singer-songwriter-y like organic pop record...It's sort of just chronicling what's happened in my life over the last year or so. A lot to do with love and heartbreak and stuff. But it's my first kind of venture into like sitting down and actually writing. It's been like the most cathartic thing I ever, ever could've done. And it's so fun to sort of put something (on paper) that you're not feeling not too great about and turn it into a positive thing." Uh oh...Serena Williams is planning on wearing a pair of platinum chandelier earrings that have 13 carats of diamonds and are worth almost $40,000 in her first round? Won't it be hard enough moving around when you're not in condition?...Lindsay Davenport, speaking to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Charlie "Brick" Bricker, responding to Justin Gimelstob's blog for on the women showing too much skin at the US Open: "I'm always curious what the fascination is about men having to judge women constantly. What they look like. What they wear. Who they hang out with. It's like women are, 'Oh yeah, he's cute, well whatever.' We don't sit there and go, 'Oh, my gosh, his arms are a little too thin, his legs are a little too thick. 'And men have this endless fascination with, and Justin especially, about just depicting and picking on everything about the body. And so his column was, I thought, a waste of time." Youch!...How about Svetlana Kuznetsova falling off the WTA/USTA publicity map for this year's US Open? The defending champ wasn't event put on the Arthur Ashe show court for her opening match today.