There were a few competitive moments tonight, but James Blake’s moments of glory were brief. Novak Djokovic made quick extremely work of Blake, winning in straight sets and in less than two hours. By Djokovic the Grinder standards, that’s like playing a half a match.
Considering how easily Blake was disposed of tonight, it was a fair question to ask whether or not he is ready to hang it up.
“I really hope that wasn’t my last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium,” he said. “I definitely want to be back here next year…I think I got more in me and I think I’m going to be back there. Maybe more night matches, some more excitement for the crowds, some more good times. You know, I definitely believe that. I hope it comes true next year.”
It might be wishful thinking. Blake probably will get as many wild card entries into the Open as he wants, but it felt like he squeezed every last bit of juice out of his body to get to the third round this year. He’s 30 years old now, and I can’t imagine he’s got a ton left. He said he thinks he can play until he’s 35.
Blake has been at the center of a lot of riveting tennis at Arthur Ashe over the years, but will leave with a reputation of coming up short. What Blake should do is come back next year, and announce prior to the tournament begins that this is it. He can take his victory lap. He might be able to get to the second round, and he’ll get another match on Ashe too. But it’s hard to imagine him doing any better than he did this year.
With Blake and Roddick out of the tournament in the first six days–as was the case with last year too–it certainly feels an era of American men tennis is about to come to an end. Since Pete Sampras retired in 2002, the only American man to win a Grand Slam has been Roddick, with his Open victory seven years ago. John Isner, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey are still alive, but it will be a pleasant surprise and the story of the Open if any of them can get past the fourth round. It’s not likely.
Blake said that when his career is finished, he’d like to return to school (he attended Harvard, but didn’t graduate) and take a lot of time off. He certainly will have a career in broadcasting if he wants it.