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Blake's improbable run ends

By Larry Fine
September 08, 2005 13:01 IST
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Wild card James Blake saw his improbable run at the US Open end in the wee hours of Thursday morning by an equally improbable victory by fellow-American Andre Agassi.

In a quarter-final match that had some 20,000 fans cheering as though it were a partisan Davis Cup final, the 35-year-old Agassi came back from two sets down to beat Blake 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6, claiming the fifth-set tiebreaker, 8-6.

"I couldn't have had more fun losing," Blake said to seventh seed Agassi, the eight-times Grand Slam champion who Blake has said is a role model for him.

The crowd exhorted, implored and roared at both players between nearly every serve, causing the umpire to quiet the stadium throng with "thank you," or "please" as the players began most points.

During changeovers as the final set headed toward a tiebreak, the Arthur Ashe Stadium audience gave both players standing ovations, and the chant of "Andre, Andre" grew and echoed around the court.

"I generally don't have a whole lot of fun from losing but this was incredible," said Blake, 25.

"He's admired everywhere he goes. If I was in the stands I'd be cheering for him, too."

Blake had won the hearts of many fans with his bold run at the Open, capping off an inspirational comeback from setbacks last year that included a broken neck, a rare ailment that partially paralyzed his face and the death of his father to cancer.

"I fought my heart out, did everything I could," said Blake.

"He played a little too good. Champions make those when they go for broke in the fifth set. The match lived up to the billing. I'm happy for the game of tennis," said Blake.

Said Agassi, "There are few moments on a tennis court that are that special.

"It's 1:15 in the morning and 20,000 people are still here. There's nothing like it. Tennis won tonight."


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Larry Fine
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