The Championships Wimbledon
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
at Wimbledon, England
James Blake def. Olivier Rochus 3‑6, 6‑3, 6‑1, 6‑4
Q. Andy was talking before about how the first match of a Grand
Slam is always nerve‑wracking. As many times as you've been here, is
that what you find, too?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, definitely, and especially when you lose in that
first set. It can be a little nerve‑wracking because you definitely want
to have a good result, and crashing out in the first round is not a good
result when you've had the success that Andy has, and to a smaller
degree the success that I've had.
It can be a little nerve‑wracking, because you definitely don't want
to have that happen to you. You know you can, though. These guys are
good, they're talented, and they're playing ‑‑ if they're playing a top
ten player on a big court it's kind of their Super Bowl. You know
they're going to be excited. You know they're not going to have a
letdown, and you just try to get through it.
Today I didn't feel like I played my best tennis. It's not to try to
discredit Christophe, I just was a little shaky at times and had a
couple more double faults than I would have liked and I didn't feel like
I returned as well.
But I'm actually kind of proud of that, that I got through a match
where I wasn't playing my best tennis so I'm excited to get through.
Q. We talk about how tall guys have an edge on grass. What about
little guys? Is there something about playing a little scooter like
JAMES BLAKE: It's sometimes tricky, because the guys can move really
well. I think Ollie Rochus has had success here at Wimbledon before,
done pretty well. Guys like Hewitt isn't a huge guy, he just moves
really well. I think that's important, is the movement. They stay low.
The balls seem to bounce a little higher than they used to in the
days of Sampras winning titles here. But it's still important to stay
low and keep your balance. So the shorter guys might have a little bit
of an edge there, but I still wouldn't mind being a couple inches
taller. I'll stick with 6'1".
Q. Have you figured out the right formula on grass for your game
JAMES BLAKE: I hope so. You know, but it's ‑‑ my career, my entire
career, I assume, is a learning process. Every time you think you've
figured everything out, there's something new to learn.
I feel like I played the right way, the right balance, coming in
enough, attacking second serves enough and doing the things right. It
was just a matter of execution today, especially in that first set.
But you never know. I'll keep trying and keep working. Sometimes it
takes playing someone that's playing better than you to teach you that,
to figure out a way to overcome that challenge.
Today I played well enough to win, but I feel like there are things I
could have executed a little better. The next round I'm sure I'll get
pushed even harder, and hopefully I'll come through again and execute a
Q. Given how well you've played on fast surfaces, third round of
Wimbledon probably isn't good enough for you at this point.
JAMES BLAKE: No, but it's not something I worry about or think about,
because I've had some success on fast surfaces: Semis at Halle, finals
at Queen's, beating players like Andy Roddick and Robby Ginepri.
Hopefully it's going to come, but I can't worry about the fact that I
haven't been as far as I would have liked here. Came up against Juan
Carlos when he was playing great last year, and Max Mirnyi when he was a
dangerous player on this kind of surface.
Right now I'm worried about Rainer Schuettler. Getting past the third
round will be great, but Schuettler has been as high as 4 in the world.
If he comes out and plays lights out, his best match, I'm a little
off, I could easily be out of here.
The way I've been playing, the way I'm hitting the ball in practice,
I like my chances, and I think I can go further.
Q. What about the rest of the guys? Not quite the anecdote for
clay that we would expect necessarily.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, some tough draws. Robby, Fernando seems to be a
little bit of his nemesis. He plays him close every time and seems like
he's right in it, and then can't quite get over the hurdle. Fernando is
an excellent player. He's tough to beat in those close situations.
I sat in there and watched some of his match today, and maybe a
little bit of match inexperience, not playing as well in the big
moments, and Gulbis just playing well at those times.
I'm sure he's riding high in confidence after the French Open, so
that could be the difference in a tight match like that.
Q. How much is it experience on grass? I mean, it's such a short
part of the season. Can you really improve and become more comfortable
on this surface?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I think you can. But also, I was talking about
more just about match experience on tour in general. Playing those big
points the right way, playing them with the confidence that you need,
and not getting out of your comfort zone or trying anything a little
different at that time. Just playing your best point at 5‑All or 6‑5 or
anything like that.
Gulbis, although he's younger than John, he probably little a little
bit more experience right now. Those kind of things can happen.
Hopefully John will learn from it. He's a bright kid and he'll pick up
and hopefully do great in the hard court season.
Q. It's a little far ahead, but you and Andy have never met in a
Slam as far as I can recall. It might be kind of cool, huh?
JAMES BLAKE: It would be great. I'm sure the American fans would
appreciate it. We've played some great matches, especially our last
couple. Of course that's probably because I'm biased and I won those
two, but we've had some great battles.
He got me pretty bad a couple times early in our career, and he's, in
my opinion, probably the second or third best grass court player in the
So it wouldn't be easy. Going into playing him at Queen's I kind of
had that thought in my head, that I had nothing to lose. If I were to
play him here I'd feel the same way, because I feel like he really is so
dangerous on this surface that he could be in the top four or five
contenders, for sure, to win this title this year and most years.
If I want to be considered a contender, I'd have to go through one of
the top guys like him. I know it won't be easy, and he definitely won't
make it easy on me. That serve is the biggest weapon in the game right
now, and he competes so hard. He plays defense and moves really well, so
it would be a fun match. No matter what, afterwards, the winner I'm
sure, will go buy the loser some dinner or something and we'll have a
good laugh about it, I'm sure, the next time we play or the next time we
play or we see each other in wherever, Toronto or Cincy.
We'll see. We both have a couple matches to go to get there, though.
Q. What's your explanation for the Spanish success on grass? Is it
slower courts? Is it just a better group of players? Is it a Rafa
effect? What is it?
JAMES BLAKE: I think it's a little bit ‑‑ I don't think the courts
have slowed down as much. I'm terrible at judging that. But I think the
only thing that maybe has slowed is the balls a little bit. I think
they've maybe gotten a little heavier, and that's maybe helped them.
But they do see Rafa and they see how well he can play. He's one of
the few guys that came out and just almost stubbornly in a positive way
said, I'm going to play my game with just minor adjustments. He maybe
moves his serves around a little bit more, goes for a little bit more on
that, but just plays his game. He's been very effective, and I think
some other Spaniards get encouraged by that.
Because I think it was just in their heads for many years that after
the French, Okay, it's a month‑long vacation. I'm going to forget about
this and not care.
Now that the balls have slowed down a little bit and you see a guy
like Rafa having success, it's maybe making them think, All right, I can
train on this for another couple weeks and maybe put up a good result
Of course it helps that they've got some of the most talented guys in
the world with Rafa, Ferrero, Almagro, Robredo, Moya, so many guys. It's
just so deep that they have a lot of ability there.
But I think it really helps to see one guy come through playing the
way Rafa has played and give them the confidence to go after their shots
and play that way, too.
Q. I know you've got a lot of fans in Banbury. I just wondered how
that felt, if it's important, and if it helps you when you come over to
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it's great. The biggest thing is I see my mom's
smiling face. I see how happy she is to be here and to how excited she
is to eat some of the things she used to eat and get her accent back
even more than what it is when she is in the States.
She told the story again this morning about the Banbury Cross. It's a
great thing to see her over here and so excited. She comes to a few
tournaments, and it's always fun to have her in the stands.
But here it's fun because she feels at home. It's like another home
Grand Slam for me. Probably not as comfortable on the surface as I am at
the US Open. But, still, it's so great to see her smiling and to see her
happy to be home again and to have relatives to visit and everything.
She feels at home.
Q. Are you looking forward to going back to Banbury then after the
Championships is over?
JAMES BLAKE: We'll see. Depends how it goes. I've been there once
before with her. Back in '02 it was when I went back there. That was a
lot of fun to see where she grew up.
Actually, we went to a place for lunch, and the guy actually
remembered her mom, which is pretty crazy. It's such a small town that
they remember. She has a pretty unique maiden name, too, so they
remembered the name. It's fun to see where your parents come from.
Q. You've been involved with the players council, and I know
there's always politics in tennis. But it seems like it's been a fevered
pitch for the last few months. Has it been distracting? Are you
optimistic that even in the end, even if there's some turmoil, that
things are going to get on track?
JAMES BLAKE: I'm definitely optimistic. Try to always be that way. In
terms of a distraction, I think every player has a life outside of
tennis. I remember the days of reading about Boris Becker saying he was
in a tunnel the times he did well in Grand Slams.
I've never felt that way, and I think that may work for some people,
but for me I'm not like that. I'm going to be reading a book. I'm going
to be talking to my friends back home. I'm going to be interested in
what's going on in their lives.
This is another thing that's not only interesting about other
people's lives, but it's interesting because it's going to affect me and
many players in the future.
I like being involved in it, and it was an eye‑opening experience.
I'm going to refrain from replying to Todd Martin's comments about us
being naive until I actually get to talk to him one‑on‑one.
But I do feel like I learned a lot. It's important what is going on
right now, and we have to have confidence in our board now, our
representatives. We have to be confident in them, and I am.
I'm excited about hopefully very positive things coming into this
sport. There's so much good about this sport. There's so many great
stories and so many great athletes, and the rivalries at the top right
now are just fantastic.
There's just so much positive going on that I can't imagine so many
‑‑ anything negative really coming up. That's what's unfortunately being
talked about sometimes, and I just wish more positive stuff was being
Q. Does everything pivot on Hamburg?
JAMES BLAKE: That's a big case right now obviously for the ATP. We
hope obviously the ATP comes out on top and the players have a little
more say and the tour is very strong going forward from that point.
But that's out of our hands as players now. We have no say in it.
We're just going to kind of be innocent bystanders and see what happens.
Hopefully at that point it's either kind of picking up the pieces for
the board or moving forward with the strength that we will hopefully
I really have confidence in this board, that they're going to do
that, and we're going to hopefully turn it into a positive.
Q. Do you have any sense of what the new council sort of wants to
achieve or what their agenda is, the changes they'd like to see?
JAMES BLAKE: For me, one of the biggest things, the reason I'm not on
the council anymore, the reason I got a little disillusioned, was just
making sure the players had a greater voice.
As players we're ‑‑ every day we're living this, whether we're off
the tour with an injury or whether we're out here. We know what's going
on with the tour. We know what's going on in the locker room. We know
So in that regard we're the experts on that. Anyone that lives
through something that's a part of it is going to be an expert on that
subject. We feel like we need to be heard. If we're not heard, we've got
to do something about it.
Because as much as it takes, sponsors, it takes so many things to run
a tour, without the players, there's no tour. So we need to make sure
that that's known and that we're going to be the ones that have a say.
Q. The ATP is looking into the match‑fixing situation. What do you
think the penalty should be if a player gets caught fixing a match?
JAMES BLAKE: Out for life. I'm all for being very thorough in the
research and the investigation and everything, but if something is
proven and it's black and white, it's for sure that a match was thrown,
then I have no problem with the stiffest penalty possible because that
would be a disgrace to the game, and it's a game I love.
Being a one‑on‑one sport makes it susceptible to that kind of
behavior, and I wouldn't want to be a part of a sport that gets looked
upon the way professional wrestling is going to be seen.
I want it to be fair and I want guys competing with everything
they've got, and then at the end of the day see who's the best. I think
those people need to be thrown out if they were to ever do it.
But having said that, I really don't believe that anyone has done
that. I really don't believe anyone is guilty. I've seen the class of
many of the guys in the locker room, so I couldn't imagine anyone doing
Q. Are you guys collectively frustrated with how long it's taken
for the Davydenko investigation to be wrapped up?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, to be honest I've kind of stopped following it.
After they subpoenaed the records and did all that and didn't find
anything, at that point I kind of moved on. I've lost track of exactly
what they're still looking for, because it seems to me they looked, they
didn't find anything, and now they're searching for ‑‑ kind of for
anything. I've lost track of it.
I hope it doesn't affect Nikolay, because he's a great talent, a
great player. He deserves better than if they're really just kind of
looking for skeletons in his closet.
Can't find what you're looking for? Try Google