Blake 'drives' home point

James Blake was upset by Richard Gasquet yesterday during the Rogers Cup at the Rexall Centre in...

James Blake was upset by Richard Gasquet yesterday during the Rogers Cup at the Rexall Centre in Toronto. (Toronto Sun/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

James Blake isn't about to get into a war of words with John McEnroe or any other detractors of U.S. tennis.

Yet, there was a tinge of irritation in the voice of the charismatic New Yorker yesterday when asked to respond to allegations that American tennis is on the decline.

Having just suffered a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the $2.45-million US Rogers Cup at the Rexall Centre, the fifth-seeded Blake was reminded of recent comments by the outspoken McEnroe, now a television analyst.

After no Americans reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time since 1911, McEnroe suggested that the modern-day American tennis player lacks the drive to reach the top.

MORE QUESTIONS

Blake's elimination yesterday is certain to ignite more questions, as is the ailing health of fellow American Andy Roddick, who pulled out of the Rogers Cup with back issues.

Given McEnroe's penchant of cussing during his colourful playing days, it would have been fitting for Blake to respond by telling himto mind his own #@*&% business.

Instead, Blake still got his point across -- and a few digs as well -- without needing to be censored.

"Whatever John McEnroe says, that's his perogative," said Blake, yet another seed to be eliminated from the Rogers Cup. "He's earned it. He's won tons of titles. He was an excellent player. In his mind, he still is an excellent player.

"He has a right to say that. (But) I don't think he's ever seen me on the practice court. I don't think he's ever seen me working out in the Tampa heat. I don't think he's ever seen Andy work out in Austin. I don't think he's ever come to one of our Davis Cup practices where we are pushing each other for hours on end. (And) he's probably not going to be in the gym later when I'm working.

"I know he's very knowledgeable on many subjects. But whether or not I have drive, he is not very knowledgeable. No one else is, outside of me and my coach."

Only three of the tourney's top 10 seeds remain heading into play today at the Rogers Cup. Luckily for the organizers, two of those are Swiss star Roger Federer, the No. 1 player in the world, and top rival, Spain's Rafael Nadal.

No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia is the other.

Nadal, the defending Rogers Cup champion, outlasted Korean Hyung-Taik Lee 6-4, 6-3 last night and will take on Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic today.

Later, Federer, winner of the 2004 Rogers Cup title, faces Russian Dmitry Tursunov. Federer posted a straight-sets win over Sebastien Grosjean of France yesterday.


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