James Blake emerges strong after rough year

Updated: August 8, 2005, 10:13 PM ET
Reuters

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON, Aug 9 - For James Blake, suffering a straight set loss in Washington to fellow American Andy Roddick on Sunday pales in comparison to the loss of his father and physical ailments he suffered in the doldrums of 2004.

Last year 25-year-old Blake suffered a neck injury after slipping and hitting a net post during a practice session in Rome. That kept him from competing on court for at least two months.

In that summer he contracted Zoster, a condition that affected his vision and hearing and caused temporary paralysis on one side of his face. And if the loss of his senses weren't enough, Blake also lost his father who died in July.

In an attempt to jump-start his career, Blake returned last year to Washington where he tried to repeat his 2002 winning performance, but instead he failed to get past the first round.

"I wasn't close to being ready," he said of that effort in a post-match chat with reporters last week.

Now, for the former Harvard student who began playing tennis at age five, life is back on the upswing as he adds another block to his confidence pile while he focuses on one match at a time.

"The ups and downs are going be everywhere no matter what sport you're in, no matter what profession you're in," Blake said last week after the second-round win over Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.

"Unfortunately my down was pretty far down, but it makes you appreciate the ups a lot more," added Blake, who thanked his family and friends for helping him get through the pain and loss and put life into perspective.

And if there were any doubts about his comeback after the "downs" of last year, they were erased when he reached the final in Washington in a match that was closer than the score depicted.

"It hurts to lose right now but when I look back on this week I'll be satisfied that I played some good tennis," Blake said after the 7-5 6-3 loss to Roddick at the

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