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Crisis Center: Blake's Dilemma 08/31/2010 - 12:35 PM

Hc by Pete Bodo

Well, day one is in the books, folks. And day two will begin with some talk about books. First, though, note that this is a Crisis Center post, which means it will be the place for you to discuss all the U.S. Open action of day two. Going forward, you'll have a Crisis Center (CC) post every morning (or midday), and that will the place for y'all to chat about the action. I'll come back with a red meat post later every day, and ask you to keep the off-topic chatter to a minimum there.

I got a note from Hyperion, the publisher of Hardcourt Confidential: Tales from Twenty Years in the Pro Tennis Trenches, the recently released book I helped Patrick McEnroe write. We're experiencing a nice bump in sales now that the U.S. is focused on tennis. Those of you who are interested can get the book via Amazon or Captain McEnroe's Facebook page, which I urge you to visit in any event. Pat and I are both happy with the way the book turned out and believe it adds to the historical record of the game in Pat's time. Our title tries to make clear that this isn't a Pat McEnroe autobiography, but a collection of his experiences and observations through a career that touches many of the bases in tennis.

James Blake plays his first-round match against Kristof Vliegen on Louis Armstrong today (third match on), and the way Blake has been playing this year makes it impossible to predict the outcome. He's here as a wild card—presently, Blake is ranked No. 108, just missing the cutoff for direct entry. I'd hate to see Blake slip out of the U.S. Open without making one more run, or playing one more compelling match.

Blake is one of the main characters in Hardcourt Confidential, and Pat writes about him with candor that may surprise many of you. James was not an easy player to manage. He was often reticent and always self-protective, skeptical of any advice that came from anyone other than his entourage, in which the key member for most years was his long-time coach, Brian Barker. McEnroe, among others, feels that one reason for Barker's longevity was that he knew enough to tell Blake only what he wanted to hear. Mostly, the message boiled down to this: Play aggressive, high-risk tennis. Hit it flat and hard. Load up on the service return in order to take charge. Resist any urge or temptation to modulate or broaden your margin for error.

Blake believed that was the only way he could compete at the highest level; McEnroe and others often felt he ought to have been more aware of percentage play and various tactical and strategic options. McEnroe gives many examples of how hard it was to move Blake off his articles of faith, often to the detriment of his game.

Unfortunately, Blake's game of choice doesn't have a very long shelf life. It's live-fast/die-young tennis, and Blake is now 30 years old. It's hard to imagine him at this stage incorporating many changes in, or addition to, his game. But you also have to wonder, wouldn't a commitment to a makeover of some kind provide the kind of challenge and motivation that might help pull Blake out of the doldrums?

I mean, if people who have been married a long time and finally divorce can go on to find the mirage of youth and happiness again in a new spouse, why can't a tennis player? Thirty is old in tennis, no doubt about it. But Martina Navratilova, among others, showed us that with sufficient incentive, self-belief and discipline, it isn't a drop-dead cutoff for achievment.

51HjpB5sK-L__SL500_AA300_ Andrew Friedman collaborated with Blake on his own autobiography, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life. I've asked Andrew, who's here this week and writing for TENNIS.com, to write a post for you on Blake, and to get the skinny on those remarks Blake made after Wimbledon, which made it sound an awful lot like he was contemplating retirement. I believe Andrew is sitting down with James after the Vliegen match. So look for a post on Blake later tonight or tomorrow.

While Patrick was often frustrated by Blake's guarded ways and streak of inflexibility, he also appreciated the way Blake was always available to play Davis Cup, and gives him credit for stepping up to emerge as a Davis Cup hero when the U.S. defeated Russia to win the competition. In retrospect, it may have been the finest moment of Blake's career. I believe McEnroe helped orchestrate that, and handled Blake with just the right mix of understanding, forbearance, tact and challenge, although it's a claim Patrick would never be arrogant enough to make.

Use this your Crisis Center post for today and enjoy the sights and sounds of the U.S. Open.

-- Pete


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Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 12:46 PM

Chardy-Gulbis tie-break. 4-1 Jeremy and one set already in the bag. Allez, Jeremy.

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 12:48 PM

6-2, 7-6 for Chardy. Excellent, Jeremy. Keep going.

Posted by TeamNadal 08/31/2010 at 12:49 PM

WTF Ernie!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 12:50 PM

that would be a good win for Jeremy C
hope he can pull off the upset
(sorry Ernie fans )

and JJ is gonna have to play three in the heat
more towel dabbing will be necessary

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 08/31/2010 at 12:50 PM

Ernie looks so over it.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 12:50 PM

Pete Thanks.I enjoyed Braking Back.It really gave me a better insight into James struggles etc.I admire him soo much.At present I feel he is like a "broken man"

I hope the fans in his home town New York can lift him.I feel he has a lot of deep thinking regarding his career.Hopefully he can make the right choice.

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 12:51 PM

Jelena serving to begin the decider 6-4,4-6

Posted by Sherlock 08/31/2010 at 12:52 PM

Come on, Svetochka!!

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 08/31/2010 at 12:52 PM

Commies just said that if Ernie loses today, it'll be his third 1st round loss in a Slam this year? Really? Wow.

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 12:52 PM

Kimiko breaks as she hit CC FH winner. Kimiko to serve 2-6,6-4,1-2

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 12:52 PM

Young Ernie can be a "head case" at times

Allez Chardy also a great looking guy

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/31/2010 at 12:52 PM

Thanks, Pete, much appreciated. :)

Hope Chardy can keep the level up.

And, oh, JJ - really. What are you doing?! This is a good opportunity for you and if you could at least make a decent run it would make me very happy!

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 08/31/2010 at 12:53 PM

Pfft. See you Ernie. Sveta needs me more. *switches to Sveta's court and loves on usopen.org streaming some more*

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 12:53 PM

Sblily,
Remember, I do not think Ernests played Wimbledon.

Posted by Sherlock 08/31/2010 at 12:53 PM

Who is the Giraldo chap playing F-Lo? Seems I've seen his name mentioned around here before.

Posted by Anna 08/31/2010 at 12:53 PM

And Marcos is up 2-1 sets and playing great! Going ahead of myself, but if he gets past Fish in the 3d round, he may get Novak on a day match in 90 degrees and who knows what happens then...

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 12:55 PM

8-16 Jelena 10-15 Simona W/UFEs in set 2

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 12:55 PM

Sherlock,
Giraldo lost in the final to Albert Montañés at the Estoril Open. He is a very good clay court player.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 12:56 PM

sokol That chocolate of yours seems to be working

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 12:57 PM

0-40 for Svetlana as Kimiko FH sails wide

Meanwhile, Simona broke to start the 3rd

Svetlana breaks as she hit FH winner coming forward behind BH

Svetlana to serve 6-2,4-6,3-1

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 12:57 PM

Kuzzy 3-1 serving 3rd set

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 12:57 PM

Navritilova getting on Johnny Mac's case about the women's game and fitness / withdrawals

and Jankovic is really struggling with her serve here

Posted by london 08/31/2010 at 12:57 PM

jankovic is struggling so bad lately! what happened to her, she had such a great spring....

Posted by Ramesh Prabhu 08/31/2010 at 12:57 PM

Yeah, kicking somebody who is already down is a great way to promote your book and to stay classy! Then again I shouldn't have to expect anything from someone who has no qualms calling someone fat right? Disappointing.

Posted by CherryNYC 08/31/2010 at 12:58 PM

Are Sveta, Ernie and Glitter Queen really all going down? No way (she says hopefully..)

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 12:58 PM

Sherlock,
Forget what I posted. That was Federico Gil. Santiago Giraldo is from Colombia and also a clay court specialist. He played very well at Rome winning against Lapenti, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Llodra.

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 12:58 PM

"That chocolate of yours seems to be working"

lol, AM
Maybe I should switch to chocolate for the next 2 weeks :-) I'm sure I will regret it later :-)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 12:58 PM

Kuzzy you still need to lose some weight

That outfit you have on isnt flattering at all

Though its soo much better than your fellow Russian Elena D

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 12:59 PM

30-40 for Jelena as she hit FH swinging volley winner coming forward behind service return
Jelena breaks as Simona BH sails long

Jelena to serve 6-4,4-6,1-all

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 12:59 PM

and the break fest continues on Ashe
meh
show us something else please

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 08/31/2010 at 12:59 PM

MA - Yep. He missed the W. I thought Ernie'd done better this year -- must be the halo from having beaten Fed.

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:00 PM

If Sveta could hold here...

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 01:00 PM

Svetlana consolidates as she hit S&V winner. Kimiko to serve 2-6,6-4,1-4

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 01:00 PM

I don't understand why Jeremy decides now to grow a beard with those temperatures.
Anyway, so far so good. Allez, Jeremy. Hold your serve.

Posted by Anna 08/31/2010 at 01:00 PM

Clement breaks in the 4th!

Posted by Sherlock 08/31/2010 at 01:00 PM

Thanks, Zenggi!! :)

Posted by tina (Happy "Serbia Day") 08/31/2010 at 01:00 PM

Gulbis is one of those players who can be so entertaining and play so brilliantly in spells, but also flame out on the big stages. I have a soft spot for Chardy, but think of Ernie as someone to enjoy in the future. Jeremy probably won't play for too many more years.

Oh man, JJ came back in that second set, but now broken again to start the 3rd? I'm already hearing the phrase "hott mess" on here. Hope she pulls this out. I know one Serbian player has to lose today, but I wasn't expecting it to be JJ.

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 01:01 PM

amazing - a hold !!
who knew ?

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:01 PM

"Svetlana consolidates as she hit S&V winner"

already??
my SB is stuck at 2-1

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 01:03 PM

Tina - so true about Ernie - he is very hot and cold
and frankly , his lackadaisical attitude rubs me the wrong way
I have seen him play live a few times - at least in theory he was "live "

but why would Jeremy be quitting soon - He is just now 24 , many of the french players seem to hang on well into their 30's . He is the same age as Gasquet, Tsonga , Monfils - I would see Tsonga and his various injuries driving him out of the game long before Jeremy retires

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/31/2010 at 01:04 PM

I hope Blake stays around and does well at the Open, never believed he was very good, but got a lot of attention because of the weak American field particularly for the men.

Posted by Anna 08/31/2010 at 01:04 PM

Marcos is back to his first set form- Miserable looking- Hope this does nto go to the 5th

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:04 PM

Watching Krum is like being in a "tennis time tunnel" lol!

Posted by tina (Happy "Serbia Day") 08/31/2010 at 01:04 PM

OT alert:

I'm really looking forward to ESPN's September 14 documentary on the lasting friendship between Martina and Chris.

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 01:04 PM

Jeremy is 23 years old. I hope he plays for another 10 years at least. And he turned pro in 2005. Mileage in under control.
On serve 2-3 third set. Jeremy to serve.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/31/2010 at 01:04 PM

I wonder if Schuettler can make a comeback? He just took the third set, anyway.

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:05 PM

any updates on Sveta's match would be appreciated. Come on, people, I can't even SB

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:05 PM

Good hands at the net

Kuzzy

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 01:06 PM

30-40 for Svetlana as Kimiko BH sails long
40-40 Kimiko FH winner behind Svetlana
40-A Kimiko DF
Grandstand has a good crowd
40-40 Kimiko FH winner
40-A Svetlana volley winner cutting off Kimiko scoop DTL after getting to first volley
Svetlana breaks as she hit FH return winner

Svetlana serving for match 6-2,4-6,5-1

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:06 PM

Kuzzy will serve for the match as she breaks

Kuzzy 5-1

Posted by tina (Happy "Serbia Day") 08/31/2010 at 01:06 PM

beth - my bad: I erroneously thought Chardy was older than 24, oops!

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:07 PM

thank you, MA and AM :-)

Posted by CherryNYC 08/31/2010 at 01:07 PM

I'm hoping this is just a brief letdown for Baggy -- He could still easily be out of there in under 3 hrs. --which isn't terrible. It is hot as hail, though.

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:07 PM

Serve it ou, Sveta! Davai!

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 01:07 PM

what a weird match between Baghs and Clement
talk about hot and cold
both players are so streaky

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 08/31/2010 at 01:08 PM

Amusing fluff piece on Gimelstob (I know, right?) in today's NYT: http://nyti.ms/9w9HHZ

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:08 PM

Yay Kuzzy

Sokol You can put down the chocolate for now

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 01:08 PM

15-0 ???
30-0 Kimiko nets volley after Svetlana got previous volley - Kimiko chipped and charged on return
40-0 Kimiko service return wide
Svetlana wins the match as she hit swinging volley winner after good serve wide


Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Kimiko Date Krumm 6-2,4-6,6-1

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:09 PM

Rezai must love t/breaks

Into a 2nd set t/break now

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:09 PM

Come on, Petzschner!

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 01:09 PM

no problem , Tina
He was just sort of under the radar when the other bigger names from France burst on the scene
but he is their contemporary and friend

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 08/31/2010 at 01:09 PM

Congrats to Sveta ... commies to Kimiko.

Posted by TeamNadal 08/31/2010 at 01:10 PM

can't wait for Rafa later!!!!! ....and Maria too!

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:10 PM

Whohoo! Thank you, Svetochka! See you in the next round against Sevastova (sounds like more chocolate to me :-))

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:11 PM

Rezai up 5-0 in the 2nd t/break

Posted by Anna 08/31/2010 at 01:11 PM

sokol, chocolate is always a good plan

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

What is the current temp pls does anyone know?

Posted by Heather 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

Sblily, thanks for that article! Justin might not be soooooo bad afterall..

Posted by CherryNYC 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

Gimelstob is an idiot. (I say this with affection) (sort of). He has absolutely no idea what he's gotten himself into.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

Kuzzy definitely tightened up her game in third set.

Kimiko hurt by rust from sitting out and early losses due to leg problems, which still affected her today.

Kimiko, if she could get healthy and stay motivated, could probably break into top 30 or 40.

Wonder how much longer she'll stay on the tour after this year.

She's historically had her best results in Asia during the fall. Hopefully, that trend will continue this year.

Posted by Anna 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

marcos was throwing aces all over in the 3d set, and now his first serves are 2 meters out

Posted by CherryNYC 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

Sveta served it out, drama-free??? There is a G-d.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

Rezai 5-4 after having a 5-0 lead in the 2nd t/break

Posted by beth 08/31/2010 at 01:13 PM

don't mention Petzscner
he was my suicide pick for today
only - i lost yesterday

so humiliating

now , I could sit here and watch tennis and chat all day , but I really do need to get off my butt and get things accomplished here.
I will keep watching though
and be back throughout the day
enjoy !

Posted by skip1515 08/31/2010 at 01:14 PM

Thanks for a thoughtful post, Pete, one that's probably tough to write *and* maintain any connection to the person who's the subject, regardless of who that is for any one articl.

I think about how Blake approached his tennis and compare that with Steve Tignor's commentary (and the comments) about Monfils, and then wonder what regrets lie in wait for these players once their careers are over. You have to wonder if Blake's "What If" won't be the greater of the two; not because he had more tools, but because his chosen path kept him so further from his potential.

I hope he does well.

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 01:15 PM

30-40 for Jelena as Simona FH sails long
40-40 Jelena FH return long
40-A Simona nets FH
Jelena 6/10 BP
40-40 Jelena BH return long as Simona served to body
A-40 Jelena nets BH
Simona holds as Jelena BH return sails long

Jelena to serve 6-4,4-6,3-all

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:15 PM

Rezai now staring at a game point??

She squandered a 5-0 lead??

6 all now

Posted by skip1515 08/31/2010 at 01:15 PM

Sorry: "kept him further from his potential."

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 01:15 PM

And Jeremy breaks 4-3. Yay!! Jeremy to serve.

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/31/2010 at 01:16 PM

JJ looks vey bad out there, terrible errors and playing slobby against a player she should have taken out in two routine sets. She's a hott mess today.

Posted by tina (Happy "Serbia Day") 08/31/2010 at 01:16 PM

I love the Date Krumm story, but would have been heartbroken to see Sveta go out.

Again, I have no idea why I thought Chardy was older, and I too hope he plays another ten years. :))

Posted by sokol 08/31/2010 at 01:17 PM

Who is Capra? Never heard of her and I thought Sprem would be good pick against a girl I've never heard of. Almost picked her

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:17 PM

Rezai has match point

Rezai wins 7-6,7-6

Posted by lollipop 08/31/2010 at 01:18 PM

omg so scared about the heat for Nole. its extremely hot and humid out there. *frazzled*

Posted by Anna 08/31/2010 at 01:19 PM

Clement just played an amazing point at the net (Marcos played well too BTW). His double credentials are obvious

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:19 PM

I must say I love JJ's dress if that means anything

Posted by Master Ace 08/31/2010 at 01:19 PM

35-41 Aravane 31-43 Magdalena W/UFEs where Aravane won in 2 TBs

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:20 PM

lollipop I did ask what the temp is do you know?

I came on late today.After yesterday I needed more sleep lol!

Posted by london 08/31/2010 at 01:20 PM

Jankovic needs to step it up right here. Lets have the seeds go 32-0 in their first rounds. No upset this tournament!! =)

Posted by Andrew 08/31/2010 at 01:21 PM

Chardy - Gulbis isn't particularly close on the stats - 97/77 Chardy at the moment. IS Ernests playing badly, Jeremy playing very well, or a combination of the two?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:22 PM

Baggy and Clement match is a roller coaster affair

Allez Chardy!

Posted by tina (Happy "Serbia Day") 08/31/2010 at 01:22 PM

AM - it's about 93F. Low humidity but very strong sun.

lollipop - It's hot, but again not the normal humidity for the first week in Flushing. And I sometimes think Viki plays "minion" to Nole.

Posted by london 08/31/2010 at 01:22 PM

Jankovic is very sloppy off the ground and that long rally may have done in Jankovic.

Posted by zenggi 08/31/2010 at 01:23 PM

Andrew,
Chardy played very well. This last set his first serve % isn't very good. Gulbis hasn't played up to his potential today. Blame it on the heat.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:23 PM

Andrew I wish I could watch the match I am just SB

Posted by Sherlock 08/31/2010 at 01:23 PM

Halep isn't exactly a pushover. I think she'll be a player to watch in the near future.

Posted by Colette (US Hopin') 08/31/2010 at 01:23 PM

Holy breast reduction, what a point.

Simona Halep is adorable.

Posted by CherryNYC 08/31/2010 at 01:24 PM

time to break Baggy! Come on!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Do it for Wayne Rafa!!! 08/31/2010 at 01:24 PM

Tina Thanks.Well at least the humdity is low.

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/31/2010 at 01:24 PM

I'm hoping for the upset with Groth, hoping she can take Maria out.

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