In my recent series on 2008, I promised to make more positive postings on James Blake.
Though I've made the odd passing reference to him, there simply haven't been that many opportunities at doing the man justice in the off season. So I began this post with the intention of doing a one off profile on one of my favourite players.
It then occurred to me how there's so very many and varied likeable (and dislikeable) aspects about players, events, venues that don't often get mentioned in the frenzy of opinions on Slam results, rankings, form, technique and surfaces.
So here's my first post in a series entitled 'Brown Paper Packages...' (taken from the song 'My Favourite Things') in which I attempt to put that right by bringing to you some of my favourite things about a chosen player, personality, event,...
Unlike the 2008 series, it's not going to be a serial; it'll be longer running, and more likely to crop up when something particularly poignant has happened, or I just feel the need for a super-extended, 'beyond the call of duty' style vent-off on someone or something that's particularly ruffled (or tickled) me.
The less favourable opinions will be kept in a conversely titled 'Things I Can't Stand about...' type of series for which I hope to come up with a better name(I'm open to suggestions).
So what do I like about James Blake? Well...
- He's got probably the flattest forehand in the game.
- His athletic style of play.
- Could he possibly be the fastest man in Tennis?
- Along with Roddick is a shining example of dignified and sportsmanlike conduct - and a great ambassador for American Tennis
- He's got a single handed backhand - Yeaaahhh-I-seddit!
- I underestimated him and his style of play and he surprised me by extending his stay in the top ten.
- That band style twirly thing he does with his racquet when waiting to receive.
- His middle name's Riley and there's just something Coppish or 'Streets-Of-San-Francisco' about that. Picture it: 'Chief' Pat McEnroe giving A-Rod his Davis Cup orders in a dimly lit back office: "Some young dirtballer named Rafael's been running rings round us in Paris - I want you to see what you can do about it... <Roddick begins to leave> And take Riley here with you!"
- He "lost everything and won his life back".
- He made the final of Queen's in 2006, the only recent American (aside from Roddick) to have accomplished that.
- His great run of 2006 that led him to qualify for his first and only Tennis Masters Cup; he went right through to the final there and although was given a matrix-like dose of reality by Federer, took his defeat remarkably well.
- Looks vulnerable and lacking in confidence - not winning but endearingly human traits; but with the backing of his peers (which he got in bucketloads during that Davis Cup Tie against France earlier this year, where he was playing Mathieu) can truly deliver awe-inspiring, top drawer tennis.
- His intensity and pace on court; a sort of stubborn insistence on doing things 'his' way
- Looks great (with or without dreadlocks)
- Shortens his backswing and takes the ball ridiculously early.
In the words of that annoyingly monotonic history teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day off: "Anyone...Anyone?"
Blake image by James Marvin Phelps