Last evening, in the most thrilling match of this year’s Australian Open thus far, James Blake fell in 5 gut wrenching sets to the silky smooth Juan Martin del Potro. While watching this match, you somehow just knew Blake was going to lose. Isn’t this the way his career has gone?
Blake, the former Harvard student seems to have limitless potential on the court. He has beautiful ground strokes with a great flat forehand, outstanding agility, and just looks like an athlete on the court. Somehow, throughout the course of his career though, he has never been able to win the big one. Blake has cracked the top ten and had a very strong career, but he has never been able to get over the hump and win the big one. By big one, I mean win a Grand Slam that is because he has won 10 titles on the professional tour during his 10 year career.
This match against the up and coming del Potro, who lets not forget handled Roger Federer in last year’s US Open final proved no different..
I just knew while watching this great match, that Blake would come out on the short end. I mean if you look at the stats you would think Blake won the match. Each man had 60 unforced errors! They were ripping the ball and with high risk comes a lot of errors. Blake had 81 winners to Juan’s 69 and Blake had 4 double faults to 9 from Juan. Through looking at these simple stats you would think Blake won the match.
Many do not realize how a competitive tennis match can come down to 1 or 2 crucial points. Save a break point here. Win the point at deuce to gain a game point. A tennis match is a lot more complex than what meets the eye. It is an extremely taxing mental battle. And while watching Blake, I think he has all the physical skills and is obviously a very intelligent man having attended Harvard, but he lacks the mental game to grind out those crucial points.
He never has, and probably never will. Blake will likely go down as the 2nd best American player of this era (behind Andy Roddick), the post Sampras and Agassi era. The Sampras and Agassi era spoiled Americans and made us expect to have the number 1 player at year-end be an American. Not to mention on the women’s side we have had the Williams’ sisters consistently at the top of the women’s game. Blake and Roddick have both had outstanding careers, but unfortunately they have not done quite enough to meet the lofty expectations that were set by the Sampras/Agassi tandem.
Best of luck to Blake in the rest of the season. He is still always very fun to watch and a good sport out there.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.