Paris It was there in the scrambling, side-to-side defense along the baseline, forcing his foe to hit an extra shot. It was there in the delicate drop shots, the sleight of hand at the right moment. And, too, in the well-timed returns.
James Blake - an American! - looked absolutely, positively at home on the red clay of the French Open, moving into the third round by beating Nicolas Almagro of Spain, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, Friday in a match suspended the night before.
That's right: the same James Blake who never before went beyond the second round in three trips to Paris. Who lost his opening match at three of his previous four clay-court events. Who is, after all, the only U.S. man left in the tournament and first to reach the round of 32 at Roland Garros since Andre Agassi in 2003.
Blake did it by doing all the little things right against Almagro, whose 19 wins on clay in 2006 are tied for second on tour.
So what's it like to be the last American standing?
"It's an interesting role, because Andy (Roddick) has played that role for so long, for the last few years. We've had Andre kind of holding down the fort, as well," Blake said. "But as long as we've got one, that's a good sign."
The other U.S. man who reached the second round - Agassi didn't come, Roddick quit his opener because of an ankle injury, and four others lost in Round 1 - was Kevin Kim, and he had the misfortune of facing defending champion Rafael Nadal.
Kim hung tough for a handful of games until Nadal began to construct a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory, his 55th in a row on clay, extending his Open era record.
Academic fraud alleged
Indianapolis - An NCAA investigation has uncovered cases of abuse and fraud in academic standards at some nonpublic, nontraditional high schools, an association official said Friday. The organization next week will begin releasing the names of the schools from which it will no longer accept grade transcripts of athletes, which could prevent them from accepting college scholarships, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon said.
A lawyer representing some of the schools under investigation, however, said most of the schools were church-affiliated, which would make the NCAA's intrusion an unconstitutional violation of church-state separation, and that the investigation was akin to "trying to kill a flea with an atomic bomb."
Pettersson tops Memorial
Dublin, Ohio - Carl Pettersson made five birdies in the five hours he spent on the golf course during a rainy Friday at the Memorial. He finished his round and was atop the leaderboard.
Pettersson make up ground quickly after a six-hour rain delay by playing bogey-free in his round of 5-under 67, making him the leader in the clubhouse by two shots with more than two-thirds of the field unable to finish the second round.
Sean O'Hair birdied three of his first six holes and also was at 8 under when play was suspended. Steve Flesch (72) and Zach Johnson (68) each dropped a shot over the final two holes to finish at 6-under 138.
Sorenstam shares lead
Galloway Township, N.J. - Trying to snap out of an uncharacteristic victory drought, defending champion Annika Sorenstam shot a 7-under 64 for a share of the first-round lead in the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Sorenstam was tied with Michele Redman. Sorenstam also won the 1998 and 2002 titles.
Simpson's 64 good for lead
West Des Moines, Iowa - Scott Simpson shot a 7-under 64, one stroke off the tournament record, to take a one-stroke lead over Doug Tewell, Jim Thorpe, Bruce Lietzke and Mark McNulty after the first round of the Allianz Championship.
OSU freshman leading
Sunriver, Ore. - Oklahoma State freshman Jonathan Moore shot a 3-under 69 Friday to take a one-stroke lead in the NCAA Tournament, while Washington held a three-stroke edge in its bid for its first team title.
Newman nets Dover pole
Dover, Del. - Ryan Newman thought a little rain might extend his pole drought. Instead, the rain only delayed the wait and didn't keep Newman from putting himself on the pole for the first time this season with a lap of 154.633 mph Friday at Dover International Speedway.
Newman now has 36 career poles in 165 starts - but none of them had come this year, breaking a 14-race streak without one. Rain interrupted the qualifying session and could have wiped out the lap had it continued.
Jeremy Mayfield joins Newman on the front row for Sunday's race after a lap of 154.361. Jeff Gordon was third at 154.063 and Kurt Busch fourth at 153.774.
Martin takes truck triumph
Dover, Del. - Mark Martin drove his No. 6 Ford to an easy Craftsman Truck Series victory Friday at Dover International Speedway, beating fellow Nextel Cup driver Carl Edwards by 3.052 seconds.
Colts sign quarterback King
Indianapolis - Quarterback Shaun King, a starter at Tampa Bay when Tony Dungy was the coach there, signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts on Friday. King, who did not play in the NFL last season, joined the Detroit Lions in March and was released Wednesday. He will try to make the Colts as Peyton Manning's backup.
Jets' Chrebet retires
Hempstead, N.Y. - Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet officially retired Friday, ending an 11-year career.