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James Blake - US Open 25. August Interview

Q. Was there ever a point tonight where you felt like a little defeated, like tonight wasn't your night?
JAMES BLAKE: No, I try not to let those kind of doubts get into it. If it's set, you think more about the fact that anything can happen, not that it's not your night or you're thinking about losing. You're thinking, now's the time where you need to play your game and what's most comfortable with you. Because if the other guy is feeling that good and playing his game, he can take it to you and anything can happen in one set.
So that's all I was thinking. I never felt like, "It's not your night, things aren't going to go your way." It stung a little when he won the break point with a broken string, but once that was over and once that game was over, I had to put it out of my mind and came right back and broke him the next game. I thought I did a pretty good job of that of not thinking about the fact that it could have been a pretty big loss there.

Q. You had said a few days ago, spoken to the potential that Donald has. A lot of people use that word to describe him. You saw him out there tonight and saw what he was able to do. What was the biggest difference you saw in him?
JAMES BLAKE: Well, after the first set I think he was a little shellshocked. I was playing really well. He made mistakes he really shouldn't have and it was over pretty quickly. And then he really found his rhythm, and after that he gave me very few free points on my serve. He did a good job of keeping his backhand deep, not giving me a lot of chances to move in, and trying to hurt me with his forehand. He did a very good job of doing that. He always moves well, so I think that was good tonight, and just came down to a couple points here and there, of course.
Like I said, I think earlier maybe my experience will help a little, and that definitely could have been the difference in one or two points at the end of that match.

Q. Did you feel any effects from going the distance at the Olympics tonight?
JAMES BLAKE: No, I don't know. It just seemed a little weird early on in the match. It seemed like I hadn't been here in a few years. Maybe because so much has happened over the last year. And it was also a little strange to, seemed like the crowd wasn't as into it in the beginning just because the first set went so quickly, and they wanted a little drama to get into it. I guess fortunately, or unfortunately, I provided that for them and then it was back to like it was my home crowd again, and it's my favorite court in the world, and it felt comfortable again.
Just at the start maybe I was a little -- it didn't look like it in the first set obviously, I meant the first few sets I might have been a little out of sorts. I feel great now. I have two days now to rest and recover, and come out hopefully playing even better on Thursday.

Q. How did you feel about your own game? You seemed to swing a little bit.
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I played a couple loose games. And he played some really good games. But I felt like when I was attacking when I was going after the ball. I was most effective that first set, that third set and at the end of the fifth I was going really after my shots and I was taking my backhand hard across court and not being tentative with it. It was something that was kind of tough tonight because of the wind. The wind can really play havoc with your strokes, because when you're against the wind you feel like you're being pushed back, when you're with the wind you feel like the ball can fly.
It was just a little difficult. We both handled it well at times and both handled it poorly at times. Just came out a little better at the end.

Q. How much of your experience did you lean on, especially because it seemed like especially at the end you came through some pretty pressure moments, I guess, in that match?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, just having been through this a bunch of times before, especially the way he was playing at the end of the fourth set and into the fifth, he definitely looked like he was locked in. If someone's playing like that, you can't just keep pushing and getting balls in the court and expect them to miss. And I know that from playing too many times and playing a little passive and letting guys beat me. This time, it makes it so much easier after you've been through that and learned from trial and error that I'm going to go through my shots in the fourth set I was broken, I made a few errors.
People might have said he's going for too much but if I don't do that, I don't win the match. I just know I need to play that way to win. It makes you so much more confident and comfortable at the end of the match knowing your game style, knowing what you need to do and going after it. If you don't have it that day, you lose. You miss those shots, there's nothing you can do. But that's the way you're going to win more matches.
So I had to go for those, and I don't know if Donald has been in as many five-setters. He might not have felt as comfortable. I know he doubled in that game he got broken and he maybe made a couple of errors he wouldn't normally make. That's sometimes finding your game, finding what's comfortable.
Sometimes one of the drawbacks of potential is you might have too many tools. He's got a huge forehand, but he can play great defense and sometimes you don't know how you should balance that, and it takes a little while to adjust and to learn that. I'd love to work with him more, just have him come down to Saddlebrook and hit, and have him sit hit with some of the other top players in the world, the Mardy Fishes and Andy Roddicks and having him get used this to level all the time and figure what works best. I think he made a huge step tonight and I hope he continues it with his practice.

Q. Lots of people talked about him having those tools and unfairly or not, put the pressure on like the next wave. What's separating him at this point? You saw a flash tonight but just in your veteran estimation, what was it?
JAMES BLAKE: There really isn't that much separating him. Like I said, him getting down and practicing with the top players more is going to make a big difference. I remember seeing him at Davis Cup last year as a practice partner, and you could almost see him improving by the day. Just getting that confidence of hitting with us and working hard, and putting in the hours is going to make a huge difference. I really don't think there's much difference between him and guys top 20, 30 in the world. Of course, there's going to take some time with experience. There aren't too many guys like a Rafa Nadal that will explode on the scene at such a young age. Once he gets that little experience and figures out what kind of game style he wants to play and plays matches like this, I don't see any reason he's going to be held back by anything.

Q. Among what you're feeling right now, is part of it just relief you're through and going to the next round?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I think any time you win a five-setter there's a huge relief. Obviously a couple points here and there and it could have gone the other way, and I could have had a pretty bad Open and be already on my way back to Connecticut. But I'm feeling great now and definitely relief, and I'll enjoy a good night's sleep when I do finally get to bed. Yeah, there's definitely a little relief there.

(via ASAP Sports, photo/AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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