James Blake

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Quick work of the guy. Anything in particular out there that you noticed?

JAMES BLAKE: I'm just as surprised as anyone. I figured it was going to be a really tough match. As much as it looked easy, it wasn't. He's a great player and makes you work for everything. He's the kind of guy that gives you great rhythm, but really makes you beat him.
I served well and started out a little shaky on the serve, but after that I really got a groove on my serve and was taking my shots and being aggressive. Need to be do against him. He can really lull guys to sleep by keeping balls in and keeping balls in and then kind of popping one on you when you don't expect it.
I did a good job of not letting that happen and making sure I was the one being aggressive and taking the first chance I got and either taking it up the line or getting in on it and trying to hurt him with it.

Q. How do you feel about where your hard court game is right now?

JAMES BLAKE: I feel good. A lot better than my clay court and grass court game this year, so I'm pretty happy about that. This is always the time of year I appreciate the most. I've had my best results in this kind of hard court summer getting ready for the US Open and then into the US Open where I've had my bets Grand Slam results.
So it fits my game the best and I feel good and healthy and strong. This is the time of year I think a lot guys are kind of feeling their age and their bodies from a long year of switching from clay to grass to hard and just playing tons of matches. You see it with some of the pull outs here. A lot of the people are starting to feel some serious injuries. I feel healthy, so I'm lucky about that. I know that has a lot to do with how hard I work in the off-season.

Q. There's a lot of focus this week on the rankings at the top. What about yourself, how important is it for you to maintain that top 10 ranking at this point with all the points you have to defend here?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I don't really think about that too much. I've been fortunate to be up where I've been for a few years now, and I haven't thought about it since I really got into the top 10. Once I got in there I was excited, and to see just one digit next to your name it's pretty impressive. I was always proud of that. But once I got there I didn't want to fall prey to what had happened once I got up to around 20 in the world. I definitely dropped back down thinking once I'm ranked that high guys are just going to hand me victories and let me win just because I'm ranked higher than them. I wanted to feel the same kind of hunger at 8 in the world as I did at 80 in the world or 100 in the world. I still feel that every day, whether it's pushing myself just get to 7, whether it's pushing myself just to win another match. I'm not really thinking necessarily about those rankings, I'm just pushing myself to get better. If that turns into me getting ranked higher and higher, great. If it doesn't, that means, you know, there are other guys out there that are more talented than me or are doing the right things more or staying healthier, whatever is the case. But I feel like I'm just going my best, and the ranking has actually maintained a pretty consistent level, which is kind of shocking with the way I play. How aggressive I play, you would think my ranking would be very up and down. But I stayed between 4 and 13, I think, over the last three or four years, and for me that's a pretty good accomplishment I think.

Q. When did you get to town, and what have you been doing with your time, other than taking batting practice?

JAMES BLAKE: I got into town ?? when did I lose? Friday. I got here Friday night and been actually hanging out with a friend of mine that used to play for the Bengals. He's been nice enough to have me out to his country club playing golf and over to his house every night with his family. He's been cooking and helping me make this place feel like home. It's been great.

Q. Who is that?

JAMES BLAKE: Davey Pollack. He's a good friend of mine. He's been out at all the matches and everything. Him and his wife, you would think they would be crazy busy with a new family starting, but he's still as crazy of a tennis fan as he has been the last couple years.

Q. How did you get to know David?

JAMES BLAKE: Through friends from Georgia. A couple of my really good friends that went to Georgia were good friends with him. Then when he was here we got to know him as he came out to watch, and just been really close ever since.

Q. Today the turning point came in the first set. He had a chance to take a double break lead but your fought it off.

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, that really made a big difference. I felt like the way he was serving he was giving me rhythm even on his serve, but was doing a good job once I put the return in play of kind of taking control on his serve. So it was tougher to make than it would seem with a guy that was serving around 100 miles an hour on his serve. It was still tough to break, so if I were to get down that second break I definitely wouldn't have had a great chance to win that first set. But I felt pretty good hit a good serve and stayed with it. Like I said, I was a little shaky on my serve at the start. I think probably once I closed out that game I maybe let off a little steam and let out a little of the pressure and felt really good on my serve from that point on. That was one of the turning points. Throughout most matches there are a few of those, and getting the break the next one was a big deal. And then just kind of keeping the foot on the accelerator in the second set was really important as well.

Q. I want to ask you about Nadal. Hard court is the one surface he hasn't won a major on. You played him at the US Open in '05. What do you remember about that, and what have you seen improvement?wise in his game the last couple years?

JAMES BLAKE: I've definitely seen an improvement, a huge improvement. I think when I played him in '05 he was an excellent player. He was like 2 or 3 in the world at that point, and he deserved to be there. He had won on clay and he had even won I think in Toronto that year or Montreal.
He had played great tennis on hard, but I felt like he was playing exceptional clay court tennis on hard. I think he was so skilled at that it still made him one the best hard courters, but now I feel like he's adapted his game to play hard court tennis. With his talent level it's making him one the best hard courters in the world, because he's changed his serve a little bit in terms of mixing it up a little better. He does a much better job now of taking the offense as soon as he can instead of waiting and being patient like he does on clay. I think, to be honest, what's helped him the most is his success at Wimbledon because he had to change his game there. In doing so, it made it so he realized he can play that way and that well. When I played him this year in Miami and Indian Wells he was definitely a different player in terms of his level of improvement. He really makes you work hard. He's never going to get tired. That's the same on any surface. He's changed his game to the point where he's definitely one of the best hard courters in the world. And if not the favorite, one of the two or three favorites to win the US Open for sure.