2006-09-01 / Sports

Blake Looks To Make His Mark On This Open

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

James Blake. Photo by Pete Borriello. James Blake. Photo by Pete Borriello. FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY - Not many player make their mark in losing efforts, but last year, James Blake became a household name as he went down in defeat.

Taking on Andre Agassi in the 2005 US Open quarterfinals, Blake was up two set to love on the tennis legend only to see Agassi come back and win. It was called one of the great matches in tennis history, because of the competitors' inspired play.

"At this point, I would say it was the greatest match of my career," Blake said "But I hope there will be others that I win, I will be remembered for."

He gets his chance this week as the 2006 Open begins tomorrow. Last year, Blake was a wildcard entry, but now the 26 year-old is ranked No. 5 in the tournament and with Andy Roddick ranked 10th, he may be the best chance for an American to win the tournament.

Yet, he will have to do better than his performance last week in his home state of Connecticut when he lost in the first round to 57th-ranked Rubén Ramrez Hidalgo in the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven.

"James has the kind of game that when he is playing well, he can beat anybody," analyst Patrick McEnroe said to the New York Times. "But if he is a little off, he can lose to players like he did this week."

Blake will have the crowd behind him, which may help him elevate his game. Family and friends will fill the stands for the Yonkers born tennis player and because of his New York heritage, the fans will be cheering him on.

"In terms of the fans," Blake said, "I think the fans really care if you put in for these two weeks and don't care about the rest of the week. The city doesn't get excited for too many things, because there are so many things going on, but they come to the US Open."

Because of the crowd, Blake said he will be getting "goose bumps" as he takes the court. Yet, as a local product, he is used to it, because he has seen how New York can get behind their favorite athletes.

"There is a more rock and roll atmosphere here," Blake said. "Wimbledon and the French Open are more reserved. This one, especially with the night matches, it's more of a biased crowd. It's typical more of other sporting events than tennis.

"And it's great."

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