James Blake, Class of 2001, who has taken time off away from Harvard to play professional tennis, defeated Wayne Ferreira, a former top ten player, yesterday at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia.
As one half of a U.S. delegation, along with Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson, Blake dispatched No. 53 Ferreira 6-4, 6-4 in the mixed gender equivalent of the men's Davis Cup and the women's Fed Cup.
"I just went out expecting to try my hardest and to play really loose and not worry if I made a few mistakes early," Blake, ranked 219, told the Associated Press.
"I didn't want to get down on myself and start playing tentative. I just wanted to play my game and be aggressive the whole time. I was trying to keep the ball deep and not let him attack me and run me all over the place, because I'd have been in for a long day."
Blake, the top NCAA player last year, paired with Stevenson for a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 mixed doubles win over Ferreira and Amanda Coetzer to seal the 2-1 win over South Africa.
No. 46 Stevenson lost to No. 11 Coetzer, 6-3, 6-1, in a singles match.
The win over South Africa capped a week in which Blake and Stevenson played well in matches against world-class competition but had mixed results.
On Jan. 3, Blake fell 6-3, 7-5 to No. 73 Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden.
"He is going to be a good player, for sure," Bjorkman said of Blake in a press conference. "He has got good strokes, he is a good athlete and I think he seems like he is quite cool on the court as well and I think that is going to help him a lot. The more matches he gets the better he will be."
Stevenson fell to Asa Carlsson, 6-4, 6-4, and Bjorkman and Carlsson beat Blake and Stevenson 6-3, 6-3 to win 3 matches to none.
On Wednesday, the U.S. faced off against Belgium and almost pulled off an upset.
Stevenson, a tournament replacement for Monica Seles, won over No. 14 Dominique Van Roost in three sets, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, and Blake took No. 94 Xavier Malisse to three sets before losing, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-3.
In the deciding mixed doubles match, the Americans fell in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Blake, who has had a whirlwind year on the pro tour, was a late replacement for No. 82 Justin Gimelstob, who skipped the tournament with back spasms.
Blake began 1999 ranked 682 but shot up the ladder as he began playing more tournaments.
He received a wild card invitation to the U.S. Open, but lost in the first round to Chris Woodruff in straight sets.
Blake defeated former Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington in a tournament in Newport, R.I., in July, and took then-No. 10 Marcelo Rios to a tiebreak in a Boston tournament last August.
Blake also was a practice player for the U.S. Davis Cup team that played in Brookline over the summer.
James' brother Tom Blake '98 is also on the pro tour with a singles ranking of 486.