Thrill and Kill.
I feared that this might be humiliating, and no one wanted humiliation. At least I didn’t. Not for one of my favourites in men’s tennis that predates even Roger Federer.
It’s a bizarre affinity – James Blake doesn’t have much subtlety to his game, suicide tennis is often confused with aggressive shot-making, the concept of having a Plan B is non-existent to his game. Actually, at times, I’m not sure that he even has a Plan A.
Speed? I’ve seen faster. Forehand? There’s Federer (there’s always Federer). And hell, I didn’t even like Fed back in day.
But once in a while, you see a player on court who plays tennis like he fucking means it AND doesn’t give a damn AT THE SAME TIME.
How else can you explain it?
Shortcomings aside, Blake will persistently bang away Kamikaze-styled, until he either wins or self-destructs. And of course, there’s the story of his amazing comeback from injury, the surprising intelligence and thoughtfulness in someone who should’ve fallen into the “jock” category. As far as “representing American tennis” goes, this guy has done a pretty good job.
But really, I can’t quite put my finger on it – I just like the guy. He’s ‘thrill and kill’, he’s ‘do or die’ and I’ll be damned if there isn’t something sickly entertaining in that.
The question for me these days is whether he has overachieved in his career or underachieved. At one stage, Nadal could not withstand his flat, zinging groundstrokes. At one stage, he had Roger Federer on the ropes in the Indian Wells 2006 final before Federer began to neutralise the blows. At one stage, it looked like he could walked away from his career with an Olympic medal.
In this sense, James Blake is a perennial underachiever for someone with his weapons. Yet his weapons come with their foibles, as I listed at the start. You saw them on full display in the second set tiebreak against Djokovic today (Blake lost 61 76 63): easy opportunities dunked into the net, double faulting when he couldn’t afford even a second serve – it’s mental, it’s strategic, execution. It’s the whole fucking lot. As always, you walk away from a Blake match thinking “if only he had …”
But that’s the story of his career, isn’t it?
And where to now?
JAMES BLAKE: I don’t know. I’m going to take a little break. I need the body to completely heal up. I felt better than I have in a while the last couple matches. I know I still need to feel really 100% and ready to go after this to move forward to feel like I’m really playing well again. So I’m going to take a little break. Probably start in Stockholm. I think that’s in about six weeks.
I really hope that wasn’t my last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. I definitely want to be back here next year. If it was, you know, I competed my heart out. I did everything I could. But 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 sounds a little desperate. Reading it made me sad – I hadn’t realised it was time to say goodbye. Yes he fell down the rankings, but Blake’s been injured. Watching him today, he didn’t look slower, he didn’t look like he had lost the forehand, the serve, the footwork that made him into the player he once was. He just looked like a player lacking matches, put under the spotlight against one of the top seeds.
I hope he’ll be back for another hurrah. I don’t see a twilight run of a major title in him. (But then again, I didn’t see Ljubicic winning Indian Wells either, so what do I know?) Nonetheless, the corny part of me wants him to ride off into a proper sunset, not silently into a dark, rainy night with no one to applaud.
And there is so much strength, talent and perseverance to applaud there.
So US Open 2011. It’s a date, y/y?
PS. Roger won. No dramas. No complications. The wind be damned.
I spend half my time freaking out because I worry that he won’t win easily, but when he does, I’m worried that he won too easily and will thus walk into a fourth round or quarterfinal slugfest without the requisite match toughness. AM I BEING A RETARD?
PPS. I’m trying to write about the non-Federers while I still can. (Read: while Roger’s doing this drama-less thing). It’s all part of Dootsie’s Principle of Blogging Equity. I won’t succeed in upholding it, but I have to at least try. AND YET, trying is hard when McSmokin keeps combusting my ovaries. Have you read this? CLICKEY!!!
PPPS. Lordy have you seen Mirka’s bangs?
PPPPS. And her BAG?
(… okay, I was *that* girl in high school, I think we all have *that* girl in us. Even if you don’t have a vagina.)