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James Blake Q&A: 'Social Media Dinosaur'

Memphis, U.S.A.

Blake© Memphis Tennis/Alex SmithJames Blake is moving back to Connecticut.

James Blake may be 33, but the former World No. 4 still has the same desire to compete and win on the ATP World Tour.

A wild card at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis this week, Blake overcame a set and a break deficit to defeat 29th-ranked Florian Mayer in three sets on Tuesday for his first tour-level win of the season.

ATPWorldTour.com caught up with Blake after his comeback win, discussing Memphis barbecue, commentating for the first time and eight-month old daughter Riley, who reached a major milestone today.

With your win over Florian Mayer today, you’ve now won four of your five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with the German. Why does your game measure up so well against his?
I’ve happened to catch him at the right time. He gives me the opportunity to get into points. He doesn’t have a serve that takes the racquet out of my hands. I felt I’ve returned his serve well for some reason. He got me last time and played really well. Today, he played well enough to win. I stayed the course and kept my head in it, moving well in the second and third sets.

You’re back in Memphis for your 10th appearance. How does this tournament compare to other events in the United States?
This is a ton of fun. I have great memories here, making my first final in 2002. I think I was up a break against Andy [Roddick], but it was still fun to be part of a final with a good friend. I still have fond memories of that time here and I also love barbecue food, so I love being here for that.

Speaking of barbecue, the area is highly regarded for its cuisine. Do you have a favourite restaurant?
I know all the Memphians won’t like it, but I love 'Rendezvous'. I think they like their local places that are probably better, but I’ve loved Rendezvous since I first came here, so I have to make a stop there every year.

Both Memphis and your home base Tampa have been dealing with cold temperatures in recent days. Are you a polar bear or do you seek as much sunshine as possible?
I don’t mind the snow. I’m actually moving back to Westport, Connecticut. I grew up in Connecticut, so I don’t mind it, as long as I have the right gear. It just makes packing a little more difficult, because you need winter coats, beanies and that sort of stuff. But when I’m home, I don’t mind the cold.

A few weeks ago, you had the opportunity to commentate for Tennis Channel during the USA's Davis Cup tie against Brazil. What was it like being behind the booth and having to analyse your countrymen, who are some of your best friends on tour?
It was fun. That actually made it easy, because I know their games so well. I’ve been friends and teammates with them forever. I would go out and practise with them in the morning and then commentate on them in the afternoon. It made the transition to the commentary booth easier, because I didn’t have to do any research. My research has been my last five years practising with those guys. I had a good time up there.

Is that a career you could see yourself pursuing after you hang up the racquet, or do you have other ambitions, using your Harvard education?
I haven’t thought too specifically about that. It was great opportunity for me to try it this one time. It was also great working with Brett Haber, who was a true professional and made it easier. I hope when I’m done playing, I find something that is still as enjoyable as tennis. I’m so lucky to be 33 years old and feel like I haven’t had a job, because I love doing what I do. There is a saying that it’s only work if you would rather be doing something else. So I think commentary is a possibility if I enjoy it as much as I did in Jacksonville.

Your good friend Bob Bryan is known for travelling with his daughter and introducing her to all the stars on the ATP World Tour. Are there any plans for Riley do the same and perhaps rival Micaela on Twitter?
Haha. I don’t think Riley stands a chance against rivalling Micaela. So far, we’ve been a little more private, introducing her to just our close friends. She hasn’t met Roger or Rafa yet. Hopefully she’ll have some play dates with Micaela. If they do, I’m sure it will be out on Twitter or Instagram. I’m a social media dinosaur, so I don’t really know how to use that stuff. I should apologise to Riley that she’s not going to be famous when she turns 1.

Have there been any recent milestones with Riley?
She actually pulled herself up on her own for the first time today. It makes your day when you hear your daughter gets a milestone. I’m happy I won the match, but I’m even happier she did something special like that today. If I had lost, it would have put a smile on my face, which is not easy to do when I lose. She’s changed my perspective on everything, especially on the court. 

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