By Richard Kent
Updated: November 19, 2006
—James Blake just made it to the finals of the Shanghai Masters,the last event of the tennis calendar by beating Rafael Nadal.Blake fell to the best tennis player in the universe and maybe of all time,Roger Federer 6-0,6-3,6-4 but that really had no impact on a tremendous year for Blake.
The Yonkers and Fairfield,Connecticut native and current Florida resident finished the year at #4,his highest ranking ever.He won more tournaments than he ever had.The best was a scintillating win in Indianapolis in the RCA over his very close friend Andy Roddick in the Summer.
What is more of a story is that Blake was the Comeback Athlete of the Year by ESPN and a year ago was not far removed from playing in qualifiers after being injured for most of 2004 and losing his father.But he perservered and has now been playing the best tennis of his life.
Blake,26 can’t beat Federer but who can.Roger is the no. 1 player in the world,has won 29 straight matches and finished the year at 92-5.Pretty lofty numbers.Even Tiger Woods came out to see him play in New York.He was amazed also.
So what is in the future for Blake.It looks like that along with Nadal and Roddick he will be chasing Federer.He can certainly play with Federer on fast courts like at the US Open and beat both Nadal and Roddick on any courts.
It is tough to be playing in an era with the best player of all time.Just ask Ernie Els,Phil Mickelson or JJ Henry,James’ buddy from high school in Fairfield.But it is also quite impressive to be talked about in the same breath.Federer wanted to meet James in the Final at Shanghai becuase he knows what a great story James has been.He is on record as saying that.Who can ever forget the 7-6 win that James had over Federer in the US Open before a screaming crowd to put him back in the match.
If past is prologue look for James to make many Grand Slam Finals in 2007 and perhaps win the big one in New York.He is really that good.And who knows.If Federer retires early after beating the Pete Sampras Grand Slam record than maybe James will be the best player in the world.