Burnt-out Blake struggling with inconsistency

04-17-2006, 09:57 PM
Notebook: Burnt-out Blake struggling with inconsistency
By Adam H. Beasley
CBS SportsLine.com Staff Writer

These days, losing to Roger Federer is an unfortunate -- but inevitable -- side effect of picking up a tennis racquet.

Federer has dropped exactly one ATP match this season, a three-setter to Rafael Nadal in the Dubai final.

Other than that, he's 28-0.

Two of those victories have come at James Blake's expense.

Tough luck for Blake, but considering the run Federer is on, it's understandable. What is troublesome is the way Blake has responded since falling to Federer in Miami a few weeks back.

Since then, Blake has dropped three more matches in a row. It's his longest winless streak since losing four straight last summer.

Blake fell to Chile's Fernando Gonzalez and Paul Capdeville in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, and then bowed out to Antony Dupuis in the first round of Clay Court Championships in Houston last week.

Blake utterly melted down in the Davis Cup, blowing a two-set lead to Gonzalez on the first day. On Sunday, Capdeville took him out in straight sets.

If Andy Roddick hadn't won both of his matches, the U.S. would have been out of the event early again.

Haven't heard of Dupuis? That's because he has spent 2006 banging away at events in places like Belgrade and Sarajevo. Dupuis entered the Houston tournament ranked 159th in the world, had not won an ATP match all year, and then lost to Fernando Vincente in Round 2.

Some think Blake overextended himself this spring, competing in 31 matches in 3˝ months. He also played on three different surfaces -- hard in Miami, grass in the Davis Cup and clay in Houston -- in four weeks.

"It's tough to (go) from Davis Cup -- the highs and lows -- and come to a different surface," Blake said after losing to Dupuis. "It's part of the job, but I think I'm getting better at it. He served great. That took me out of my rhythm."

If time off is what he needs, he's about to get it.

Blake's next match isn't until the Rome tournament in May. Word is he decided to take a week off from tennis completely after his early exit in Houston.

Blake, who has two tour titles this year and is ranked seventh in the world, still is the sport's best hope for an American rival to Roddick.

But after Roddick's inspired Davis Cup play and Blake's three-week losing streak, it may take a run through Roland Garros -- where Blake has never advanced past the round of 64 -- for that storyline to truly develop.

04-17-2006, 10:07 PM
Thanks. :hatoff: Interesting article.

04-17-2006, 10:10 PM
This inconsistency has ALWAYS been James's problem, I don't think losing to Roger has anything to do with it - in fact i'm confident it doesn't because he had a bad letdown after the first round of Davis Cup, losing 2 first rounds in a row before he won Vegas. Maybe the attention on it is magnified further now b/c he's been consistent enough to be a top 10 player but as wonderful as he's played since last August, he's thrown in some incredibly spotty and disappointing play too.

He's never been in the position before when he's been *expected* to win and I think as the summer goes along especially in the summer HC season when he has a lot to defend, it will be interesting to see how he deals with the growing expectations that people and press and whatever will be putting on him. And he's not exactly the only one who competed on multiple surfaces in that short amount of time... so I don't think he gets a pass for that (and he said as much after he lost to Dupuis in Houston anyway so he's not trying to make excuses).

He's earned these 3 weeks off and i hope that he comes back more rested, mentally and physically. the endeavor for consistency will always be his biggest obstacle, I think, but I think he can handle it and will be ok :)