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Blake continues to struggle on return


 

Originally published on: 11/04/12 10:28

It seems a very long time since James Blake was No.4 in the world back in November 2006.

Fast-forward five and a half years and the 32-year-old American – best-known for coming back from a broken neck to reach his career-high ranking – is still plying his trade, just without quite the same return these days. In Houston for the US Men’s Clay Court Championships for the 11th time in 12 years, Blake slipped to his third defeat in as many matches this season after falling to Carlos Berlocq in three sets.

“It’s never fun to lose,” Blake told a Houston newspaper. “I feel like I’m in a bit of a cycle that I need to break. I’m losing confidence too quickly and not holding on to momentum.”

Since undergoing knee surgery last November, the 10-time ATP Tour titlist has struggled to find the flashes of good form he was showing at the latter end of 2011.

His only match win in 2012 came at a challenger event in Guadeloupe in March, where he beat Canadian world No.235 Pierre-Ludovic Duclos in three tight sets before losing to Germany’s Mischa Zverev in round two. In his two other tour matches before Houston, Blake fell to Nikolay Davydenko in a three-set encounter in Miami and in his first tournament of the year in Memphis he was dealt a thumping by compatriot Ryan Sweeting, winning just two games.

Last year, Blake’s game appeared in positive nick. He won two challenger events – in Sarasota last April and in Winnetka in July – and took that form out on to the main tour during the US hard court swing, scoring wins over Ernests Gulbis in Atlanta, David Nalbandian in Washington and Marcos Baghdatis in Cincinnati. He even took the scalp of Juan Martin del Potro en route to the Stockholm semi-finals in October – his first ATP semi-final since going on to reach the final of the AEGON Championships at Queen’s Club in 2009.

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