RELATED: James Blake Player ProfileBy Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
When looking at James Blake’s career records and performances, there is one thing for certain.
In his now six years on the team, the American has always stepped up come Davis Cup time. And with the U.S. facing Russia in the final on American soil next week and on his favorite hard court surface, this round should be no exception.
Blake had a consistent year on the ATP Tour this season, winning two titles (at Sydney and the US Open Series' New Haven) in five finals before a few early round exits in October dropped his world ranking to No. 13 after he finished 2006 at a career-high of No. 4 in the world.
His best showings in the Grand Slams this year were fourth round appearances at the Australian and US Opens.
But after going 3-2 this season in the Davis Cup while helping the U.S. reach the final in Portland, Oregon, there is no doubt winning the trophy for the U.S. for the first time since 1995 would hugely impact Blake’s career.
“If we can win the Davis Cup, whatever else happened on the court, it is a good year for me,” Blake said.
“I really believe if we can win the Davis Cup that would be probably the most memorable thing I’ve had in my career…To be honest for me, it might be the shining moment in my career, to win a Davis Cup title. I know a lot of veterans who have already retired look back and say those are some of their fondest memories. I think when I’m done, I’ll share that sentiment.”
Blake is expected be called upon by US captain Patrick McEnroe to fill the role as the No. 2 singles player for the U.S. along with Andy Roddick in the No. 1 singles spot and the world No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan.
He dropped a tight four-setter to Tomas Berdych in the U.S.’s opening round win over the Czech Republic before stepping up big-time in the quarterfinals, defeating both Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo against Spain. Blake followed that up by splitting a pair of singles matches in the semifinal win over Sweden.
There is something about Davis Cup competition that helps bring out the best in Blake’s game.
“I think being on a team where you really care helps you to overachieve,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of this team. But I also think I’ve done better definitely at home on the hard courts…I was definitely very nervous the first time I ever played Davis Cup, but since then I try to look at it as it’s just another match and I’ve had success in that.”
With a sizable home court advantage -- the U.S. team chose a fast, indoor hard court as the surface at the Memorial Coliseum for the final -- the pace is perfectly-suited to the power games and strong serving of Blake and Roddick.
Both finished in the top 10 on the ATP Tour this season in aces, with 749 for Roddick and 508 for Blake. And for the season, Roddick won 80 percent of his first serve points and Blake won 75 percent.
Overall Blake has a 12-8 singles record in Davis Cup and a perfect 7-0 on hard courts as well as going 9-5 indoors.
“I think this is going to play into our hands, which is the reason you have the home-court advantage, so we can make it perfect for our games,” Blake said of the indoor hard court for the final.
“I think for Andy and myself it’s a great situation. We love playing on indoor hard. We’ve had some of our best results there. I think the Bryans could play on Pluto and still be the favorites…I think this is the perfect situation for me to play some of my best tennis.”