Blake would take Davis Cup seat for Agassi

French winner would get warm welcome to play

U.S. Open

Notebook

September 02, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Among the reasons James Blake has become so popular among American tennis fans is his generous play for the U.S. Davis Cup team.

Blake is 6-0 in his Davis Cup career and is fully expected to be on the team later this month when it travels to Paris for the semifinals against defending Davis Cup champion France at Roland Garros, Sept. 20-22.

But Blake said he would have no problem sitting out for the right reason.

"This time is really exciting for me," Blake said. "I feel like I have a chance of playing singles. But if we could get down on our knees and beg Andre [Agassi] to play as well, that might make a big difference."

Agassi, who won the French Open on the red clay at Roland Garros, would be a strong addition for the United States.

"We've all said the same thing to him, that we really want to leave the door open for him," Blake said. "We understand he has different issues than myself and Andy [Roddick]. He has a brand-new baby and a wife at home, other things in his schedule.

"Being the top player in the world for so long, I'm sure the demands on his time are so, so tough. He's got a great charity organization. He has so many things to do, so many things on his plate, that Davis Cup might not be his top priority anymore. ... But I just want to let him know that if he's going to come in and take my spot, I have no problem with that. I'd gladly step down for someone as great as him, just to make our chances better to win that tie."

In previous interviews, Agassi has said he will not play, indicating he thought it was time to give younger players like Blake and Roddick their chance.

Turning 50

Jimmy Connors, the man who thrilled U.S. Open fans with a run to the semifinals as a 39-year-old, turns 50 today.

"Jimmy misses tennis, you know," said Guillermo Vilas, an old competitor and friend. "But when the U.S. Open rolls around, I think every time, he prays for rain. That's why it's raining so much, so they can put his old matches on. They always put the same thing on. `Is it raining? Is it raining? OK, put on the TV.' I'm sure he's having something now and enjoying this moment, yeah."

Baby talk

The playful babble between Agassi and Pete Sampras over the future of their children continues.

After Sampras said his soon-to-be born baby, should it be a boy, would take out Agassi's son, Jaden, in a future tennis match, Agassi had this to say:

"Well, I for sure see Jaden beating up on his kid a little bit - speaking on the tennis court. If it's a little girl, I have a hundred bucks that says she has a crush on Jaden - and if they go to the prom together, either Pete or myself will chaperone for sure."

Positive points

Blake lost his five-set match to world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, but came away happy with the impression the two of them left on court: "I really like the fact that if any kids were watching that [match], they could say, `I want to be like either one of those two.' I'm glad I was part of that."

Hewitt, whose main and only focus appears to be tennis, is often slow to take advantage of a good public relations twist. But even he could see the match with Blake was good for tennis.

"When I'm out there playing, I'm concentrating on other things, I guess," Hewitt said. "But, to see us not give an inch the whole match for 3 1/2 hours. I think it's something we can both be proud of."

Hewitt does have a lighter side. He perks right up when asked about Australian Rules Football and his favorite team, Adelaide. It seems Adelaide will play Brisbane at Brisbane shortly after the Open and Hewitt plans to get a ticket.

Asked if he could give non-Australians a seminar on the sport, he laughed.

"Take too long, mate," he said. "How about you just say best game in the world, leave it at that."

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