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James Blake, Wimbledon, June 22, 2009
   

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Wimbledon Interview

James Blake

Monday, 22 June 2009


Q. After Queen's, can you talk about the disappointment losing here first round.

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I was playing pretty well at Queen's. Thought I had a good chance to do well here. This is something that has been probably my worst slam, and I don't understand why. Just didn't feel like myself out there today. Andreas played well when he had to and I didn't.

I don't know. I definitely felt like I was playing a lot better than this at Queen's. Had a great week of practice, and was actually playing great in practice. Thought I had a good chance to do very well here, but I guess things can change pretty quickly.

Q. The final tiebreaker, it isn't often that it gets away from you like that. Did you feel it was your own errors there that was the cause, or his pressure?

JAMES BLAKE: I made a couple of errors and he played well. Unfortunately, I don't have a serve that's an enormous weapon like an Andy Roddick or an Ivo Karlovic or anyone like that, so I didn't get any free points after that on my serve.

He did a good job of putting balls in play, and then once he got control of the points he took advantage. Couple of unbelievable shots of putting balls on lines that if we had Hawk Eye, we would know if they were for sure on lines. But he played great. It doesn't happen very often that you lose from 5 0 to 7 5. But I've done that to guys before. I'm sure it won't be the last time in my career that it happens to me or the other way.

Q. There seemed like there were a lot of backhand to backhand rallies. Am I right about that?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, too many for me. That wasn't the game plan. That's definitely a little more beneficial for him. He did a better job of hitting his backhand solid enough to keep me from being able to take it up the line and start getting forehands. That's his probably best play, and it worked. He did that very effectively today.

Q. Those two points in the tiebreaker, you talked to the umpire. Did you think they were out?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I thought he missed I don't know if there were two points. I think it was one point there, two calls. One on the far sideline and one on the near sideline. The one on the far sideline was a pretty soft ball. I didn't know if the person behind me, the umpire behind me, didn't see it, but I thought it missed by just a bit.

The other one on the near sideline, I saw chalk come up, too, but I thought it was wide and hit the long line. The umpire just said he saw the chalk come up. I guess that is a difficult call to make. If you see chalk come up, you want to assume that was in. But I thought he missed that one. The other one I talked to him about, I actually thought it was a let.

Q. This loss aside for a second, big picture, where do you think you're at right now with your tennis?

JAMES BLAKE: It's tough to say. I still feel like I can play with anyone in the world, but it's just for some reason lately it's been very inconsistent. You know, at times in my career I've been inconsistent with results, but I've always had those big breakthroughs where I've gotten to finals, gotten to quarters of slams, beaten some top players, and lately I haven't been having those runs.

I don't know what to put it to 'cause I've been doing all the training. I've been doing all the conditioning. I'm fit as I've been. I just haven't been as confident, I guess. Maybe that's just from not winning a lot of matches. Those things can change quickly. I remember in, I think '05, I lost something like four, five, six matches in a row from here to L.A. to, I don't even know where I was, Cincy or something, and went to D.C. and finaled, won New Haven.

Things changed pretty quickly there. I'm hoping for something like that again. I know I still have the ability. It's just frustrating 'cause it's happening at big tournaments where I'm having my not so good performances. Those are going to happen to everyone. But for me, I wasn't able to pull through today with a less than great performance. Maybe earlier in my career I was able to do that. I don't know why I'm not able to do it now. The guys are getting better. They're playing better against me. I'm just I just haven't gotten it done lately. I need to find a way to do that and take advantage when I am playing well. I hope that comes on the hard courts in the summer.

Q. The fact you have so much experience, does that make it harder to accept or easier to accept?

JAMES BLAKE: Uhm, I guess that's kind of a tough question 'cause it's both. It's easier to accept in the fact that I've done a lot already in my career. I don't feel like this is my one chance to prove myself. I feel like I've done some pretty good things in my career already, but it's tougher to accept because I've tasted that success. I remember at the beginning of my career thinking, you know, I had some pretty down times, some times when I was close to breaking through. Getting to the semis of Newport, I remember specifically after that tournament saying, What's better, to never have the opportunity to do something great or to have the opportunity and not get it?

Now I feel like, you know, I've had some opportunities, and still the same question. 'Cause I feel like I've had a lot of success, a lot of wins, but I still want more. That's why it's tough to accept nowadays, because I know I've done that and I know what it feels like to win and to go deep in slams and to win tournaments, and I just haven't had that feeling lately. I definitely want it back, and I hope I have it enough times before I retire that I won't miss it as much when I retire.

Q. Could you please tell me what was more effective of the game of Seppi? Because normally he plays very well on the backhand, not so well on the forehand. What did you find more difficult to play against?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, he made a lot of first serves, and he did a great job with his backhand of not letting me get it to his forehand. He was playing pretty effectively from the baseline and attacking with that backhand, neutralizing any time I was able to get it to his forehand.

Someone else said there were way too many backhand to backhand rallies. That's my weakest shot probably against his strongest. That's a rally that I'm not going to win as many times as I'm gonna lose it. I needed to do a better job of counterattacking to that, and he did a good job of not letting me.

Q. That court has a nickname and reputation. Did that even remotely cross your mind at any point?

JAMES BLAKE: No. I had a few wins out there and I had a few losses out there. I didn't really think about that. I just thought about going out there and trying to get a win. I wasn't worried about any superstitions or courts or anything like that.

Q. Tens of thousands of players out there would die to have your career. Could you talk a little bit more about the comment you mentioned, What's more frustrating, to have had the opportunity and not really been able to come through or to never have that opportunity.

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, 'cause it's something where if you don't know what it feels like, you're always just kind of dreaming. But you just don't you're never even close. If you never had the talent, you know, you accept it pretty quickly. I was actually pretty accepting of that when I was about 14 or 15 years old. Probably still under five feet. I was pretty accepting I was never going to be a pro athlete. I was going to go to college and have a normal 9:00 to 5:00 job most likely.

Before you know it, I had this opportunity. Then it rushes to your head all the dreams you had when you were nine and ten years old. Before you know it, you're playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium and your dreams are coming true. For me, I wouldn't trade that for anything. I know how lucky I am. I know how many people would do absolutely anything in the world to have a career where they're seeded at Grand Slams, they've won titles, they're doing all the things I'm able to do.

I know I'm not allowed to complain to my friends, but they know how tough it is when I have these losses. It's just something that we all deal with. I mean, every single one of us, because there's 127 people that are going to go home from this tournament a loser.

Every one of us is going to wish they were the one holding up the trophy. Every week that's tough to deal with. It's part of our job. You know, there's a million perks to our job, but there's a few downsides. Losing is definitely one of them.

Q. How can you turn around your confidence?

JAMES BLAKE: Win. Get a couple wins here and there. Whether it's winning while playing poorly, and that can give you confidence, or just having one of those matches where everything feels like it's going right. Before you know it, you got your confidence back. You know, maybe for me it's getting back on my favorite surface, back in the States where I've had a lot more success than the rest of the world.

Q. You have a game that looks like it would translate well to grass. Obviously you had some success at Queen's. Is it a movement issue? Is it a footing issue for you on grass? Is the grass here different than Queen's in any way?

JAMES BLAKE: I think it is a movement issue. I think that's been the biggest difference for me in this and hard courts. Early in my career, I think I was just experimenting. I was trying to serve and volley too much and changing my string and doing a lot of things that I thought needed to be done for grass.

Nowadays, I'm playing similar to the way I play on hard, but I just don't necessarily get my feet into every ball because of the footing, I think. I don't think these courts are very different than Queen's. Queen's, I think, might have been a little bit slower, given me a little more time to get to balls, get behind them, get my feet there. You know, I've had a week to get used to these courts. Should have been completely ready. Felt like I was completely ready, but just didn't work. Yeah, I thought this game would translate well to grass. I've had success at Queen's. I've done okay at Halle. Just never done well here. It is pretty frustrating.

Q. Do you find when you're not feeling that confidence that maybe you're playing a little too safe?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, that happens at times. I'd say the larger percentage of matches where I feel like I'm not playing my best and I lose and I feel like I'm not playing my game, not playing as well as I should, more often than not it's because I'm playing too safe. There really haven't been that many matches where I've come off the court and talked to Brian and he said, Well, you just went for a little too much today. You were being too aggressive, and that's why you lost.

Because he's kind of joked that almost every tournament I've won, early in the tournament, first, second rounds, whatever, he's thought, You're right on that border. You actually might be going for too much, but I don't want to say anything because you're winning. Before I know it, I'm holding up a trophy.

So he rarely thinks I'm going for too much, because when I am going for a lot, I'm playing aggressive, that usually means I'm confident and playing my style. That's very difficult for other guys to defend, I think.

Q. You still plan on staying in Europe before the Davis Cup?

JAMES BLAKE: That was the plan. We'll see. I still got doubles with Mardy. I'll see how that goes. That is definitely the plan. I don't know, you know. Tricky thing about our jobs is the scheduling and the travel. You don't really have a set time for flights 'cause you never know when this is gonna happen. I don't know. I'll probably stay here. You know, one tough loss in doubles might make my bed at home seem much more inviting (smiling).

Q. Did you have any physical problems today?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. Uhm, I had an upset stomach. That's probably all the details that need to be printed.

Q. When you see a guy like Nadal that's young and injured, do you ascribe any of that to the five set format we have in the Grand Slams, or is it specific to him, do you think?

JAMES BLAKE: No, I don't think it's specific to him. I think more so than the five sets, it's the schedule in general. You know, when we're playing in slams, it's three out of five. But we get a day off every time in between. You're able to rest. Your body is able recover a little bit better.

Masters Series you're playing two out of three, but you're playing six matches in seven days. That's pretty rough, especially for someone like him that's generally in the semis, finals of those tournaments. Playing eight of those that you have to play a year, four Grand Slams, four 500s, you're already at, what's that, 16? You're already at 16 tournaments, four of them two week tournaments.

That's a lot of tennis for a guy that's winning so much. He's playing doubles once in a while, too. To do that from January to November every year, he's only 22, but he's basically been on tour since he was about 16 years old. I don't know. I know, you know, I'm probably not supposed to say anything about the schedule or about the ATP in that way, but it's just tough for guys.

There's really not many ways to mess with the schedule, to take tournaments away, but it would definitely help the players' careers be a little bit longer. I don't know. I really can't I don't want to sit here and say there's an easy solution, because I know it's tough. I've been on the Player Council. I know how difficult those meetings are, how much the tournaments want to hold on to their spots. But for the players' longevity, something should be done.

Q. Fewer Masters?

JAMES BLAKE: Fewer Masters, possibly. I know how important those tournaments are to the tour. But I think possibly fewer tournaments and a real off season. You look at how all the other sports, the major sports, they get months off, not one month. Especially in a sport where you need to be training, there's no real pre season. We're at a slam three weeks into the year, so you can't warm up into a year. You don't have 20 or 30 games of pre season like in baseball.



 

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