At 30, Blake hoping for U.S. Open run

New York native gets good fortune in opening-round victory over Kristof Vliegen

Updated: September 1, 2010, 3:33 PM ET
By Jane McManus |

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.

Jane McManus is a columnist for Follow her on Twitter.

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Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.