Tuesday, August 28, 2012

James Blake US Open Day 1 Interview | Monday, August 27, 2012

James Blake US Open Day 1 Interview | Monday, August 27, 2012

Q. So who is Travis Mathew?

PLAYERNAME: Travis Mathew is a brand. It's great. I'm excited to be with them. They have mainly been in golf to this point. Bubba Watson, the Masters champion, wears it, John Mallinger, Kevin Chappell, Luke List, a couple guys on the Nationwide Tour. They are now going to get more into fitness and more I want to say active sports than golf, more ‑‑ little more into the fitness realm. That's why I'm excited to be part of it right at the beginning. Bubba Watson got in right in at the beginning, and obviously his career took off. I'm excited to be part of a company that is behind me supporting me from the start from sort of their inception into the fitness line. I'm excited to be a part of it. I think it's going to do really well. The stuff is unbelievable. I'm happy about it.

Q. What does it feel like being back again here and back again winning?

JAMES BLAKE: It's a good feeling. You know, every time I come back here it's still sort of the goosebumps walking out on Louis Armstrong or Arthur Ashe. I'm excited, and I get a lot of ticket requests. I get to see my fans and friends having a good time. That definitely keeps my spirits up, keeps my head up throughout the whole match. You know, I can't believe that it's been I think 12 years I have been playing here just about every year. You know, it still doesn't feel normal. It's still an incredible feeling to be here and to be doing what I dreamed of as an kid.

Q. You have had a lot of epic matches at night here in the record books, length and all that. What's the difference between day matches and night matches? What ratchets is up for you?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, during the day it's a little different because there is so much going on. Egotistically I'd like to think everyone is coming out to watch me play on Louis Armstrong, but there are great matches going on all throughout the grounds. Night matches, you know everyone is there to see the one match. They want to see a good match. They don't want to come out and see some pretty gritty and ugly tennis and just going through the motions or everyone not giving it their all. They're here just to see that match. They may also be here just for a night out enjoying cocktails, so they have more energy and are pretty rowdy. You have to give them your best. They will get on you if you're not giving your best, and they'll appreciate if you are giving them your best. That, to me, is some of the most fun matches here is the night matches here at the Open, because the crowd is really just crazy. There is nothing else like it in the sport, I don't think. You know, matches at Wimbledon, matches at the French, nothing like a night match at the Open.



Q. Speaking of the night match with Agassi, a cliffhanger, a great match, did you ever feel in a match like even though you lost it's a winning experience, just that you know you laid it all out there and you comported yourself well? Can there be a winning in losing?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah. I think Andre said it best that night: Tennis is the winner. Easier to say when you win. He's a great champion, too. So I know that we both did our best. I think I remember someone was actually just talking to me about it a couple days ago when I was here in the locker room saying how high the quality was. I think the tiebreaker it was almost all winners. There were almost no unforced errors. Both of us standing on the baseline toe to toe just getting after each other. That's a fun match to be a part of. Obviously I wish I had won it, but there's got to be someone that goes down and doesn't quite get over the finish line. That day Andre played better. But it was a great match. I'm happy to be a part of it. I wish I'd have won, but, yeah, I guess you could call it a win, like I said, for tennis. But for me it was just a match that I played well and lost. You know, you hope you don't have too many of those in your career, but you can't be angry about it. You can't say, I just didn't move my feet well or I didn't execute my shots or I didn't have a good game plan. I did everything I wanted to do, and things could have changed with two ‑‑ you know, two points, 6‑All in the breaker, you know, I hit a winner instead of him hitting a winner or he makes one mistake and then he clipped the line with his second‑serve return on match point, and, you know, that's an inch further out and we might still be out there. So it's just a match that could have gone either way, and he came up big that time.



Q. Health‑wise how are you feeling?

JAMES BLAKE: I feel great. Just don't worry about the ice. That's just preventive. The shoulder feels better than ever; knee feels better than ever. I'm actually feeling great. It's a really good feeling. That's been exciting for me the last I'd say three or four weeks during the summer where I actually feel like I can move the way I used to or the way I need to to compete here.

I think I was kidding myself earlier in the year thinking I was able to move at this level and I really wasn't after the knee surgery. I think I more wanted it to be okay than it really was okay.

Now for it to really feel the way it does, I feel like I can move and be effective with my legs. Without my legs I'm a pretty average to below average player here. I need those to be strong. The way it's feeling now, I want to just keep on playing.



Q. This is the healthiest you have been since...

JAMES BLAKE: '08, '09. My knee was giving me problems for a while and I didn't bring it up a lot. I didn't want to talk about it because it was something that would nag at me. Then it would go, I could be okay for half a match, and then it starts getting worse. Then I know the next day is going to be terrible.

It just eventually got to a point where I couldn't even make it through a match and it got worse and worse. Eventually the only option was surgery.

It was a while, but I kind of battled with that and it feels good.



Q. As a kid you were struggling with braces and weren't exactly a junior phenom. You went on the tour and lost your guiding light and went on to great wins and losses. We never get it right in the terms of big picture and story. Could you take a minute possibly and reflect on your own career and your take?

JAMES BLAKE: Sure. I never had braces, actually. I was lucky enough that my teeth were okay. But I had a back brace. I kind of wish I had a braces instead of the back brace.

Yeah, as a kid I came here and watched and honestly never believed I'd be good enough to come out playing. To be doing what I am is really incredible.

I haven't taken too many moments to just step back and reflect on that. I did that whole year when I was in the process of writing a book and thinking about my father, thinking about breaking my neck, thinking about shingles and how painful that was.

Now I'm just so excited to be back here playing and healthy. It's a good feeling. But I know when I'm done. You know, Brian Barker and I have talked about like we need to sit down once this is all said and done and have a couple beers and talk about everything we went through.

He will bring up a story once in a while I have forgotten and bring a smile to my face or a frown to my face. I just can't believe I have been out here this long and had so many great experiences, so many tough experiences. It's just a thrill. It seems like it's gone by in a blur.

You know, I don't know how many times I have been in this room, but I never thought I'd be doing anything like this, doing a press conference where people actually care what I think. It's still a little weird to me. I still really love it. That's what showed me ‑‑ what I learned this summer, was that when I wasn't playing my best, when I wasn't able to move, it wasn't that much fun. But as soon as it clicked in that I was able to move, I love this. I love playing. I love competing. I want to keep doing it.

I'll hopefully have a whole other year or maybe even longer to...



Q. You said at one point actually losing your father incredibly was the best thing that ever happened to you.

JAMES BLAKE: No, no, no, I said breaking my neck was the best thing that ever happened to me. I would never say losing my father was. Breaking my neck was the best thing that happened to me that year because it gave me a chance to go home and see my father. I was there for six weeks, the last six weeks of his life. I know my dad was so proud that if I hadn't been hurt he would have told me, you know, Get ready to play the French. Stay over there. I'll be fine. I could almost guarantee those words would have come out of his mind. I'll be fine. I'll be okay. Even though I'm sure he knew things weren't going well at that time. Hurting myself that day, lying on the clay, it felt terrible. You never know, you know, when something happens if it's something that's positive or negative. That was a positive in my life. It got me to go home and see my dad and just sit and talk to him sometimes and just be around him. You know, not that many people get the opportunity to say the things they want to say towards the end of someone's life, and he got to say the things he wanted to say, I think. I got to say the things I wanted to say. You know, I would never say losing him was the best thing. Losing him was probably the toughest thing I've ever had to deal with. I wish I would never have to go through that or wish it on my worst enemy to have to go through losing their parent too early. Now that I am a parent, I couldn't imagine. I want to be there for everything my daughter goes through, and I hope I'm there to see her grow up and go through all the trials and tribulations of high school and college and marriage and all that fun stuff. I can't wait. But it was real tough to see my dad getting sicker and getting weaker.



Q. Are you to the point in your career where you're starting to get old jokes from your peers?

JAMES BLAKE: I have been that way for a while. The thing is I knew I was going to get them, because when I was a kid starting out around here I dished them out. So I knew they would come back to haunt me. I remember I used to make fun of Todd Martin. Todd Martin was one of my key guys I would get. I made fun of him for taking so long to warm up, for his gray hair, for all that kind of stuff, for just in general being old. He said, Just wait, just wait. You will be, too. Now I'm getting it from everyone. I deserve it, because if I dish it out, I've got to be able to take it. I'm getting the old jokes, the grandpa jokes, and I'm okay with that.



Q. Along those lines, do you have any theories on Federer as a parent, fountain of youth thing going on here?

JAMES BLAKE: The guy's a freak. He's so good. It's really incredible. I could spend another hour talking about the things I'm impressed with by him. His streak of quarterfinals, most people would have that an incredible streak just to play that many slams in a row, and he has to make it make quarterfinals or better. To do it at that level and not injure yourself is amazing. It's so easy to go out and roll your ankle or tear up your knee or for your back to be sore. For him not to do that is amazing. I think it shows how much work he probably puts in stretching, getting his body strong enough and physically ready to play all these slams. You know, he has the luxury of being able to pick and choose his tournaments. He obviously is pretty comfortable with his ranking and where he's sitting not needing to worry about that, but it's still really, really impressive. He focuses on the big picture and is always ready for these slams.



Q. Just wanted to ask you about the state of the industry. Last year on Wall Street we heard 1%ers, they own 99% of the wealth. In this industry it seems like 1% of the people win 99% of the tournaments. Is that good for the industry?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, I think as long as they're willing to really market the sport ‑ and I think they are. You see Roger, Rafa, you see Novak and Andy all over billboards, all over marketing, you know, ad sheets and everything. I think when we started on tour tennis and golf prize money was about the same. Then Tiger came along, and they're four times what our prize money is. So I think you see what happens when one true superstar gets marketed the right way. Obviously he has the charisma, everything behind it. He's an American. He appeals to a wide audience. I think with Roger and Rafa and Novak, I think the ATP is doing a good job, and it just maybe takes a little time. I mean, I have heard of the polls and all these things where Roger and Rafa are so well respected, and Novak is practically a god in his country. Those are things that are great for the sport. Of course it's also important to have an underdog story, go out and beat one of the pillars of the sport. Maybe that will happen this week.



Q. With the dominance of the top three or four guys the past couple years, how hard is it going to be for an American like you or Isner to break through here and make a run and be one of the top three guys?

JAMES BLAKE: Well, you know, for me, I think I need to get there. I need to worry about one match at a time. I can't worry about quarters or semis or finals right now. I'm still kind of scratching to get through these matches and get my confidence back and feel like I'm ready to compete. I don't think that will change if I'm playing someone that's 1, 2, or 3 in the world. I have been fortunate enough. I am an elder statesman. I have been around and have won a lot of matches. I have beaten guys 1 in the world, I've beaten guys that are top 3, top 4, top 5 plenty of times. There is no reason for me to go out there and play one of those guys and be scared. I think it will take an unbelievable effort. I will have to play my best tennis. For Isner, you know, with that serve, anything can happen. No one wants to play him. When he's confident, when he's playing well on hard courts, if he's moving well and that serve is coming in, I don't care, Roger, Rafa, Novak, Andy, they don't want to see that coming in. A lot of times he takes the racquet out of your hand. He's got a chance. I think I remember seeing his draw looks pretty solid. You know, he's got a good chance. I think he can take advantage of that. It's a great opportunity for him, and he's playing obviously playing well. Played well last week and can keep it up here. He's one of my best friends on tour. I hope he does it.



Q. Speaking about people with big serves, what impresses you most about Serena's dominance right now, having gotten back to that stature?

JAMES BLAKE: You know what's impressed me most about her is her mind. You know, her will to win. It's funny, me and my couple friends will joke about it. You don't want to be playing against her. She's mentally the toughest person I know, you know, out there on the WTA Tour by far. She wants to win every single match. Doesn't just want to win, she wants to beat you badly. She will do everything she can to win. It's great to see she's back with that winning spirit and just real desire of a champion, because, you know, she had some serious medical issues, too. To be back and healthy and wanting to win and proving to the girls she's the one to beat, it's fun to see. She's great for the sport as well. She's a superstar that moves the needle when it comes to selling product and getting tennis on TV, to selling ads. She's unbelievable. If I ever get a chance to play mixed doubles, she's the one I want as my partner.



Q. There was stunning news about Lance. In our sport, there has been incidents. Do you think the situation of performance enhancements are under control in tennis? Is there any problem? What are your thoughts on that topic?

JAMES BLAKE: In tennis I think they do a great job of testing. Of course at times it's inconvenient to me when I get woken up at 6:00 a.m. to pee in a cup. It's their job. I know they're doing it. I know if they're doing it to me, they're doing it to everyone else. I'm happy too do that. I may not be cheery at 6:00 in the morning when they're coming, but I'm happy to do that and I'm happy to take part of in the USADA and WADA regulations. I don't know what to think about Lance. Cycling has seen what seems to be like the steroid era in baseball where it seems like everyone is clouded. You don't know. Like he said, he's passed like 500,600 tests. But have no idea. I don't know Lance at all. Never met him. I don't know what he's like. I know his story is inspirational. I know how many people he's helped. That's incredible. However he did it, it's still inspirational, no matter what he did. He's definitely someone that makes a difference in this world in a positive way. I don't know if erasing seven titles will matter in terms of his true meaning to this world, because it's going to be a positive one no matter if he has seven titles or not. In tennis I think I'm sure there are guys who are doing it, getting away with it, and getting ahead of the testers. But, you know, I do my best to go out there and win and give myself whatever advantage I can legally in terms of just protein shakes and Gatorade and that kind of stuff. I've gotta believe it's out there at a level playing field, but I also am realistic with this much money involved, $1.9 million for the winner of the US Open, people will try to find a way to get ahead. It's unfortunate, but I hope tennis is doing the best job of trying to catch those guys trying to beat the system.



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