Blake disappointed in Aussie Open loss
By DENNIS PASSA, Associated Press Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- This year's Australian Open can be added to James Blake's list of Grand Slam disappointments.

Blake lost 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3) Monday to last year's runner-up, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the fourth round, continuing the 29-year-old American's run of majors without reaching a semifinal.

In 28 Grand Slams, Blake has advanced as far as the quarterfinals just three timesĀ -- at last year's Australian Open and the US Open in 2005 and 2006.

He's lost in the first round three times, the second round 11 times, the third on seven occasions and the fourth five times.

On the plus side, he has 10 career singles titles at regular ATP events and helped the United States win its 32nd Davis Cup in November 2007.

But he wasn't taking any joy from that Monday night. Usually Blake is talkative, often gregarious, in victory or defeat, always willing to analyze the way a match went, good or bad.

But at his post-match news conference he appeared close to disconsolate, head down, baseball cap tucked down over his head. He was anything but chatty, sounding like a man that let another chance in a major slip away.

"I didn't take advantage of some of the opportunities I had on some second serves,'' Blake said. "Didn't feel like I served well. Didn't feel like I returned well. Those are two pretty important parts of the game.''

Tsonga didn't give Blake much of a chance to get started, breaking Blake's serve in the first game. It was the same in the second as Tsonga took a 2-0 lead.

Fireworks marking Australia Day in the early stages of the third set put the match on hold for about 10 minutes. It gave Blake a short-lived boost when the American broke Tsonga to take a 4-2 lead.

Blake served for the set at 5-3, but couldn't close it out and Tsonga dominated the subsequent tiebreaker to advance to the quarterfinals against Spain's Fernando Verdasco, who beat fourth-seeded Andy Murray earlier in the day.

Tsonga said he tried to change the pace of the match instead of attempting to match power with power.

"For me, sometimes it's better to hit the ball slower,'' Tsonga said.

Blake agreed that flustered him.

"Yeah, he was varying the speed, he did a good job,'' Blake said. "But I still felt like I could have done a better job returning, especially in that tiebreaker, missing two pretty easy ones that I thought I could have really taken advantage of.''

Blake said Tsonga's serve was also troublesome.

"When he was making first serves, it made it really difficult for me to get into points,'' Blake said. "He has such an aggressive style, if you block that first one back, you're going to be running. You're going to be in trouble.''

Blake refused to blame the fireworks delay.

"No, I've dealt with different things,'' Blake said. "In any match, there's injury timeouts, things happen in the crowd. Anything could happen. We were prepared for that beforehand. They told us that it was going to happen around that time.''

Blake played his first Grand Slam in 1999 at the US Open, where, as a 19-year-old, he lost in the first round. He said it's not getting any easier.

"They seem to keep getting bigger and bigger ... it's just the nature of the game,'' Blake said. "It gets better every year ... Hopefully I'll figure out a way to combat that next time.''
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