Tag Archives: James Blake

Paris Preview – Are We Done Yet?

As play at the BNP Paribas Masters officially got underway yesterday with the highlight being James Blake defeating Fabrice Santoro in his final career match, I’ll just do a quick preview of what to expect and not.

The only real drama left is who will qualify for the final two spots for the Barclays ATP Masters Finale in London. At this point, Nikolay Davydenko is a lock while Fernando Verdasco just needs to win a few rounds to squeak in. It’s possible that someone like Jo-Wilifred Tsonga, the defending champion, could get inspired on his home court, but I doubt it.

Although the European indoor swing has provided some great matches, at this point it all feels like overkill and that the boys should be wrapping things up by now. I still think that the tour should put the Asia events after the Australian Open since everyone is on that side of the world already. That way they could take a week or two off after Flushing Meadows and then start the indoor swing in mid-September and finish the year in early November. Of course some of those spring clay court events would have to go…

And don’t forget this is Marat Safin’s last professional event. He survived three match points in his first round match and now faces Juan Martin Del Potro next. As with all things Safin his post-match interview was full of candor i.e. “I didn’t practice at all last week.” and on Del Potro “he will be fighting to be number one next year.”

Ah Marat, what could have been.

Watch his interview here.

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Safin’s Asia Love-In Ends at Shanghai.

Marat Safin’s love affair with Asia continues. Even though he lost his second round match in Shanghai to Tomas Berdych 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, he was the one asked to hit the autographed tennis balls into the stands. Of course there was another mini-ceremony at the end with video of Safin back in his “movie idol” days with the appropriate “Wild Thing” as the soundtrack. Safin did take time to thank all of the fans in both Beijing and Shanghai for their support.

Meanwhile, injuries and the debate over them continues to mar the event. Juan Martin Del Potro and Tommy Haas both retired in their matches. Rafael Nadal, who joined Andy Roddick in complaining about the tour’s grueling schedule, looked ok in his win over James Blake.

Lleyton Hewitt, who knows a thing or two about injuries, lost a tough three setter to Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Monfils who wavered between playing fifteen feet behind the baseline to then coming up with vicious forehand winners finally decided on an attacking style of play that saw him the last six games of the third set.

Other winners included Robin Soderling, Tommy Robredo, Gilles Simon and Novak Djovokic. Ivan Ljubicic scored the biggest upset of the day taking out Fernando Verdasco.

Tomorrow’s key match ups will be Soderling/Tsonga and Gonzalez/Davydenko as all are trying to make it to London.

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Is U.S. Men’s Tennis Shifting? Probably Not.

I wanted to wait a few days before posting this to let the dust settle from Saturday’s men’s matches at the U.S. Open, most of them featuring current, future and possible stars of men’s U.S. Tennis. While some have commented that a shift is underway, I actually think the status quo will stick around for some time.

While Jesse Witten’s improbable run from the qualies into the third round of the Open and Taylor Dent’s remarkable comeback from back surgery were the feel good stories of the first week, it’s highly unlikely either of them will ever break into the top fifty. Robby Ginepri’s woes continue despite a nice title win in Indianapolis and few expect another semifinal Grand Slam run from him.

James Blake, who is coming back from a foot injury, was probably hoping for a nice run at the Open to get him back into the groove. But his loss in three sets to Tommy Robredo, in spite of a very late start time, does not bode well for his future. Blake, despite having a solid career, will never win a Grand Slam. He may hang around the top thirty for awhile, but he will really need to get to another level to reach the top ten again. And it’s shame because of any of the top players, Blake had all the gifts to really be number one. But, for whatever reason, it was not meant to be.

Despite John Isner’s dramatic breakthrough win against Andy Roddick, you have to realize that at 24, Isner is just now finding his game. His consistency and fitness is getting better as evidenced by his five set win, but it’s unlikely he will play every match serving 38 aces. Unless his forehand and/or serve and volley game become a major weapon, he will end up like Ivo Karlovic, a tough serving opponent, but someone who never gets past the quarters of big events.

Sam Querrey has had a great summer and is on the cusp of entering the top twenty. Whereas his serve and movement have improved, he still needs that something “extra” that the very top players have. I don’t know if Querrey has that yet. Maybe he will be like Andy Murray who matured and developed a stronger serve and great defensive skills. Querrey is only 21 so he still has time. He will probably be the American number two for a very long time.

Which leaves the American number one Andy Roddick. 2009 will go down as a great yet disappointing year for Roddick. Despite improved results, including reaching another Wimbledon final, Roddick still yearns for that elusive second Grand Slam title. Will 2010 finally be the breakthrough year? Maybe. Let’s put it this way. Andy Roddick is in amazing shape and barring injury will probably stay in the top ten for many years. But so will Roger Federer. And we all know how that matchup has gone.

Whether you love or hate Roddick, he will be the face of American men’s tennis for quite some time. What he does during then will be entirely up to him.

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Day 4 Open Predix – Safina Meltdown Watch

Before we get to the predix of Day Four, don’t forget to tune into tomorrow to “Safina Meltdown Watch” where the world will find out if Dinara Safina can find another to pull herself from the brink of complete brainfreeze in front of Kristina Barrois of Germany. Many actually give Barrois, a top 100 player, a chance against the overanalyzed Russian.

No other matches jump out as potential upsets. On the women’ s side Elena Dementieva will take on the fiesty American Melanie Oudin, Maria Sharapova takes on American Christina McHale while Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova also see action.

On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic takes on Australian Carsten Ball who got to the finals of L.A. and Andy Roddick take on Marc Gicquel. James Blake takes on Olivier Rochus. Blake landed in a soft part of the draw where, if wins today, could take on Tommy Robredo next round and then possibly Roger Federer in the fourth round. It would be nice to see Blake make something happen at the Open since the rest of his year has been rather sub-par.

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Pilot Pen Preview – One Week to Figure It Out

With the Pilot Pen event in New Haven being the last tune-up event before the U.S. Open, it’s important to note who is playing there and what they hope to gain.

Less is not always more
Svetlana Kuznetsova is the number one seed on the women’s side after she was given a last minute wildcard entry into the field. “Sveta” has not played much this summer, losing early in Cincinnati and Toronto and also had to pull out of L.A. due to injury. She’s hoping for a strong showing this week to prove she’s still in the mix for the Open next week.

Second in line to the “crown”
Flavia Pennetta and Sam Querrey are in New Haven this week hoping they can win the top post on the U.S. Open Olympus Series. Pennetta currently trails Elena Dementieva by seventy points, but could take it if she wins the whole event. Querrey, on the men’s side, only trails current leader Andy Murray by fifteen points and probably could take the spot just by getting to the semis alone. I actually think Querrey deserves to win just because he has played in every tournament this summer starting in Newport. The series should reward players more for playing frequently as opposed to just showing up for the Master events only.
Check out the complete standings here.

Remember me?
Two ladies looking for some last minute redemption are #2 seed Caroline Wozniacki and #8 seed Amelie Mauresmo. Wozniacki, long touted as the next likely Grand Slam winner, has failed to live up to expectations. Mauresmo, despite a nice win in Paris earlier this year, seems on the last legs of her career. A good showing this week would boost her confidence.

And James Blake? He’s not even playing in his “hometown” tournament as he is preferring to rest before the Open. Blake has had a disappointing year results wise and has faded from view a bit in the wake of Roddick’s resurgence and Querrey’s great summer. In fact the only real news from Blake this week was the launch of his new clothing line from Fila that will bear his father’s name.

Do you think Blake can ever return to the top ranks? Let me know in the comments.


For more about the event, click here.

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