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Blake Still Cutting It On Grass

Wimbledon, England

Blake© Getty ImagesFormer World No. 4 James Blake has an 8-10 record at The Championships, Wimbledon.

James Blake broke a five-match losing streak at The Championships on Tuesday, when he admitted to getting “lucky here and there” in a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win over Thiemo de Bakker for a place in the second round.

It came as a relief to Blake, who admitted, “On grass, I’m a little tentative. I definitely wasn’t thinking about my record here that often.” The American had lost in the first round on five occasions in his 10 previous appearances.

“I don't know what the reason is for me never having a ton of success here, but I just haven't put together a good run. Maybe this year will be one … when it's sort of least expected.”

According to the FedEx ATP Reliability Index, Blake has a 32-27 mark (.534) on grass courts, which includes two runner-up finishes at the Aegon Championships in 2006 (l. to Hewitt) and 2009 (l. to Murray). 

Statistically, it is his second best surface. But Blake says his movement is restricted on slick lawns. 

“I do feel my movement suffers more on grass. I just feel I have a little bit more trouble stopping and cutting out of corners. On clay, I feel like I know maybe a little better how to slide and then adjust. 

“I have never felt like I was a great mover on grass.  Throughout my career I felt like my movement is one of my strengths, and on grass I feel like it's a little bit nullified.”

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Blake made his debut at The Championships in 2002. He has noticed several changes over the past 11 years. 

“I used to come off the grass and definitely my lower body would be a lot more sore than [I was] used to. Nowadays I don't feel that as much. I feel like the ball bounces up here almost as much as the hard courts.”

Injuries have taken a toll on his body over the past 12 years, “I don’t feel as perfect every day, so there’s going to be days it might not be pretty, but I still feel like the next day I turn around [and] I can be the top guy.”

BlakeBlake rose to as high as No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2006, but now, aged 33, he finds himself at World No. 87. His confidence remains sky-high.

“I know that I can be the Top 5 in the world. I know [that] I can beat a Top 5 player. I'm capable of doing that on any given day. I know [that] I have the ability to keep moving up. The difference between No. 87 and Top 5 is the consistency. 

“As you see with Steve Darcis, [who beat Rafael Nadal on Monday], guys are capable of playing it, but it's just not that often – or as often.

“That's why I'm still playing because I still feel I have that confidence and I have that ability. If I can't do it every single week like I used to, I have to accept that. Father Time gets us all, so I'm doing my best. I'm just enjoying it while I'm still relevant out here.”

Blake will next compete on Thursday against a player 13 years his junior. Bernard Tomic, the youngest player left in the draw at 20 years and eight months, beat Blake’s countryman, No. 21 seed Sam Querrey, 7-6(6), 7-6(3), 3-6, 2-6, 6-3.

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