Blake sluggish in loss
INDIAN WELLS - A late night was followed by an early exit for one of the few American hopefuls at the Pacific Life Open.
James Blake, the sixth seed in the men's draw who played one of the late-night matches Sunday night, returned to the Stadium Court of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the lengthening shadows Monday and dropped a straight-set match to Julien Benneteau of France.
"I was definitely surprised to see myself on the schedule again today, especially in the day," said Blake, who lost 6-2, 7-6 (1). "But I'm sure they had their reason for it. I don't know what it is."
Blake's loss leaves only Andy Roddick, the event's third seed, as an American with a serious chance to win the title this week. Roddick advanced in straight sets in the match just before Blake.
Blake wouldn't blame Sunday's late night for his Monday third-round loss, even though Blake said he didn't get to bed until 1:30 a.m. after his normal stretching and icing after his straight-set victory over Florent Serra.
"I hope I'm awake by 4 o'clock in the afternoon," Blake said. "But I don't know what it was. I think my feet just weren't moving for some reason."
Whatever the reason, Blake came out sluggish in the opening games of the first set against Benneteau, losing his serve twice to fall behind 4-0 and eventually dropping the set 6-2.
"It was everything, it seemed like," said Blake, who won in Sydney, Australia earlier this year and reached the fourth round of the Australian Open. "I didn't serve well. I didn't return very well. I could have played better on the big points. I couldn't get a lot of momentum going."
Neither Blake nor Benneteau played particularly well in the second set, each losing their serve twice. Blake led the set on serve at 6-5, but Benneteau managed to hold on to his own serve and force the tiebreak.
Benneteau then made short work of the tiebreaker, winning 7-1. Blake set the tone for the tiebreaker by double-faulting on his opening serve.
Benneteau knew that was his opening to put the match away.
"I think (the tiebreaker) was the key opportunity to win this match, because I had some opportunities before and didn't take it," Benneteau said. "Against this kind of player, we cannot let opportunities go like this. So when I was down 6-5, I said to myself, 'OK, I can stay with this one in two sets, go into the tiebreaker and then win it.'"
At key points of the second set, Benneteau was able to whistle forehands past Blake, while Blake hit both backhands and forehands into the net throughout the set.
Blake said he felt good going into the tiebreaker after breaking Benneteau twice in the second set. That good feeling didn't last long, though.
"I felt like I was playing well on his serve and maybe just went for a little too much," Blake said. "Went for too much on the second serve, doubled and it wasn't a great start. And from there it didn't get much better."
Benneteau now advances to face 12th-seed Novak Djokovic in a quarter of the draw that has already lost Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Blake. Blake must take a few days to rebound from the upset before the Sony Ericsson Open in Florida.
"It will be in my head right now for probably the rest of the night, and then I gotta move past it," Blake said. "Take a day off tomorrow, relax, and then hopefully it will be out of my head. And that is what I've gotten better at over time."