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U.S. OPEN


 

August 23, 2008


 

James Blake


NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you talk about your first-round match with Donald Young?
JAMES BLAKE: Should be an exciting one. Great talent, young American, got a lot of potential. I hope my experience will be a little more valuable than his potential at this point. I think he's a name that will be household name hopefully in a couple years. I hope he doesn't make it household name this time.
He'll be fighting hard and have nothing to lose, so I'm looking forward to a good match.

Q. You mentioned you hope your experience pays off. Beijing must have been big one for you. Probably disappointed not to medal, of course, but still the best you've done in a major tournament.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it was a good feeling to beat Roger Federer. In my opinion, probably going to go down as greatest of all time. I said I had the confidence to beat him for a long time but haven't actually done it.
It's a little different to go out there and do it and prove it. Very excited about that. Really helps confidence to come into a tournament and feel like there's no one that you're scared of, you feel like you can beat every single person in the tournament.
That's the way I feel now, so that's going to help me now going in. I have a lot of work to do before I get to some of those top guys. I've to get through Donald Young first.

Q. Have you ever felt that way before coming into a Grand Slam tournament, that you didn't really fear anybody and that you could be holding that championship trophy at the end?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, well, every year I do feel like I can come in here and win this tournament. I think I really started believing it after the Agassi match in '05 when I was a couple points from being in the semifinals against a good friend of mine, Robby Ginepri, who I played a ton of times and I would have felt comfortable playing out there.
I think after that tournament I felt like I could win any these. But at that time Roger was still dominating, and at times he was making it look easy. It was tough to really go into a tournament thinking you're anything but a dark horse the way Roger was playing.
Now I think a lot of guys have started really improving at a great rate, hopefully including myself to the point where we can challenge him. We can hopefully challenge Rafa as well the way he's playing.
But this time is the first time I've had that win on my record against a guy like Roger to come in and feel like -- I can not just say that I believe it, but everyone can know that I have the confidence to be that top player.

Q. How, if at all, did the Olympics change your preparation for the US Open relative to other years?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, it changed my sleep patterns a little being 12 hours away.
Otherwise it's the same kind of thing I would be doing: Playing a tournament against top players in the world. So that was great preparation.
It's very hot and humid over there, so that's perfect. Because normally in these summers we're playing in Cincinnati and Indianapolis and DC where it's always hot, so that preparation was the same. It was just a matter of being on a different continent.
And then getting back and maybe taking a couple of extra days' rest just to get used to the time zone.

Q. Overall, how far was the Olympics?
JAMES BLAKE: Olympic experience? Unbelievable. I was thrilled to be a part of the team. A team that I'm proud to call inspirational. They were all incredible athletes over there. Whether they were getting a medal or just getting personal best, they did it with a ton of sportsmanship and ton of class.
I'm really happy watching all them. The women's soccer team winning gold, the men's basketball team, the women's basketball team, Michael Phelps, all the swimmers we are people that were very friendly to me. It just made sports really feel good. I always feel good about tennis in general, but it made sports as a whole feel good to me.

Q. James, how was the Roger that beat you eight times in a row different from the Roger that you just beat?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I hope it wasn't too different. I think it was more of the fact I played some of the bigger points as well as I possibly could.
We've had a lot of matches where they've been very close, and it comes down to a few points here and there. He just, for the last few years, has seemed like those points, there was -- there was nothing you could do. He would dictate play and really force you, force the action.
This time I felt like I was doing that. I made all my first serves on all my points and just felt good about the way I was playing the big points. I think he definitely didn't have his best day against me, but playing him nine times I'm -- I guess he's bound to have one off day out of all them, because there are times when I felt like there was nothing I could do.
When I played him in Shanghai I feel like it was one of the better matches I've seen him play. When I played him here at the Open we had a close four-setter. It definitely could have gone either way, but like I said, those big points he played unbelievable.
This time it was a couple of points here and there, and if it wasn't me for playing those unbelievably well, it could have gone down to another one of those matches where I was close but didn't quite get it. This time I did.
So one out of nine I'm going to get those, and maybe this will be another one here.

Q. You hit with Andy Roddick yesterday. You two are very close in the rankings, maybe closer than you have ever been. What's your sense of how he's doing coming kind of an injury-marked season?
JAMES BLAKE: In terms of rankings, neither one of us are worried about that. Whoever is ranked higher, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference to us. But I think he's playing great.
Like you said, I was hitting with him. He was playing really well. We had a really good practice. He was serving huge. I guess that's not really a surprise. When he's making a lot of first serves, a high percentage, he's very, very tough to break and tough to deal with.
He puts a lot of implied pressure on your serve just by serving that well. On these courts, quick as they are, the ball is flying a little, he's going to be dangerous. He's got the confidence since he's won here before. I'd look out for him to be dangerous.

Q. How big of a deal is jet lag, and have you had to do much special or different to try to adjust?
JAMES BLAKE: No. The first couple of days were rough, but I feel great now. I've gotten a lot of sleep the last couple of nights. That's one thing I think I have a special talent for is sleeping. I do that well.
And after the first couple of nights where I was waking up early thanks to the time change, I got right back on to a pretty good schedule. We're used to it in the amount we travel, the amount we're kind of trotting the globe and dealing with the jet lag and dealing with playing a few days after, after flying.
But now I feel great, and I still have another day or two to get ready. The staff here is great for if you need a massage or whatever, if you need to just stay loose, get stretched by all the trainers. I feel great.

Q. The sense of patriotism that you must have felt in Beijing, I mean, every now and again we get a patriotism check, if you will, and I imagine that would be one for you.
JAMES BLAKE: Definitely.

Q. Coming off that experience playing for your country and then coming here playing in this country's Open championship, can you carry those feelings even more so than a normal year?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I think it's a great little span for me in terms of patriotism, go from the Olympics to our US Open to Davis Cup probably in Madrid. I'm not going to lose patriotism. I hope I never loss that patriotism because I'm always proud. I guess it's a little different in the Olympics when you have U.S.A. on your chest, you have the whole team supporting you.
When I beat Roger and walked back into the dining hall, I had athletes from swimming to track and field to diving to everything else under the sun coming up to congratulate me.
It means a lot to know that there are other sports that care about tennis as well just because of the patriotism. I guess we care about each other as one great grander team. And.
Here at the US Open we don't have that team aspect, but I really feel the Americans kind of travel the globe with that, because Andy and I are so close, Mardy and I are so close, I'm texting and calling him every night with how well he's doing at the Pilot Pen. John Isner, Donald Young even. Getting a little tense before we actually have to play each other, but even when we're not playing each other we're all really close and we get along great.
We feel like we're cheering for each other. I feel like I can never miss a night match at the Open or a few matches in a row because there's always an American playing that I want to watch. So it's something I carry on here, and we got a lot of great talents from America this year. Hopefully one of us will be holding the trophy at the end.

Q. Because of all that, has this tournament always held a special place in your heart?
JAMES BLAKE: Always. And because of the patriotism, but also because I grew up a fan of this tournament. I grew up just an hour from here loving watching this, coming down here with my parents, and then as I got older coming down with my friends.
It's a tournament that I'm a fan of, whether I'm playing, whether I was hurt and I missed it one year, whether I retire, I'm always going to be a fan of the US Open.

Q. Do you agree that Rafa comes in here as a clear-cut favorite even though he's never been past the fourth round or the quarters? When you saw the draw come out, what was your reaction to being in his section?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, I think it's tough this year to say there's one clear-cut favorite. Rafa is No. 1 in the world, but like you said, he hasn't had as much success here. He's played a lot of matches. I feel like anyone can win this, as opposed to the last few years, I would say for sure Roger was the clear-cut favorite and there were a lot of dark horses.
This year I'd say there are seven or eight guys that chance to win it. Rafa is the favorite, but I wouldn't say a clear-cut favorite like the way Roger was.
You take kind of the Tiger Woods effect. You take him versus the field. I don't think you could take Rafa that same way right now just because he hasn't proven himself here yet. So I don't think it's the same as the way it's been with Roger.
And in terms of looking ahead in the draw, I haven't looked that far ahead. I don't know if I play him in the quarters, the semis, whatever. I'm looking to get through Donald Young and see where it goes from there.

Q. Are you saying it's more a case of you and others improving than Roger going backwards?
JAMES BLAKE: He may have lost confidence for a match here and there, but I definitely don't think he's lost anything. The game continues to improve, which is why I've been more and more impressed with him over the past four years continuing to stay No. 1.
Because if you look at a lot of guys that were former No. 1s, look at Lleyton Hewitt, look at Carlos Moya, those guys are not getting worse even though their ranking is dropping. The game just keeps getting better and better. They may not improve as much as the rest of the game is improving.
I think it's unfair to compare generations and eras, because the game gets two to five to ten percent better every single year. Guys are getting stronger and fitter and guys are playing better tennis. I don't think it's Roger getting worse. I don't think there's any way that's the case. I think guys are definitely improving. Guys are catching up a little.
That's not to say he can't turn it on at any time, because the talent, confidence he has, and court sense, he could turn it on and go through this tournament just like last year and couple years ago where he just goes through making it look easy.
But I hope I have something to say. I hope some of the other guys have something to say about that, and we're going to do our best.

End of FastScripts
 


 

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