Bob pulled out, too.... what a nightmare
Roddick prevails over Blake at VCU
Exhibition win serves as tuneup for trip to Spain for Davis Cup next week
Saturday, Sep 13, 2008 - 12:07 AM
By JOHN PACKETT
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Andy Roddick's game appears to be back at a high level. He's going to need it to give the United States a chance to win against Spain next weekend in the Davis Cup semifinals.
The American team has the unenviable task of playing the Spaniards on an indoor clay court in Madrid, beginning on Friday.
And they'll be doing it without James Blake, who has been a member of the U.S. squad for the past 10 rounds of competition, as well as the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, the No. 1 doubles team in the world.
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe announced earlier this week that Blake was not playing because of being "mentally exhausted after a grueling summer." He'll be replaced by 20-year-old Davis Cup rookie Sam Querrey.
In addition, Bob Bryan, who was supposed to play in last night's AnthemLIVE! exhibition at the Siegel Center, pulled out yesterday because of shoulder problems and will be replaced by Mardy Fish.
That puts most of the pressure on Roddick, who helped the U.S. beat Russia in last year's final for the first American win in the international competition in 12 years.
"It's a tall task any way you look at it," said Roddick, before beating Blake 6-4, 6-3 yesterday in the featured match of the evening before a crowd of about 4,600.
"As James said, if we're a fully healthy team, we're probably still not favored. It's pretty simple in my line. You go over there and I'm going to try my best to compete and win us some matches. My job doesn't really change by what's going on around our team."
In last night's exhibition, Roddick used his biggest weapon, a 140 mph serve, to overcome the scrambling ability of Blake in an entertaining, 75-minute affair. Roddick, 26, blasted close to 20 aces in rewarding his fans in the gallery that turned out to support an event that raises money for cancer research.
Playing on clay, however, will be a completely different set of circumstances for Roddick and the U.S. squad, which will have to contend with Rafael Nadal, winner of the French Open and Wimbledon and the top-ranked player in the world, as well as fifth-ranked David Ferrer, another accomplished clay-courter.
Blake is sorry that he won't be able to contribute against Spain, but said he didn't think he could help them much anyway.
"I've been a little bit rundown, especially with the amount of travel I've been doing," Blake said. "Going to Beijing [for the Olympics, where he reached the semifinals] and coming back for the [U.S.] Open.
"With us going to the Davis Cup final last year, there was such a short amount of time off before going down to Australia that I feel like I've been playing nonstop. Now I'll have four or five weeks off. I don't feel like me playing would be the right decision for my career or for the team. I think Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish will give us a better chance over there.
"At the rate I was going, I don't know if I would be ready for five sets on clay against Nadal and Ferrer. I need to regroup and get refreshed for the European indoor season and another run at the Davis Cup."
In the warmup doubles match, Roddick teamed with Mike Bryan for an 8-3 victory over the makeshift duo of Blake and 6-9 John Isner, a last-minute fill-in for Bob Bryan.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia, which sponsors the event, has raised $2.5 million for cancer research since 2003, and last night's exhibition was projected to add more than $350,000 to fight the disease.
This was the fourth year that Blake has been involved in the event, which he does in memory of his father, Thomas, who died of cancer in 2004. Another exhibition is planned for next year.