- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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NEW YORK -- With the sun dipped low beyond the edge of Louis Armstrong Stadium, James Blake caught a break. He had dominated Kristof Vliegen for the first two sets of their first-round match, but Vliegen had started to make things more difficult for the Yonkers native.
He broke Blake, Blake broke back and Vliegen turned to spit after an error on a backhand volley had Blake serving for the set. But Vliegen pushed Blake to deuce and on the third one wrested a break point -- when the string on Vliegen's racket popped with a twang.
Disgusted, the Belgian tossed his racket to the bag and selected another one to lose the match with.
"It looked like his [string] got pretty loose quickly," Blake said. "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."
Final score, Blake makes it to the second round 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, where he will face Canadian qualifier Peter Polansky.
The stands were a little more than a third filled to watch Blake play in Flushing. It was the same stage where he faced Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, a promising performance that ended with a loss and a perceived racial slur, both of which Blake handled with grace.
Despite the following from Fairfield, Conn., where he moved as a child, Blake never progressed beyond the quarterfinals at his hometown Grand Slam event. At age 30, and with his ranking down to No. 108 after a summer of injuries, Blake doesn't have many chances left.
"I think my biggest hope for James from this point forward is he can get healthy enough to have a run that he would like," his friend Andy Roddick said. "You know, have a fair shot at playing continuously for a window, whatever that would be."
Blake takes inspiration from Andre Agassi, who dropped to No. 141 in the rankings before surging back to top form, even beating a younger Blake when he was in his mid-30s.
So it was good news that Blake got through relatively quickly Tuesday night.
"[The body] is getting older and there's plenty of miles on it," Blake said.
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