Blake upsets Harrison in Atlanta

July 18, 2012 01:11 AM
James Blake returns a shot to Ryan Harrison during the BB&T Atlanta Open opening round.

ATLANTA (AP) -- For one night, James Blake felt like a young man again.

Blake is 32 years old, coming off right knee surgery and playing with a sore right shoulder, but his game was precise enough against No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison to win his 350th career match on the ATP World Tour.

"My knee hasn't been that far off, but it's been far enough off that it's affected me,'' Blake said. "When that starts getting better, my shoulder starts giving me problems, and it makes me realize I'm not 20, like Ryan, anymore.''

Blake upset Harrison 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a match that began 2 1/2 hours late because of rain at the Atlanta Open on Tuesday night.

Harrison joined fellow U.S. Olympian Donald Young in losing a first-round match. That leaves the Atlanta event with No. 1 seed John Isner and fourth-seeded Andy Roddick as the two remaining Olympians playing singles for the U.S. in London.

Eighth-seeded Go Soeda of Japan, Matthew Ebden of Australia and Michael Russell overcame a nearly three-hour rain delay in the afternoon matches.

Soeda beat Belgium's Xavier Malisse 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Ebden held off qualifier Sergei Bubka of Ukraine 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, and Russell rallied to beat Alex Kuznetsov 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

In the late match, Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium breezed past Rajeev Ram 6-1, 6-3.

Third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and Roddick will play their first-round matches on Wednesday.

Isner and two-time defending champion Mardy Fish, the second seed, will play their first-round matches on Thursday.

Russell advanced to play No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa on Wednesday. Soeda will face Russia's Igor Kunitsyn.

Blake improved to 2-0 against Harrison in ATP events. They had not played since Blake's 6-3, 6-2 victory on clay in Houston four years ago.

Blake, who will play Ebden on Thursday, won a match for the first time since last Nov. 3. He was 0-6 this year.

It's been a tough several months for Blake, who had surgery in November to remove part of his patellar tendon. Because his knee hasn't been 100 percent this year, Blake's shoulder has been compromised, too.

But after struggling to close out points in the first set against Harrison, Blake got his footwork in order in the second and started charging the net.

"I need to be moving forward, I need to be aggressive, I need to be getting to the net,'' Blake said. "Even if I'm not hitting a volley, if the approach shot is the winner, I need to be moving forward.''

Harrison was disappointed in the outcome, but doesn't believe the setback will affect his preparation for the Olympics. After a difficult second set, he seemed to have gathered himself together with a 4-3 lead in the third.

"I made a couple of returns, but he made some first serves,'' Harrison said. "In the 4-all game, I held a good game, and then he played a good game at 4-5. I maybe had a little bad luck with that (ball) he hit (into and over the net) at 5-all that got him to 30-all. It's a tough spot. You put yourself in that tight of a position and things can go either way.''

Malisse had 10 aces before Soeda broke his serve to go up 6-5 in the second. It was one of two break points Soeda won in nine tries.

Russell was down 3-4 in the second set, but shifted the momentum by breaking Kuznetsov's serve.

"As soon as I saw that he was a little bit tight, I was able to get some free points,'' Russell said. "He got a little frustrated towards the end of that second set.''

Russell managed one ace to 14 for Kuznetsov.

"Even when it still got down to that second set, I knew he still would have to come up with either a great serve or a great shot to beat me,'' Russell said. "I was able to get through those tight games.''

Nishikori will face Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Russia's Dmitry Tursunov. Roddick will play Nicolas Mahut of France.