Blake Saves First Day for U.S. Davis Cup team ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
The pressure was squarely on James Blake's shoulders. After an ill Andy Roddick failed to finish off Andre Pavel of Romania in straight sets in Friday's first match, holding match point in the third set tiebreak but falling 6-4 in the fifth, a huge upset was looming. But Blake never gave opponent Victor Hanescu a glimmer of hope, and in the fading light of a cool and sun-splashed day, the American restored his team's confidence with a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory.
An appealing aspect of Davis Cup is the opportunity it provides for one player to help another, an aspect of sport that is often wanting in the individualism of tennis. It's doubtful that Andy Roddick would have continued to play in a standard ATP tournament in, as he phrased it, "you pick the city", when a stomach flu rendered him virtually inert in the match's final three sets. Vomiting during changeovers, he often didn't move for a ball, and he frequently seemed oblivious to his surroundings. But he refused to quit, knowing how much his teammates and his country relied on him. Down 5-1 in the fifth, he clawed his way back to 5-4, but on Pavel's third match point, Roddick finally succumbed, despite the spirited urging of the 4,000 plus spectators, who had devoted more than three and a half hours of mental and physical energy to the contest.
Less than fifteen minutes later Blake was on the court, and though there were noticeably fewer fans and those remaining obviously disappointed and deflated, it didn't hamper Blake. Using his forehand and speed, he denied Hanescu any rhythm and the six-foot six-inch Romanian couldn't find a shot to go to when he needed it.
It was more than two hours after the match's completion that Roddick spoke with the press, and he seemed to have recovered sufficiently to both analyze the match and express his determination to play on Sunday. But now, the attention turns to the doubles, as on Saturday the world's top-ranked doubles team, Bob and Mike Bryan, try to erase the memory of their defeat at the hands of Croatia's Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic in last year's first round tie in Carson, a loss that the U.S. couldn't overcome in singles on Sunday.