Thirty-one years old, on sore and chronic bad knees, and out of the top 100, James Blake has turned up in tennis’ minor leagues. Tallahassee, Sarasota, and now Savannah. At some point, you have to know when to say when. At some point, it’s a little sad, and sickening, to see a former top athlete do something like this.
Not now, though.
It might turn out that Blake is done, but I don’t think so. I applaud him for what he’s doing. In fact, last year at the U.S. Open, I asked him if he would be willing to drop down to Challenger level events if needed, the way Andre Agassi did years ago to build things back up. He said he might.
Now, here he is, winning the tournament in Sarasota, Fla., Sunday, beating American Alex Bogomolov, Jr. 6-2, 6-2 in the final. In the semis, he beat No. 65 Ryan Sweeting in straight sets.
This takes guts. It’s not something you see a lot of the best tennis players doing. It was just Jan. 1, 2007 that the top of the rankings went like this: Federer, Nadal, Davydenko, Blake.
Last week, Blake climbed from No. 149 to 109.
So Blake is either 1) admirably willing to go back to the grind or 2) in denial. I’m going with No. 1.
The point is that he’s stringing together wins for the first time in a while, having won seven of eight matches in the past couple weeks, not counting a walkover. He is gaining momentum.
He told me the leading up to Sarasota, he had the best week of practice his knees allowed him to have in two years, and he “felt like I played better and better as the week was going on.’’ Continue reading