James Blake used to mock Todd Martin for his gray hair, "for just in general being old."
Martin, a decade his senior, would warn his fellow American: "Just wait. You will be, too."
On the first day of this year's U.S. Open, Blake was the veteran proving he still has it at age 32, while 19-year-old Jack Sock was the up-and-coming kid from the United States.
Both needed wild cards to get in, and both took advantage with first-round wins Monday.
"Now I'm getting it from everyone," Blake said. "I deserve it, because if I dish it out, I've got to be able to take it. I'm getting the old jokes, the grandpa jokes, and I'm OK with that."
Blake reached the second round of a Grand Slam event for the first time this year, beating 54th-ranked Lukas Lacko 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. He hasn't lost in the first round at Flushing Meadows since his debut in 1999.
Blake needed a wild card to make his 12th appearance at the Open after his ranking fell out of the top 100.
Sock was leading 6-3, 6-2, 3-2 when 22nd-seeded Florian Mayer retired because he felt faint and dizzy. It was the first win over a top-50 player for Sock, who came in ranked a career-best 248th in the world. He missed four months this season because of elbow surgery.
Sock won his first-round match at the Open for the second straight year. In 2010, he won the boys championship at Flushing Meadows, the first American to do so since Andy Roddick 10 years earlier.
"I think for some reason here in New York at the Open, the last couple years I played here, I played well here overall, pretty consistently," he said. "I always served pretty well."
Blake struggled early in 2012 after right knee surgery but had started to play better in the American hard-court tournaments leading into the Open.
"I think I was kidding myself earlier in the year thinking I was able to move at this level, and I really wasn't after the knee surgery," he said. "I think I more wanted it to be OK than it really was OK."
Now, his knee hasn't felt this good since 2008 or '09. Blake, who became a father in June, is talking about playing through at least next year.
"That's been exciting for me, the last, I'd say, three or four weeks during the summer where I actually feel like I can move the way I used to or the way I need to to compete here," he said.
For American Tim Smyczek, seeing his draw brought mixed feelings. The 179th-ranked qualifier easily could have faced one of the world's top players in the first round. Instead, he found himself matched up against another qualifier as he sought his first Grand Slam victory.
But that opponent was a good friend, fellow American Bobby Reynolds, against whom he'd had little success. The two had met six times in lower-level tournaments, with the 151st-ranked Reynolds winning five, including a "double bagel" — a 6-0, 6-0 score.
The 24-year-old Smyczek played a five-set match for the first time in his career Monday against Reynolds, though this wasn't as taxing as it could've been because of a rain delay in the middle. Smyczek won 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over 3 hours, 33 minutes. He'll next face 17th-seeded Kei Nishikori.
Asked how his first five-setter felt, Smyczek laughed and said, "I'll tell you tomorrow."
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