Blake wins first match since October

2011-02-08 11:25

James Blake won his first competitive match since October, beating qualifier Jesse Levine 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of the SAP Open yesterday.

Blake had not played since losing to Lukasz Kubot in the first round in Vienna last October because of shoulder and knee injuries. Blake, a 10-time winner on tour who was once ranked as high as fourth in the world, has fallen to 170th in the latest rankings.

Blake has previously overcame a broken neck and a case of shingles in 2004 to make it into the top 5 of the rankings two years later. Now he’s looking for another comeback at age 31.

He got off to a shaky start against a player ranked 293rd in the world, failing to take advantage of early break point opportunities and falling behind 5-4 in the first set after losing serve on the only break point he faced in the match.

Blake responded by breaking Levine right back to extend the set, starting a stretch where he won nine of the final 10 games in the match. He won the first set when Levine hit a forehand into the net, then dominated the second set.

Blake lost just 11 points in the seven games, winning 80% of the points on his own serve.

Blake will next play the winner of today’s first-round match between fourth-seeded Xavier Malisse and Milos Raonic.

In other first-round matches, Michael Russell beat Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-2, Tim Smyczek defeated Robert Farah 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, Denis Istomin beat Roman Borvanov 6-3, 7-5, and Donald Young knocked off Dustin Brown 7-6 (2), 6-4.

The highlight of the opening night of the tournament is an exhibition between Pete Sampras and Gael Monfils, who is seeded second in the main draw.

Other first-round winners yesterday were Americans Michael Russell, Tim Smyczek, and Donald Young, and fifth-seeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

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