The opening ceremonies inside Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem were stirring.
James Blake and Tommy Robredo then began the tennis action, playing evenly for
several games. It gradually became evident that Blake's serves and strokes
were generally flatter and faster than Tommy's, with both players showing roughly
equal control. The American's heavy pressure added to the effect of the very
fast court in making it hard for the Spanish star to find his usual precision.
Blake erred more than occasionally, but he persisted in mixing in large doses
of heavy hitting and finally broke his opponent's serve in the tenth game to
conclude a tight first set.
The pattern became even clearer thereafter--forcing deliveries by Blake that
often broke down Robredo's usually fine all-court game. James's
serve-returning strengthened mid-way in the match, when he smartly balanced safe, defensive
replies with rockets aimed close to the lines that stayed inside often enough.
Robredo occasionally showed vestiges of his clay-court game--he had won German
Open last spring--to little gain. At net, the more-athletic Blake was almost
indestructible with an overhead game that was at the highest level. The fast
courts were ideally suited to his sliced serving.
James's triumph, 64 63 64, surely was among his finest moments in tennis. And
it gave the U.S. team a confidence that would be difficult to answer.