Blake Bombs, Rain Ends Day at ATP Masters Rome
by Staff | April 27th, 2009, 5:20 pm

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 [3] Novak Djokovic vs. Montanes, [4] Andy Murray vs. [Q] Monaco, C.Rochus vs. [15] Cilic, [9] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Richard Gasquet in an all-French, Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. [11] David Ferrer, [12] Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez vs. Jeremy Chardy, [13] Tommy Robredo vs. Marat Safin, and [16] Radek “The Worm” Stepanek vs. Florent Serra.

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23 Comments for Blake Bombs, Rain Ends Day at ATP Masters Rome

jane Says:

This one is for MMT who always wanted players to hold their own umbrellas; Novak’s fans will enjoy it too.

Kimmi Says:

Blake has a game that is “all or nothing”. If things don’t go his way, like now he seem to have lost his confidence then he cannot find the court. Unless margical things happen, I see him sliding even further down the ranking.

zola Says:

Blake is no 16th and this loss will cost him 250 points. he is in danger of dropping out of top 20.

Clay is a problem for American players. Other than Agassi ( anc courier?) perhaps only Querrey has some success on clay. This is something USTA needs to pay attention to.

Blake is a good guy, but he lets his frustration get a hold of him. Wind, rain, dust, sun, these are all parts of outdoor tennis and you expect a top 10, top 20 player to know how to deal with them.

zola Says:

oops, no 16 =now 16!

jane Says:

zola says “Wind, rain, dust, sun, these are all parts of outdoor tennis and you expect a top 10, top 20 player to know how to deal with them.”

Hmmm – this statement sounds rather judgmental.

Murray had a tough time with the wind at IW, Fed had a tough time dealing with it in Miami. Can you then say these guys are not a what we’d “expect” from a top 10 or 20 player? Personally, I think not.

Maybe some days players adjust to conditions better than other days. Why, I’ll bet there are even days when Rafa had a tough time dealing with or adjusting to the elements. It’s not that he or they don’t necessarily “know how to” deal with the elements, but maybe they simply adjust better on some days or to some conditions than others?

KillerC Says:

Seems like Blake has been on a downward slide this year and maybe even ever since losing to kei @ delray Beach last year.. Blake got dropped by nike and has really lost his confidence, it appears. Blake maybe should think about getting with gil reyes?! did wonders for verdasco. if you know you can physically play and in better shape, your game confidence will improve.. just my thought.

jane Says:

zola says “Clay is a problem for American players.”

Jim Courier won the French Open twice.

Agassi won it once.

McEnroe got to the finals.

Sampras got to the semifinals.

Michael Chang won it once.

This is not taking into account the Masters Series etc. Plus Roddick got to the semis in Rome last year.

I know clay is not the Americans “best” surface but they have a fairly decent history on it I would think, compared to say Spaniards on hard courts for instance; I think Rafa was the first Spaniard to ever win the AO.

zola Says:

these guys have grown up playing tennis since they were 4-5. This is part of outdoor tennis. Rafa lost to Berdych in Toronto when it was windy. It can happen to anyone. But both players are in the same boat.

Blake’s problem is that he gets down on himself too quickly. How can he lose to a qualifier because of “gusty conditions”? he says it is no excusem, then he shouldn’t say it. Instead he can tweak his game towards clay a bit more, like Roddick or Querrey.

zola Says:

if we are comparing who won on clay the last 20 years, I can make a long list of non-Americans.
I am talking about players now! I already wrote about Agassi.

zola Says:


“Blake got dropped by nike and has really lost his confidence, ”
I noticed in AO that he was wearing FILA ( I guess), but I didn’t know he was dropped by NIKE. I thought it might be Blake’s decision.

He is a good person and a good palyer. I hope he can put things back together.

jane Says:

“How can he lose to a qualifier because of “gusty conditions”? ”

zola I’d say that maybe there were other factors in addition to the wind to explain Blake’s loss (confidence, first match on European clay this year, hot qualifier, who knows?), but I read another article in which Murray also claimed the conditions today were horrible. Of course both players are in the same boat, but sometimes, as I mentioned above, for whatever reason, one player may be able to adjust better *on the day*. Maybe Blake would’ve pulled through even on an off day *if it had not been windy*. My point is that the players aren’t machines. Some days they may adjust well; others, not so much.

jane Says:

zola you contradict yourself in this very sentence: “I am talking about players now! I already wrote about Agassi.” – If you are talking about now, then why did you mention Agassi and put Courier in brackets. It seemed to me you were talking in general because of those two references. There is no doubt that at present and in the last few years, the American players have struggled on European clay. But overall, Americans have done better at the clay slam than the French or Spanish players have done at the US Open.

Kimmi Says:

Jane spot on !

I don’t think Blake’s problems are just wind, rain, dust, sun. Blake has lost in early rounds in tornaments that did not have these severe conditions.

He lost in Memphis 1st Rd, lost in IW 2nd rd, Miami lost 2nd rd, houston 1st rd and now Rome 1st rd. You see Zola, he just use excuse of the weather here but deep down he knows his problems are deeper.

Even though clay is not his best surface, he has started this slump a long way back and clay will make the matter worse. Once he starts losing to people he should win regurarly then I see him going down the ranking and this will make it really tough for him to make the push up again.

I hope he sorts himself out soon coz once he starts meeting the top players in the early rounds in major tournaments I am afraid that will be IT for him.

TD (Tam) Says:

oh my that is really disheartening to hear from James. I hope he can find an answer to the clay soon!

Good evening jane, zola, and Kimmie. I am missing our Von. I hope she will return.

zola Says:

TD (Tam),
hi there. How have you been? Yes, it must not be easy for Blake.Hope he can get his form back soon.

**You see Zola, he just use excuse of the weather here but deep down he knows his problems are deeper. **

exactly my point. His problem is not the weather. You don’t lose to a qualifier because of the weather.

I think he has a problem with clay. Remember he was not picked for the DC against Spain ( on clay). he lost in Houston and now he loses in Rome. I am not sure what the problem is. Maybe his game is more suitable for fast courts and he needs to make some changes to play better on clay.

blah Says:

Is anyone surprised at blake going out early in tournaments anymore? He can still get to quarters on hard surface, but that’s about it…

jane Says:

Kimmi I think you have it right if you’re implying that James is in a slump. He is, and it was noticeable when he lost to Wawrinka during the DC tie. He just seemed to be lacking in confidence. But other issues can still be a factor. I hope he comes around and at least has some decent results on the hard courts at the end of the year. He’s such a likable person!

TD (Tam) hey there! Nice to see you popping in for a visit. I hope Von will return too; as I said before, there is room here for all of us, even though we have conflicting opinions sometimes.

Von Says:

I don’t understand why a top 20 player shouldn’t lose to a qualifier because of the weather, or lose a first round match, period. Every player handles the elements differently so it’s not something that should be discounted when there’s a loss by a higher ranked player. I don’t think James was using the weather as an excuse; I think he was being truthful and he has every right to his comments. Why shouldn’t he speak up? Everyone is entitled to speculate that he knows there is a deeper reason and is not saying, but until he says so, then he should be given the benefit of the doubt that it was indeed the weather that threw off his game. It’s similar to Federer’s problems which are deeper than he admits, but until he does, then we just have to take his word that he’s “fine”.

I watched Todd Martin v. McEnroe play in Arizona during a sand storm, and it was obvious that Martin would have won that match under normal circumstances rather than Johnnie Mc, but JMc won, due to his ability to handle the blowing sand. Hence, for James to be picked apart and ridiculed for not adjusting to the elements is simply ludicrous.

Also, for the record, Blake was not dropped in favour of Querrey for DC when the US played Spain. It was Blake’s decision to sit that tie out because he’s been suffering from exhaustion. For the past year, it’s been obvious that James has not been running on full steam, some thing’s amiss, and he has that look of fatigue written all over him.

During ’08 Feliciano Lopez lost 13 first round matches consecutively, and his wins this year have been sporadic. Had I not read that on another site, I wouldn’t have known, because nothing was mentioned on this site, and I cannot understand why Blake’s loss should be headlined, but who said life was fair.

Not all of the players begin playing around 4 or 5 years old. Some start later. Blake did not begin playing tennis until he was in high school due to a medical back condition – spondylosis and curvature of his spine, so in essence he’s a late bloomer. He’s also 30 years old now and is probably suffering from some physical/health problems. I admire him, because regardless of whatever ill effects he’s experiencing, he never calls the trainer or retires. I’m sure if someone else was in his position, especially playing and/or losing against a qualifier, the trainer would have been called pronto for some trumped up malady.

Hello to you too. I’ll give you the name of those sites when I feel more comfortable posting there.

Kimmi Says:

Von, you are back..welcome back.

Von say: “I cannot understand why Blake’s loss should be headlined, but who said life was fair”

These are tennis players that a constant on public eye, on the court and off the court. Tennis fans like to discuss players perfomance and I do not see anything unfair about that.

If Blake would have lost in the 1st round only in Rome then maybe the talk would not be as much, but unfortunately to him.. the problems have been there for quite sometime now. Guess what, I saw another article about Blake slump in ESPN tennis too…know what i mean, they can’t hide.

If you think about it, every top player is subjected to bashing here, actually i think Blake has not receive a lot of bashing compared to the top 4, 5 or 6 players. So he needs to sort out his game quick because things will get really tough for him. If he has some health issues..sorry but don’t play, the moment they step on court and keep losing people/media will talk. Good example the Federer/Nadal/Murray/Djoko/Roddick bashing around here.

jane Says:

Blake said the following, which more or less proves my point earlier that he didn’t lose *only* because of the conditions but because he was having an bad day on the court as well, so the conditions simply added to the misery.

In Blake’s words: “It makes when you’re playing bad even less fun when you’re out there and the conditions are like that. You got clay in your eyes and you can’t control the ball because of the wind. And when it starts to drizzle, it makes it not so much fun.”

Giner Says:


“I know clay is not the Americans “best” surface but they have a fairly decent history on it I would think, compared to say Spaniards on hard courts for instance; I think Rafa was the first Spaniard to ever win the AO.”

This pretty much throws a wrench into the belief that Wimbledon’s grass is really green clay and has slowed down so much that it’s barely distinguishable from clay.

You just have to look at the difference in results for American men at Wimbledon and Roland Garros. How has Roddick managed to do so well at Wimbledon (28-8 record) yet not win a match since 2005 at RG (which happened to be a 1st round match against a fellow American)? His record there is 4-7, and it is proof that the two slams are worlds apart in surface.

Therefore anyone who says Nadal only did well at Wimbledon because it’s surface is “clay-like” grass can refer to the RG record of US men (who do not have a problem with grass). There have been years when not a single American man got passed the first round of RG (except when playing against each other).

jane Says:

Giner: I assume you’re using my post to make your own point as it doesn’t relate to what I wrote. I have never said that Wimbledon grass is really green clay.

Von Says:

Giner: The grass at Wimby has indeed been slowed down. Wimby began using a different kind of grass that’s cheaper than the previous grass. And, what grass are we talking about? I’ve seen older Wimby matches where there was grass to be seen in the second week, as opposed to nowadays, where there isn’t any grass but a dirt field.

Roddick can play on clay, but not at RG. I think in 2003 he hurt himself rather badly at RG, and that seems to have caused a psychological problem for him thereafter. Then last year at Rome, he again hurt himself and was off the tour for close to two months, so it’s understandable why he doesn’t do well at RG and clay in general, and wants to avoid it like the plague. I would, wouldn’t you?

Andy has also played and won matches on clay in Davis Cup, e.g., Austria, and the Czech Republic. He beat Melzer, who is a very good clay specialist and had David Ferrer on the ropes in Madrid. He’s also won a few clay tourneys.

There are many who are very quick to judge the US men with respect to clay. If they don’t show up, they get blasted and if they show up and lose or get hurt, they also get blasted. Gosh, can they ever win?

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