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Pacific Life Open: James Blake, March 19, 2008
   

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PACIFIC LIFE OPEN


 

March 19, 2008


 

James Blake


INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. James, maybe he wasn't on his best game, but you really took it to him. You want to talk about it?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I definitely don't think it was the best he's ever played. I hope I had something to do with that, the fact I was hitting my groundstrokes pretty solid, attacking every chance I got.
The court is a little slower. My second serves was kicking up quite a bit, giving him a little problems attacking off that. Then I was taking advantage first chance I got, and that's when I'm playing my best is that kind of first-strike tennis. As soon as I see that first short ball, going after it and I'm kind of dictating play.
So I'd like to think I had something to do with it. But obviously we can't all play our best every single day, and this probably wasn't his best day.

Q. Do you like this court here? Generally you like a little slicker fast court.
JAMES BLAKE: For some reason seems like I've played well on this one. Maybe because of the altitude. The ball flies a little more so it still feels like it's a little quicker. I also feel like I have time when the ball is being gripped by the court.
I don't know what it. Is I'm terrible explaining things. Mardy was just asking me before the match which I think was slower, this or Australia, and his opinion was completely different than mine. I think I'm generally wrong in those things. I was just saying in the locker room I think I'll make a terrible coach. I'll just stick to playing.

Q. With the Davis Cup next month, did that take on more meaning for this match since you'll face him?
JAMES BLAKE: No, I mean, with all respect to Bob and Mike and Andy and Patrick, this week I'm focused on winning. I'm trying to win this tournament, not on the Davis Cup. No matter what I do, I can't win or lose the Davis Cup this week.
I was worried about winning this match, and if it helps my confidence going into the Davis Cup, great. If it affects him realizing that I do have the ability to beat him -- because before this I'd never even gotten a set off him -- I hope that helps.
But it's going to be a totally different match. Two weeks from now he could have all the confidence in the world, play great in Miami, and it will be a different surface indoors. He could be playing great or this could help and I could keep rolling and play great all the way through the Davis Cup.
It's tough to tell what's going to happen.

Q. It's certainly a message nonetheless.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, but I mean, I think we're all -- we all realize that anyone can beat anyone out here. Even though he had beaten me twice before, if he had beaten me three times, I don't think he would have gone into the match taking me lightly, no matter what, the Davis Cup match.
It's great for me to feel like I know I can beat him, but just about everyone out here I feel, if I'm playing well, I have a good chance too win.

Q. I guess you won't be taking Nadal lightly given that he's never beaten you.
JAMES BLAKE: I don't think anyone in the world takes Nadal lightly. If they do, they might be in the wrong business.

Q. Talk a little bit about that matchup.
JAMES BLAKE: He is an incredible player. I haven't played him now for a couple years. I have had success against him. Played him once here. It's amazing how he continues to get better. I think it maybe has been great for him having Federer to maybe continue to push him, to make him have something to strive for.
He's probably still one of the best players of all time and he's never been No. 1 in the world. That's incredible, and it shows incredible heart that he's kept the No. 2 ranking for so long. It shows incredible kind of mental fortitude to keep pushing, keep getting better, keep striving for that No. 1 ranking.
When you're dealing with the greatest of all time, that's tough, but he's proven he's, by far, the greatest No. 2 of all time. For all of us, they set the bar so high it makes us work harder.
In terms of matchups, I've had a lot of success against lefties in generally. I don't know why. I think I return their serves pretty well and get on them pretty quickly. I don't know. Hopefully it will continue tomorrow.

Q. Did you have a junior rival that was a lefty, anyone in college? Why do you think that would be?
JAMES BLAKE: I don't know actually. I think I was pretty average against them my first couple years on tour. Since then, I don't know, I've had a lot of success against them. I don't know why. It's just one of those - probably just like my five-set record - just one of those crazy statistical things I don't think really means much.
Maybe it does. Maybe it means I plays well against lefties or they just have good matchups for me against them. I've also -- when I have played Rafael I've played some of my best matches. To beat him obviously you have to play very well. It just happens I played him at the Open when I was playing great. I played him here when I was having a great run. And then at Masters Cup where I played some of my best tennis.
All three of those are three of my best tournaments I've ever had just about, so he's caught me at maybe the wrong times and not on clay, so it's been good matchups for me.

Q. How is this one compared to the other three you're talking about?
JAMES BLAKE: I feel like I'm playing great. Obviously it could end tomorrow, but I feel like there's no reason why it would have to. If I keep playing this well I know I have a chance. I feel good physically. You know, it was unfortunate I had to pull out of Memphis. But I think for the long run, for this year, for my career, it was the best thing I needed, to take time off to get my knee healthy.
I now that I feel great and had a little bit of a break, it's a big difference to feel fresh when you're going into a big tournament like this. I still feel fresh. Tonight's match wasn't as long as Nadal's match today, but three matches and I still feel great. That's a great feeling.

Q. What are your thoughts on the match? I know you were watching it downstairs. What are your thoughts on the Nadal match?
JAMES BLAKE: Incredible tennis. Those guys are hitting so hard, so big from the baseline. Another one of those matches where it's tough to have a loser because they both played so well. I think Raphael just showed a little more match toughness at the end being able to close it out.
You know he's won a ton of matches to get where he is, so he's proved that again, that he can do that. Very little separating those two. I have a feeling very little will separate us tomorrow. This level, this point in the tournament, you know, to get there, guys have to be playing well, so there's not that much that separates us. Hopefully I can win those big points that are going to separate us tomorrow.

Q. I know Mardy is one of your best friends. For him to beat Davydenko and now Hewitt, what do you think about that?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it's huge. Like you say, he's my best friend, great guy. I'm really happy for him. He's had some lackluster results for a little while, but the way he's playing now is just great to see. I watched a lot of that, the end of that third set. Since I've been off the court I've been watching him, and he's hitting the ball great. I'm really happy for him, and I hope he can just keep that confidence going.
And, yeah, really excited for him. He can go far. When he's confident, he's definitely one of the best players in the world. Looking forward to seeing him making a lot more progress even this year.

Q. Did you just practice together before you came here?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, we hit a couple times, Saddle Brook.

Q. Did you feel that coming on, or...
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. But like I said, I'm terrible about judging things. I definitely practice with guys thinking they're going to turn around and win a title and they lose first round. I've practiced with guys and think they don't look that great and they do well.
He was playing pretty well in practice, so I didn't think there was any reason why he couldn't come here and play well. Obviously, any match, if Davydenko is playing the best match much his life it's tough to beat him, so is Hewitt.
So he came in here. He was playing great took and he it to those guys. I think it's huge to win the match the way he did tonight against Hewitt, 7-6 in the third against one of the mentally toughest players out there. Very impressive. That shows a lot. That he does have his confidence back.

Q. James, if I could ask a Davis Cup question, in the arena in Carolina, I mean, you've won twice there now if I have that right, and last year a tremendous win. Is there a home court advantage? Is there a little bit this is our house familiarity?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I hope we have a home court advantage every time we play at home in Davis Cup. That's the whole point of it. We have to pick the surface and our crowd is very vocal. But there especially we have 13, 14,000 sold out every day. They're crazy about tennis there.
And for Andy and I it's got a lot of sentimental value to it with the fact it was the first time we were on the team together, playing against India about a month after 9/11. The patriotism there, everything we felt, the emotions there, was just amazing, and it's still one of my fondest memories on tour.
So for us to go back there, you know, in the same locker room, in the same arena, on the same court, brings a lot of positive memories back to us, and that sometimes can take us a long way.

Q. You could say one of the greatest elements of the team is like the four of you sort of have each other's back. You've talked about that. But to see Bob and Mike go down in Vegas and not win week after week -- not that they're going away -- but is it good? Are you aware of that? Or is that ridiculous that they're still...
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, they didn't win in Vegas, but it seems like every time I check the rankings they're T1, and obviously you can't get any higher than T1 for them. So I'm not worried about them. I've seen them play too many doubles matches, too many Davis Cup ties where I can sit with my feet up and my popcorn and just be in awe and just how impressive they are and how dominant they can be at times.
I'll not the least bit worried. I know they get worried. They're always so hyper that week. They're always nervous, but they use that positively and they go out there and play some of the best tennis I've seen on a doubles court in Davis Cup.
They are still in getting the finals. They're still 1 in the world. In my opinion they're still the best team in the world. The rankings reflect that. I'm not worried about them.

Q. Finally, on a scale of 1 to 10, they're playing in Davis Cup where they're just over the top. I mean, sometimes seems like they're unstoppable versus week to week on the circuit.
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I don't see them as much as on the circuit because I don't play as much doubles. But their enthusiasm during Davis Cup week is a 10. It really can't be matched. Andy is a very hyper person, as well. He's excited. I don't think even he gets as excited as they do.
For me, I'm a little bit on the other end of the scale. I try to keep things more calm, a little more low key, and so I think we mix well in the fact that we've got a little bit of a mixed bag. But those guys, their energy level is amazing. From Monday when they arrive to Monday when we're leaving, they're amped. I know they will be the Winston-Salem.
They're also pretty darn excited. I saw them getting just ready right now. They're excited for every match. I see them excited for every match. Gets exaggerated little bit more in Davis Cup.

Q. How dangerous is that French team? On paper they look good and they've had good results even in the doubles with Clement and Llodra.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. In terms of our matches, every single match, a lot of times they go into a tie and you think, okay, this is one kind of a lock, this match we got. I don't feel there is any one of those for either side. Me against Gasquet, obviously go either way; Andy against Tsonga, Tsonga's played some of the best tennis at the beginning of this year. Clement/Llodra are probably the best team the Bryans have faced in Davis Cup.
And then Andy and Gasquet, myself and Tsonga, none of those are easy matches. All of them are going to be really close. It's going to be one where I think a couple points here and there are going to decide the whole tie, and I hope the home court advantage will help. I hope the fact that we have vocal fans for us, and the fact we're feeling more comfortable than them might make us get us through that time.

Q. Just last year I know you came off 2006 with your best year, and you had some surprising losses in the spring. Can you pinpoint what's different this year versus last year?
JAMES BLAKE: Tough to say. I'm just winning more, feeling more confident. I'm not good at explaining all those things. Guys that were tough matchups for me, played well against me last year, I don't know. If I can pinpoint one exact thing I'd be doing it differently every year. But, you know, I'm not ever -- I can't say I'm going to go through every year exactly the same and have the same success each year.
That's why we play. That's part of the fun of it. Part of the pain of it is when you don't know why you're losing. Last year at this time I don't know why I was losing.

Q. Are you better rested? Is that part of it?
JAMES BLAKE: That might have something to do with it. Yeah, maybe I'm a little better rested. My coach and I, my trainer, we tinker with it all the time. We try to figure out what's best in terms of rest, match play, practice, physically working out, what I need to do, and try to get it right every time.
I'm sure, you know, we've been wrong throughout my career at times, and we've been right. I've luckily got some success to back up that we've been right hopefully more than we've been wrong.

End of FastScripts
 


 

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