With a resounding straight-set win against Thiemo de Bakker on Tuesday, James Blake is once again in the second round of Wimbledon. It is the first win in five first-round efforts for Blake, who had not won a main draw match since the Sony Open in March, where he won two rounds before falling to Spaniard Albert Ramos in three sets.
Blake was the No. 1 rated college player as a Harvard sophomore in 1999, before dropping out to join the pro tour.
Against de Bakker, Blake surrendered just six games in breaking his opponent in every set. He amassed 17 break points and converted six of them, a low 35 percent conversion rate that was offset by his strong serving. The Yonkers, New York native had seven aces against just one double fault and won 88 percent of his first serve points. He allowed his opponent only one break point, which he saved.
After reaching a high of number four in the world in 2006, Blake has slowly slipped down the rankings over the last four years due to a combination of inconsistency and injury. Throughout it all, Blake’s one-handed backhand has always been a volatile stroke. When it shows up, he can play with anyone—as evidenced by his wins over all-time greats Roger Federer (2008 Olympics) and Rafael Nadal (2006 U.S. Open). However, he is prone to spray balls off that wing and as he has gotten older, Blake has struggled to defend his backhand as well as he once did by running around to hit inside-out forehands.
Blake, a former ATP Comeback Player of the Year, has been making yet another charge up the rankings. He started the year ranked no. 123, needing to play qualifying to get into the Australian Open. His ranking is up to 96, with a boost that will come from the second-round (or better) points he gets from Wimbledon.
Blake will have a challenge Thursday against either Sam Querrey or Bernard Tomic to reach the third round for the third time ever and the first time since 2007.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.