James Blake - First Round
Miami, Fl., U.S.A.
J. BLAKE/F. Krajinovic
6‑7, 6‑4, 6‑4
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. So what would you say about that kid? He's only 18.
JAMES BLAKE: Great future. He's got a lot of talent. I mean, I saw ‑‑ the one thing I questioned is I saw some of his scores, and he lost 1 and 0 in quallies last week in Indian Wells.
That's surprising for someone who tonight looked like he had a whole lot of talent. So I wonder if that was just an off day or he was tired or something.
But, you know, looks like from what I saw tonight he's got a lot of talent, moves great, has, you know, very solid and a weapon in the backhand. His serve needs to improve, get a little bigger, especially a second serve. Not that I should really talk about that.
But he needs to do a few more things and get a little bigger and stronger for sure to compete every week on this tour.
But I'd take that ability at 18 years old over what I was working with at that age. I'm not good at predicting things. I predicted some people weren't going to make it and they turned out to be in the top in the world, and I predicted some people were gonna light it on fire and they flamed out.
So I really don't want to give a prediction, but I think, in my opinion, that kid has got some talent.
Q. Does he remind you of anybody, just the way he plays?
JAMES BLAKE: It's tough to say. Better backhand than forehand probably, and moves really well. While I was playing him, I actually thought a little bit about a guy like Stefan Koubek, which is obviously a righty. A guy that doesn't really like hurt you with his serve, but makes a lot of them and then can run and stand on the baseline and make balls all day and fights hard.
But I don't know. Otherwise, I don't really compare guys too much.
Q. How are you feeling in general?
JAMES BLAKE: Feeling all right. I want to kind of put that match behind me and think about moving forward after that one, but otherwise feeling good.
You know, little aches and pains are par for the course at this age, but otherwise feeling good, and definitely playing better than I was earlier in the year or at the end of last year.
That's a plus, and that's just a matter of hopefully getting a few good draws. I know now that I'm at the mercy of the draw sometimes with my ranking where it is. I remember doing it first time, proving myself, having to beat some of the top guys, having to work my own way back to being seeded.
I'm looking forward to hopefully doing it again. And more than anything, proving it to myself that I can still do it, that I haven't lost a step, that I haven't lost any motivation or anything like that.
That's, you know, sometimes fun to have a new challenge.
Q. I know the clay court schedule is always kind of a dilemma for you. It's looking a bit ahead, but I'm curious about your thinking. Are you gonna spend a lot of time over there this spring?
JAMES BLAKE: I don't think so. I think I will do kind of what I did, play Rome, Estoril, Madrid. I actually saw the list for Rome today and I realized I'm actually out of it right now.
So if I get a wildcard I will get in, or if a few people pull out I'll get in. It might just be Estoril and Madrid. If I don't get in there I don't know if I'll go over and play quallies, so it might just be Estoril and Madrid.
Then come home and go back for the French Open, and hopefully do better than I ever have there. I've never had a ton of success. That's one that's kind of weird, because I've always felt like I could play on clay.
Obviously not probably to the level of the Nadals and Ferreros and the guys that grew up on it, but I feel like I can compete with some of the better guys on clay.
I'd like to improve on my results there.
Q. There's been an article or two that suggested that there was unofficial boycott of Davis Cup by a number of players who have been fairly loyal to it. Do you think that's true, or just for a variety of reasons a lot of players just weren't able to step up?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I'm not gonna sit here and speak for others, but for me it was ‑‑ it had nothing to do with a boycott. It was because I just didn't think my body could take that kind of travel and that kind of a schedule anymore.
I need to try to get as much as I could out of my abilities, as much as I can out of my career, and it was just too much. At this point, to be honest, I don't know if I was the best guy for the job.
Isner and Querrey represented themselves very, very well, so I ‑‑ I would have been at the mercy of Patrick's decision anyway, but I made that decision pretty easy for him when I knew I couldn't take it.
Those guys are younger, fresher legs, and have so much hunger and enthusiasm that it was great to see. I watched it and loved seeing those guys. Those are two of my best friends on tour. They're good guys.
I'm happy for them, but I don't know what everyone else's reasons were. For me it's the schedule. We've done ‑‑ John was joking when he came back, and he's still playing week after week. He was like, Man, how did you do that for so long? It's tough.
I don't think anyone believes it. I don't expect anyone to shed any tears over how hard our lives are, but it is tough competing at 100% throughout the whole year when you add in those three or four weeks.
Q. Is Isner one of those guys that kind of has surprised you in those prediction things or not?
JAMES BLAKE: No, it's tough to say, because I think he was always gonna be a little bit of a wildcard. With that serve he can beat anyone. I remember when he first came on tour, I felt like it didn't matter who he played.
It was just if he was serving well and took a couple rips at his forehand. I think the biggest improvement has been him understanding his game better. I think Craig Boynton has helped with that. He just plays it a lot smarter.
I think before he got a little confused, didn't know exactly which way he should be. Because if he's not getting free points on his serve, he didn't know how to react.
Now he steps around and rips that forehand, and it's gotten so much better. It's a much more consistent weapon. He plays solid on his backhand, and he really dedicated himself to his fitness in the off season.
So I think it was just a matter of finding out how hard he was willing to work and how well he was gonna adjust to the game on tour and how effective it was gonna be. I think it's shown that he has improved as much as anyone on tour just about, I'd say.
He's not just a guy with one shot anymore. He's a guy that can hurt you in a few different ways. I'm really happy to see that. I can't say that I'm surprised. I thought he had the ability. I practiced with him a ton of times at Saddlebrook, and there are days ‑‑ although if you want to bring it up him, I'm sure my practice sets against him are pretty dominant.
He can impress you for a while. It's fun to watch and he's such a good kid. I wish him only the best.
Q. You're participating in that exhibition in Atlantic City next month.
JAMES BLAKE: Uh‑huh.
Q. Ivan Lendl is gonna come back for the first time since he retired.
JAMES BLAKE: Uh‑huh.
Q. Have you met him? Are you looking forward to seeing him play? Even though it's just...
JAMES BLAKE: I met him and have an autograph from him when I was about 10 years old. He came into an exhibition at my tennis club in Connecticut, and he did it a couple years in a row. I got a chance to hit a couple balls with him then. It was a lot of fun.
And then as I got older I met him a couple times since I've been on tour. He lives down at Vero Beach. I was down there with Mardy and I've seen him and talked to him a little bit. It will be exciting to see him, see if he's in shape, ready to play again.
Mats is a good friend of mine. I grew up hitting with him a few times. I'm looking forward to watching him play.
Q. Mats was talking in Del Rey actually about how you guys don't have maybe as easy or whatever ‑‑ maybe the reason why there's more injuries today is because in his era you could kind of sit back and kind of cruise in some matches, and that's not available to the players today. They have to play 100% all the time.
JAMES BLAKE: I think that was pretty obvious tonight. I know a lot of times ‑‑ I talked to Mats a bunch, a lot when I was growing up. I credit him a lot with helping me mature. Him and Brian Barker were instrumental putting things in perspective for me.
Mats used to tell me about when he was ‑‑ he would go into the French Open or go into the US Open and basically look to the round of 16.
And I don't want to take anything away from those other guys, but I think the way the technology was, the way the game was, there were just certain guys that couldn't beat those top guys. They didn't have the power or they didn't have the ability.
That, I think, was great for the game in growing it, because it created huge rivalries. It created the McEnroe/Connors, Borg/McEnroe, Wilander/Lendl and all of those, because you see those guys in the quarters and semis and finals every week. That really grew the sport.
The sport has then changed a little bit and grown and become more international and become more physical, and the technology has advanced to the point where one guy can just get hot for a week.
I mean, Ivan Ljubicic was probably not on too many people's radar to go out and win a Masters Series. That kind of thing didn't happen very often back in the '70s. I think that just shows how much the game has changed and speaks to the depth and also, in my opinion, speaks to just the greatness of Roger and Rafa and how well they've dominated for a few years in such a deep sport.
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