Re: James News!
Blake dazzles at Classic
By DAVID WALSH
December 11, 2005
HUNTINGTON -- While Huntington tennis fans marveled at the actions of James Blake on the court Saturday, Jeff Morrison didn't really see anything out of the ordinary.
"In James, you saw today more athleticism than what you see on TV," Morrison said after Blake defeated the Huntington native 7-5, 6-3 in the feature match in the 2005 Cabell Huntington Hospital Tennis Classic in front of 2,000-plus fans at Cam Henderson Center. "He's one of the best athletes I've ever been around. He showed those talents today."
Morrison, 26, and Blake, 25, compete on the ATP Tour and Blake finished the 2005 season with a Top 25 ranking, two tour wins and a memorable quarterfinal match against Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open which Agassi won in five sets after dropping the first two. It was a comeback year after a tough 2004 when Blake suffered a serious neck injury and his father passed away.
"Where he goes, the sky's the limit," Morrison said of Blake. "He's a tremendous, gifted athlete. He has a different perspective now. He's one of the best movers on tour. Health is the important thing."
WTA Tour members Julie Ditty of Ashland and Carly Gullickson rounded out the field for the fund-raiser. Proceeds go to the Hospice of Huntington to assist in construction of the new Hospice House. Hospice officials received a check for $100,000.
"A lot of fun, a great cause and a good atmosphere," Blake said while signing autographs and posing for pictures. "The crowd was really into it. The play was at a pretty high level."
In the opening match, Gullickson won six straight games to turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 victory. After the men's singles, Blake and Morrison took on juniors Stephanie Fox and Cassie Mercer. The two pros won, 7-3. In mixed doubles, Morrison and Ditty beat Blake and Gullickson, 10-8. In the final match, Blake and Morrison defeated Ditty and Gullickson in what some called the "battle of the sexes."
Blake, who played in exhibitions earlier this month in Norfolk, Va., and Boise, Idaho, put on an awesome display of power. More than once, he ripped passing shots from the forehand side or one-hand backhand. Three times, he got to volleys, jumped into the air and smashed winners with the ball bouncing into the bleachers.
"Jump overhead? I probably wouldn't do them in a match," he said.
Both Blake and Morrison head back to Tampa, Fla., where they'll get in more training before heading to Australia in January for the start of the 2006 season.
"I felt great," Blake said. "My timing and confidence are coming back, but it's not all the way yet. I've got to build on them, plus fitness."
Morrison, who played at Florida in college and beat Blake for the NCAA singles title in 1999, said his back problems are all but gone.
"I'm feeling better," he said. "My goal is to get back in the top 100. I want to do what my potential is."
Gullickson said she overcame early jitters to defeat Ditty, former standout at Russell High School and Vanderbilt.
"Normally I start slow," she said. "I got better with the serve and volley. I was about to keep the presure on."
"She hit it harder and more consistent," Ditty said. "I kind of lost my focus. Still it was a lot of fun."
Fox, 13 and student at Barboursville Middle School, said Saturday's match was quite an experience. On one shot, she sent a sizzling forehand between Blake and Morrison to win a point.
"Awesome, awesome, awesome," she said. "After that shot, I thought, 'yes.' You can't believe how nervous I was. They messed with us at times. James Blake ... he's pretty good."