New York Misfortune's victim for so long, James Blake punctuated the Hollywood-like turnaround of his life and career by upsetting French Open champion Rafael Nadal on Saturday at the U.S. Open.
Blake, who sank to No. 210 in the rankings last spring and needed a wild-card invitation to get into the Open, knocked off the No. 2 Nadal, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, as cheers, mixed with more than a few tears, cascaded down from his friends in packed Arthur Ashe Stadium. Blake was overwhelmed by the constant cheers of his buddies - "The James Block" - and the more than 20,000 fans in the stadium, who gave him a long, warm ovation at the end.
"I truly wish every single person in here could have the feeling I have now," he told them.
If it wasn't the biggest win of the 25-year-old Blake's career - in his mind nothing will ever top his victory over Andre Agassi three years ago en route to his first tour title in Washington - it put him into the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time, matched his best-ever performances in Grand Slam events and set him up for a possible quarterfinal confrontation against Agassi.
Agassi, seeded No. 7, had a tough time against No. 32 Tomas Berdych but reached the fourth round with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory.
In other matches, No. 8 Guillermo Coria and No. 13 Richard Gasquet advanced, as did women's No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, No. 7 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 11 Patty Schnyder, No. 12 Mary Pierce, No. 15 Nathalie Dechy and No. 19 Elena Likhovtseva, who beat 2004 French Open champion and No. 13 Anastasia Myskina.
"If someone had told me a year ago that I'd have to go out and lose love, love and love in the quarterfinals of the Open to Andre Agassi, I'd say, I'd take it in a heartbeat," Blake said. "If that happens, so be it. I'm going to go out there and play the same way I've been playing, not be afraid. Today, I was not afraid to play Rafael Nadal. I will not be afraid to play Andre."