Blake Is Reflective After First-Round Loss
PARIS — After winning only eight games in 88 minutes on Sunday, the unseeded James Blake peered into the past and pondered the future as he absorbed his loss in the first round of the French Open.
“I’m realistic,” he told a small group of reporters. “I’m 33, the clock is ticking down. I’m not going to be playing this for ten more years, that’s for sure.
Ranked No. 4 in 2006, Blake has hovered nearer 100 in recent months. After failing to qualify for the Australian Open in January, he fought toe-to-toe with top players at Indian Wells, Miami, and Houston.
Close losses to Gael Monfils, 7-6 (5), 7-5; Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, 7-6 (6), 6-4; and Albert Ramos, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, gave him a rush of satisfaction, Blake said.
“I want to enjoy each one of those moments,” he said. “I’m never going to have competition like this in my post-tennis life.”
Blake seemed mildly baffled by his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 loss here to Viktor Troicki of Serbia because an intensive three-week training regimen had placed him in excellent physical condition, he said. “We’ve been killing it in the gym and on the court,” he said.
Asked what stymied his efforts Sunday, he lamented that he was “clearly not a clay courter today. It’s never been my favorite surface, but I’ve had better success than I did today.”
Blake said Troicki’s deft shot-making had made him look like an “ordinary” tennis player.
The training might yet pay dividends, he said. “Maybe when it comes to U.S. Open time and I’m in three five-setters in a row maybe then it will pay off,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Looking back on his 13 years as a professional, Blake said he had never grown to accept his losses — even at a game of darts.
“I’m not going to sleep well tonight; whenever I lose, it doesn’t feel good,” he said.
What drives top players, Blake said, is not love of winning but “the hatred of losing.”
What has given Blake a slightly mellower attitude toward life, he said, was his marriage last year to Emily Snider in California. Yet even that relationship has had to weather storms created by tennis, Blake said.
“My wife never understood it when she first started dating me,” he said. “She would try to cheer me up. She didn’t understand me telling her that there’s nothing that can cheer me up that night.”
The solution, he said, was to “give me time to relax for awhile and get over it on my own,” allowing him to “sulk for a little while.’”
Their daughter, Riley Elizabeth, will celebrate her first birthday on June 11.
“She’s somehow found a way to put a smile on my face after a loss,” he said.
Blake plans to return to the United States briefly before bringing his wife and daughter with him when he competes at Wimbledon, which begins June 24.
“I’m excited to have them come with me,” Blake said. “It definitely adds to the logistics of travel but it also adds to the joy.”