NEW YORK – James Blake's (search) feel-good story keeps getting better.
With a pack of childhood friends — "The James Block" — and his family cheering him on, Blake matched the French Open champion's speed and showed that the Spaniard wasn't the only one who can make spectacular shots. Some of their volleys were the stuff of highlight shows.
When Blake served out the match, he dropped his racket and put his hands on his head.
"I wish I had a better vocabulary to describe it," he said. "When you have 20,000 people cheering your name, your best friends cheering you ... I wish, I truly wish every single person in here could have the feeling I have now."
And if anyone ever deserved it, it's Blake. The Fairfield, Conn., native wore a back brace as a teenager after being diagnosed with scoliosis at 13. He continued playing tennis, and spent two years at Harvard before turning pro.
He was practicing at a tournament in Rome in May 2004 when he crashed into a net post and fractured his neck. Two months later, his father died of cancer. And a week after that, he got a severe case of shingles that impaired his sight and hearing, and temporarily paralyzed part of his face.
His ranking dropped as low as No. 210 because of all the time he missed, and he's here as a wild card. But he's been on an impressive roll recently, winning last weekend at New Haven to get his ranking back up to No. 49. Now he's in the fourth round, his best showing at the Open and equaling his best at any major.
"I can't believe how well things are going," Blake said. "I can't say enough how much this is a dream come true."
Justine Henin-Hardenne (search) needed a second-set tiebreaker before overcoming South Korea's Cho Yoon-jeong 6-0, 7-6 (4) in the third-round. Sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva, who lost to fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in last year's Open final, beat No. 29 Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) despite 19 double-faults. No. 11-seeded Patty Schnyder advanced with a straight-sets win over 24th-seeded Shinobu Asagoe.
Chile's Nicolas Massu beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-0, advancing to the fourth round for the first time at a Grand Slam.
Andre Agassi (search), the highest-ranked American man left, also played Saturday afternoon, as did Amelie Mauresmo, the third-seeded woman. Lindsay Davenport (search) and Robby Ginepri had the top billing at night.
Henin-Hardenne is one of those players who likes to play a lot of matches, especially before big tournaments. But she's had little chance to do that, missing the early part of the year with a broken bone in her knee and sitting out much of the summer with a pulled hamstring, and her rustiness has showed.
She played only two tournaments after the French, losing in the first round at Wimbledon and reaching the finals in Toronto.
"I think for me it's much harder to play my first rounds where I have a lot of pressure, where I have to win," Henin-Hardenne said. "I'm more comfortable when I know I'm going to play a seeded player. It's going to be a good test for me."
Henin-Hardenne will play either 12th-seeded Mary Pierce in a rematch of the French final, or No. 17 Jelena Jankovic.
The Belgian surged through the first set, dominating Cho with powerful ground strokes and a couple of nice plays at the net. She never allowed Cho a chance until the final game, when she double-faulted to give her double break point.
Henin-Hardenne got the game to deuce, then fought off two more break chances before closing the set. The second set seemed more of the same, with Henin-Hardenne racing to a 3-0 lead.
But just as she did in her second-round match, Henin-Hardenne lost focus. She had back-to-back double-faults to give Cho a break and her first game of the match, and the momentum suddenly shifted.
"She was quite faster than my first two opponents, and I had a hard time finding my rhythm," Cho said, speaking through an interpreter. "But in the second set, I got a little used to Justine's game, so I started playing aggressive."
The more Cho went on the attack, the tighter Henin-Hardenne got. Even her occasional mutters of "Allez!" didn't help.
"It's going to be like that, I think, for my whole career," said Henin-Hardenne, a touch of resignation in her voice. "It's the way I am and the way I act. It's going to be very hard for me to change that in the future. My sensitivity helps me to do a lot of great things, to achieve great goals, but sometimes it gives me a little bit of trouble."
At least Henin-Hardenne knows where she's struggling. She made 21 errors in the second set, three times what she had in the first. But her biggest problem, as it's been the whole tournament, was her second serve. She won 69 percent of her first-serve points, but only 35 percent on her second serve.
She had eight double-faults, five alone in the second set.
"I don't have especially one reason, but I'm sure I'll get better," Henin-Hardenne said. "I'm happy with my percentage of first serve. I think I will have to keep working on it and ... I need some confidence. When I get this confidence, I'm sure my serve is going to get better."
Cho, who took Monica Seles to three sets in the third round of the 2002 Open, broke Henin-Hardenne to tie the second set at 4-4, then forced the tiebreak. But Henin-Hardenne won four of the last five points to end the match.
"It was very difficult to keep the intensity as high as it was (early on)," Henin-Hardenne said. "I could win this match probably earlier. But finally, when I had to be aggressive at the end of the set, I did."