Focused on ATP tour, Blake gets win

James Blake warmed up for 30 minutes and then took 90 seconds to defeat Taylor Dent when their first-round match at the Delray Beach Tennis Center resumed Wednesday.

Blake, who was leading 6-1, 3-6, 5-3 and deuce when Dent asked for play to be stopped as the rain started the previous night, missed a first serve he had been planning in his sleep and then, as expected, watched Dent chip and charge off the second ball. Blake produced a good, dipping return; Taylor came up with an excellent low volley but the man from Connecticut took a huge cut at a backhand and passed down the line. Match point.

A first serve finished it and the players were trooping off before many in the crowd had understood what was going on. Dent, admitting it was tough to get all fired up and then have his glimmer of hope dashed, said that he had apologized to his good friend for wanting the match stopped overnight.

"I thought about stopping on one of the match points and then I started slipping so I asked for it to be called," said Dent. "He was fine with it. We've both been injured too much to jeopardize anything."

That is something of an understatement as far as these two players are concerned. Dent spent eight months in bed recovering from a second back operation a couple of years ago while Blake, as his best selling book recounts, was horrifically injured when he cracked his neck against a net post in Rome in 2004.

Blake was in complete agreement about the stoppage.

"We didn't need any more injuries," he said. "No use being miserable for six months for the sake of one match. Even if I'd lost today, I'd have felt it was better than getting hurt."

Dent had been talking about the need for patience as he continues his recovery and it is good to see he is keeping frustration at bay. Even a very dubious call that cost him a break in the third, when an ace was called out, failed to upset him.

"I'm hitting it so fast, you can't hold it against these guys," said Dent who was taught by his Australian father to handle whatever life brings. "We're both in the same boat. I'm not trying to miss and they are not trying to make bad calls. No use complaining."

It's not quite the John McEnroe philosophy but it will help Dent as he battles on in search of those elusive ATP ranking points.

Blake will find himself in the strange position of not flying off to Croatia with Patrick McEnroe's Davis Cup squad next week, having joined Andy Roddick in deciding to concentrate on the tour this year.

"First of all I don't even know if I would deserve to be on the team because Sam (Querrey) and John (Isner) have been doing so well," said the ever self-effacing Blake. "But, anyway, I decided that the pressure and stress of playing Davis Cup is more than my body can stand right now. Generally, I feel good but Davis Cup is something else."

Blake talked about how the Bryan twins, Mike and Bob, would step up into a leadership role now that Roddick will not be playing. "People should not underestimate how good those guys are," said Blake. "After a while we realized how huge a deal it was to have pretty much a lock on Saturday's doubles rubber just because they almost always came up with the goods."

The camaraderie is something that Blake will miss although, as he pointed out, his generation of top Americans will stay friends for life. "Andy, Mardy Fish and I have arranged a golf trip later in the year and no matter where we end up living - me probably in Connecticut, Andy in Austin - we will always get together at various times. We're always there for each other. Guys like Robby Ginepri were always checking in when I was sick and I think that will always be the case for the rest of our lives."

Blake's next match will be against the Dutchman, Robin Haase, with the threat of a serving contest against the giant No. 2 seed from Croatia, Ivo Karlovic, looming in round three.