The Tennis Week Interview: James Blake
Photo By Susan Mullane By Scoop Malinowski
James Blake took a break from his Davis Cup preparations to Detox in New York City last night. The two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist took time out from a week of training on the clay courts of Saddlebrook near his Tampa home to fly up to New York City yesterday and host a jam-packed Evian Detox Spa party staged in midtown Manhattan.
The Yonkers, N.Y. native signed on as Evian brand ambassador prior to the start of the U.S. Open and Evian celebrated Blake's success in reaching his second straight U.S. Open quarterfinal with last night's post Open bash at the Evian Detox Spa which opened up on 521 5th avenue last week. Musical entertainment was provided by DJ Kid Millionaire aka Steve Aoki.
The Evian Detox Spa is a pop-up spa that is only open for the month of September and is offering complimentary spa services to VIPs (the spa treatments include reflexology, massage, and facial, and all treatments incorporate Evian water). Walk-ins are welcome to stop by the spa and they will receive a complimentary Evian massage.
The eighth-ranked Blake might consider indulging in spa treatment for himself before boarding a flight to Moscow to join U.S. Open runner-up Andy Roddick and reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan on the American Davis Cup team that will take on a tough Russian team consisting of former World No. 1 Marat Safin, U.S. Open and Roland Garros semifinalist Nikolay Davydenko, U.S. Open semifinalist and Davis Cup hero Mikhaily Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov in the Davis Cup semifinals, which start next Friday on the red clay of Olympic Stadium. The winner of the Russia-USA tie will take on either Argentina or Australia in the December 1-3 Davis Cup final.
Blake took a time out from the party to discuss his performance at the Open and his preparations for Davis Cup.
Tennis Week: When you were leaving the U.S. Open grounds, carrying your bags after cleaning out your locker, describe your mind set. You had a great tournament before the loss to Roger.
James Blake: Yeah, at that time I'm still thinking about things that could have been done differently. You know, hopin' I could have taken advantage of those set points I had in the first set, hopin' I could have taken advantage of that break point I had in the fourth set. But I always feel that way kinda right after a loss. That was tough. It usually ends up being a little better — actually I got drug-tested after the match, and then going to press — that actually ends up easing my pain, if you will, a little more. Because I get to put it in perspective a little more with the press. Seems like they tend to make it like the world is ending every time I lose. It helps me to take the pressure off actually when I talk to the press. Then leaving there I was with my buddy, Evan, I was with my coach, with my brother. The best thing for me, the best therapy is around them, is to act like it's not a big deal, that things are gonna be all right. Just talkin' about what's going on in their lives or whatever. So when you're going home or going to the hotel, it's not the only thing on your mind. The best thing for me is to think about what's going on in their lives. And realize the world is gonna go on, the sun's gonna come up tomorrow and everything's gonna be okay. So just being around them and thinking about other things is the best thing for me.
Tennis Week: Do you believe you can beat Federer?
James Blake: I do. A wise man, Todd Martin, told me, If you could win one set, you can win two. So I won one set, I know I can win two. If you win two, you can win three. I know it's possible. I had a chance in the first set too. So he doesn't seem insurmountable. But obviously I have to play a perfect match. He's definitely at a level above everyone else. I can't say that right now I can consistently beat him. But that doesn't mean that I can't on a given day, beat him. Every day I step on the court with him, I feel I can win. Unfortunately so far, every time I've stepped off the court I haven't beaten him. But there's definitely a possibility.
Tennis Week: Have you begun practicing on clay yet?
James Blake: Yeah, since Monday I've been hitting on clay in Saddlebrook.
Tennis Week: Did you learn anything about yourself at the U.S. Open this year? About your game?
James Blake: Yeah, I learned that it's a lot different going in being a wild card as when you go in being the fifth seed. I can still perform well under any situation. And that's something I'm proud of. Obviously, like I said, totally different situation. I still played some of my best tennis — especially against (Tomas) Berdych — and dealing with people expecting you to win is very different than dealing with people who are kind of cheering for the underdog. And it's a great feeling both ways — to know that you have people cheering for you. And this year I'm proud that I got through with those kind of pressures. And it helps having Andy and Andre there to kind of teach me about that kind of stuff. But I learned I can play great tennis in any kind of situation. And I'm happy to be dealing with that kind of pressure.
Tennis Week: Did you hear the quote from Pete Sampras this week, "I haven't ruled out" a Wimbledon comeback?
James Blake: I haven't heard that. Actually I got a message from Pete the other day but he didn't mention anything about that. That would be interesting. That would be something where it would be similar to Andre, where every match people want to tune in — that's one you miss dinner for. You want to see Pete play. And we all miss him as part of the game. We're gonna miss Andre so much. Andre's done more I think than just about anyone for this game in terms of becoming a global superstar, and using that for good. Pete did all his talking with his racquet and having 14 Grand Slams is enough said. He doesn't even need to say anything else outside of that. He's the best player ever, right now, I think until Roger possibly goes past him. But he's got so much talent and ability and he seems like he knows how to play on grass. He'll be able to play on grass, I think, when he's 80 years old. It'll conjure up memories of that year he played when he was getting cortisone shots in his leg and not practicing on the days off. We were all cheering for him then and we'd still be cheering for him.
Tennis Week: When he sent the message, was he motivating you for the trip to Moscow at all?
James Blake: He was actually just telling me something he saw in my match with Roger. He helped me out. He just wanted to kind of throw in his two cents and his two cents is pretty valuable — when it's coming from a 14-time Grand Slam champion.
Tennis Week: Davydenko's playing in Beijing this week. He's playing, then he's gonna go straight to Moscow for the Davis Cup tie after the long run at the U.S. Open — would you be able to do that? Playing that much tennis and still be 100 percent fresh for Moscow?
James Blake: Nope. That's why I'm cheering for him to get to the finals [laughs]. Yeah, I wouldn't consider that as a schedule. My coach would kill me if I thought about doing that.
Tennis Week: Who are some of the famous people you've met from tennis?
James Blake: Oh wow. Well John Mayer I've known since I was in fifth grade. So I don't think of him as being that famous. I got to meet Greg Norman last week. I got to meet Rick Fox, LeBron James. Jerome Bettis. A bunch of athletes, not as many movie star types. Got to meet Jay-Z the other week. That was pretty fun. Joe Frazier — that was a big inspiration.
Tennis Week: And last one, do you think the Mets have a chance this year?
James Blake: I do think the Mets have a chance. The National League I'll admit is looking a little weaker than the American League right now. But all they have to do is win the the four-game series, if they get to the World Series against possibly a stronger team. But I like their chances.