Tennis Freaks

“1821: Nadal, I’ve noticed, has a problem with his shorts, in that they keep on getting stuck up his jacksie and he has to pull them out before every point. Not sure why he doesn’t just get a size up, he’s probably loaded.”

Blake v Haas as it happened

Flushing Meadows, New York, 27 August-9 September

US Open, Flushing Meadows Fourth round result:

T HAAS (Ger) bt J BLAKE (US)

4-6 6-4 3-6 6-0 7-6 (7-4)

By Piers Newbery

Fifth set

2252: That was a belter, and hopefully there is more to come later on. We’ll be back for Federer v Lopez in the early hours.

2251: “James is established in the top 10 now but Tommy played some fantastic tennis. For him to turn it around after a disappointing loss last year, your hat has to go off to him.” Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra

Blake 6-7 (4-7) Haas
The first two points go against the serve before Blake nets a forehand to slip 1-3 down. But the American finds a great winner to level before the change of ends. An incredible rally follows in which Haas needs two brilliant lobs to take it. Blake then blows the whole thing, surely, with a double fault and a wayward forehand to give Haas three match points.

Blake sends a return down the line, Haas thinks it’s out, Hawkeye doesn’t. Haas then hits a big serve and Hawkeye is needed again, this time giving it to the German and he’s won. Amazing stuff, after the German saved three match points earlier on. That should cheer his girlfriend up.

2240: “At this stage of the match I don’t think either one of these guys deserves to lose.”
Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra

Blake 6-6 Haas
It’s all change as Tommy goes for a red shirt, while the stadium PA plays ‘Zorba the Greek’. Not sure why. Blake fails to put the pressure on by throwing in two errors to start the game, before finding an incredible forehand return, but Haas holds to 30. After three hours and nine minutes, it’s tie-break time.

Blake 6-5 Haas
I think Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra says both men are showing signs of “metal fatigue” but it might have been “mental”. Blake holds to 15 and looks the stronger at the moment.

Blake 5-5 Haas
Pandemonium ensues when Blake gets the first point… steady on everyone. At 30-30 the pressure is on and Haas….. double faults. Match point for Blake but Haas comes up with a big serve and heavy forehand. A second match point follows, another big serve gets Haas out of trouble. Match point number three… big serve number three. Haas finally takes the game after five deuces. Blake’s mum looks impressively serene in the stands but then she is from Oxford, I think. Tommy’s girlfriend looks frighteningly intense, he’ll be in trouble if he loses.

Blake 5-4 Haas
This is what we’re after, fantastic stuff. Blake is in trouble at 30-30 but chases down a drop volley and finds a winner. The crowd are on their feet after that one and Blake then wraps up the game to take the lead. Who’d have thought it?

2220: “Oh, Blake back in it. Haas may have just cracked.”
From jazzyjezza14 on 606

Blake 4-4 Haas
The sounds of U2 – the Jonas Bjorkman of the rock world – echo around Arthur Ashe Stadium. It certainly does the trick for Blake, who holds firm at the net and sticks away a backhand smash to get to 0-30 up. Moments later it’s 15-40 and Haas plays a woeful volley. We’re back on serve and I, for one, fancy a fifth set tie-break.

Blake 3-4 Haas
Blake pulls a forehand into the net to slip to break point down, staring defeat in the face surely, but Haas sends a backhand wide. The J-Block looks nervous, the Haas Mob (?) looks….. nervous. A duff volley from Haas keeps Blake in the match.

Blake 2-4 Haas
Blake finds a screamer of a backhand down the line to go to 0-30 in front and send the crowd wild, but Haas responds with a big second serve and a fine forehand volley. At 30-30, Haas attacks the net and draws an error, before wrapping up the game with a high backhand volley. That was a big hold.

2205: “OK, Blake’s in trouble but he can come back. Come on!”
From RJ__02 on 606

Blake 2-3 Haas
Blake stays in touch but a double fault suggests the American is feeling the pressure.

Blake 1-3 Haas
Blake looks a lot more positive and has got some energy back but he goes for too much with a couple of backhands and is quickly 0-30 down. Haas hits his 16th ace of the match, Blake responds with an enormous cross-court forehand winner but then puts a return long.

Blake 1-2 Haas
Blake, possibly fired up by whatever annoyed him in the previous game, finally wins another game and does so in style, hooking a backhand down the line.

Blake 0-2 Haas
Blake looks absolutely out on his feet. Haas thumps down an ace for a love game and his friends/family are in great spirits in the stands. Blake, meanwhile, seems irked at a comment from somewhere and mentions it to the umpire.

Blake 0-1 Haas
It’s been a strange match, quite low-key for long periods, but the crowd is definitely up for the fifth set. Haas gets to 30-30 with a net-cord but Blake finds a winner down the line. Haas then does exactly the same and it’s deuce. Blake gets a game point but double faults, Haas then hits a backhand winner and it’s break point, and the German then attacks the net and forces an error. That’s seven games in a row for Haas.

2149: “Both men coming into this as intense as possible – there’s a lot on the line here.”
Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra

Fourth set

Blake 0-6 Haas
Some heavy hitting from both men in the dying stages of this set but Haas gets to set point and Blake, for the umpteenth time today, nets a backhand. It’s anybody’s guess who’s going to hold their nerve in the fifth.

2142: “You can tell the 5live commentator there’s a reason why the umbrellas are silver… They reflect the heat better… As well as look cool…”
From JQ via text on 81111

Blake 0-5 Haas
Crikey, Haas gets a hold of a backhand down the line and absolutely creams it for a winner. He then produces another one to get to deuce. A break point soon follows and Blake thumps a forehand long. A bagel beckons. I could just do with a bagel. At the moment, I’d even eat an egg cooked by Clancy.

Blake 0-4 Haas
Haas holds to 15, rounding off the game with a fabulous cross-court backhand.

Blake 0-3 Haas
My gaze briefly wanders to another TV showing Hell’s Kitchen, where Peter Crouch’s girlfriend Abbey Clancy appears to have done something horrific to an egg. I’m quickly back on the case though, as Haas and Blake give us a ding-dong battle. The American throws himself around at the net under a barrage of backhands but Haas forces a break point, and Blake sticks a backhand long. It’s going to a fifth set, surely.

Blake 0-2 Haas
“Nooooooooo!” shouts Tommy when one backhand heads for downtown New York. He slips to 15-40 but does well to get back into the game with some good stuff at the net. Still, Blake gets a break point and Haas goes close to the line – it’s called out but Hawkeye says the ball clipped the very outside of the line. Another chance comes for Blake but he plays a limp backhand and Haas eventually survives with an ace.

Blake 0-1 Haas
Haas breaks at the start of the fourth. Obviously. “That’s the way to play, Tommy!” shouts an enthusiastic fan, correctly.

2122: “Its the anonymous gambler from last night! Just stuck my £5 winnings from williams on blake with £7 returns. COME ON BLAKE!!!!!”
From, er, anon via text on 81111

Third set

2120: “Tommy had some opportunites to gain some ground but Blake turned it around with some Haas errors. I can’t emphasise enough what a big match mentally this is for both players.”
Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra

Blake 6-3 Haas
“Come on Tommy!” shouts his girlfriend/sister. That means girlfriend or sister, obviously. Otherwise it would be really weird. Blake’s fans, the ‘J-Block’, get behind their man and he moves to set point and a great rally follows, with the American forcing the issue from the net and Haas putting a backhand pass wide.

Blake 5-3 Haas
Blake opens with a scything forehand winner, prompting Haas to smash a ball into the ground in frustration. Blake serves out easily.

Blake 4-3 Haas
Another difficult game for Haas but he comes through from deuce with two big serves. The umpire braces himself for another discussion about chairs. Maybe it’s a feng shui thing.

2109: “C’mon Blake!! There’s not many players that I really dislike – but Tommy Haas is one of them.”
From Debsonthesofa on 606

Blake 4-2 Haas
Haas spends the changeover chuntering on at the umpire about the position of the chairs. Hardly a key issue, you would have thought. Confusion reigns here around who the women cheering Haas on actually are – I’m convinced that one of them is his girlfriend as she looks nothing like him and is rather attractive. Blake holds to 15.

Blake 3-2 Haas
Some fantastic scrambling from Blake gets the crowd going and forces Haas to put a lob volley long at 15-15. Haas then has to sprint for a ball and comes to a sudden halt when a collision with umpire’s chair looks likely. “Why do you put the chair so close!?!” he screams at the umpire. I don’t imagine he actually puts his own chair out, does he? Anyway, Haas recovers his poise sufficiently to hold.

Blake 3-1 Haas
I catch the end of a Jeff Tarango tale on 5live Sports Extra that finishes “… she went into the shed and began to puke massively.” Rather wish I’d heard the beginning of that one. Blake, meanwhile, appears to have rewired his brain and is back on track, taking the game with his ninth ace of the day.

Blake 2-1 Haas
Look out everyone, I can hear a rumbling. Haas thumps a drive volley about six feet long and starts screaming at the sky – never a good sign. He’s going to blow soon. Blake gets a break point and takes it with a forehand volley. So, that should be this set in the bag then.

Blake 1-1 Haas
That’s more like it from Blake – a love service game. Meanwhile, elsewhere at Flushing Meadows, British junior Dan Evans has won his first-round match and the magnificently monikered Kittipong Wachiramanowong of Thailand is in a decider against Australian John-Patrick Smith.

Blake 0-1 Haas
Blake sends Haas sprawling at the net with one forehand pass but it does not stop the German taking the game.

2048: “I think it could go all the way – the fans want a little bit more excitement, more bang for their buck, after Berdych’s earlier retirement.”
Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra

Second set

Blake 4-6 Haas
This time it’s Blake who crumbles when the pressure is on, slipping to 0-40 and saving one set point before Haas rips a superb backhand cross-court to take the set. Funny business all round, that set.

Blake 4-5 Haas
Well, it’s easy to criticise…. so I will. Haas plays a desperately passive game when serving for the set and is promptly broken. With a double fault. When you see a set like this you realise why neither Haas nor Blake have reached a Grand Slam final yet.

Blake 3-5 Haas
Haas gets to set point, prompting much clapping and shouting from the women we believe are his sisters. James Blake’s brother, meanwhile, looks decidedly unimpressed. Still, his man saves the set point with a thumping smash and serves out.

Blake 2-5 Haas
Haas is serve-volleying now, while Blake screams in frustration at another error – talk about a role reversal. Haas holds easily and is on course to level things at one set all.

Blake 2-4 Haas
An absolute stinker of a game sees Blake double fault and then stick a smash in the bottom of the net to go down 15-40. The American saves the first break point but then goes for a ridiculous forehand winner down the line and he’s a break down. A complete meltdown.

Blake 2-3 Haas
James Blake has gone completely off the boil and Haas moves ahead with a love game. Meanwhile, Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra takes us through the food on offer at Flushing Meadows. His favourite is a beer and a chilli dog. How very American.

Blake 2-2 Haas
A screamer of a forehand that Blake has checked by Hawkeye just catches the line and Haas gets a break point. Blake then wallops a forehand into the net and, from nowhere, Haas gets the break back to level.

Blake 2-1 Haas
Haas stops the rot after losing four straight games but Blake gets the crowd going with one monster of a forehand on the return. Haas holds but needs deuce again and it’s not easy for the man from Hamburg, via Florida.

Blake 2-0 Haas
It’s really good stuff from Blake now as the American races through his service game, polishing it off with an ace.

Blake 1-0 Haas
Blimey, we’ve got to be closing in on a Tommy Haas eruption soon. Hope so. He slumps to 0-40 with a double fault and, although he recovers to deuce, Blake nabs it with a cross-court backhand winner. By the way, if you get a moment do visit the official Tommy Haas website for some appalling spelling. Admittedly, my German isn’t what it was.

First set

“Blake’s percentage of first-serve points won is 100%, and when you’re able to win every point on first serve against a player of Tommy Haas’s class, that’s got to make you feel pretty good.”
Jeff Tarango on 5live Sports Extra

Blake 6-4 Haas
No problem for the man from Yonkers – Blake finds some heavy serves to take the game to 15 and wrap up the first set.

2001: “Help.”
From anon via text on 81111 (This is the sum total of texts so far. Come on people, if you need help at least leave a name and address.)

Blake 5-4 Haas
We get a brief shot in the crowd of two women who are apparently Tommy’s sisters. Interesting. Blake is not distracted and gets a sniff of a break with a delicate half-volley to go 15-30 up, but Haas responds with a beautiful backhand lob – shot of the match so far. Blake keeps on coming though, and forces an error from the net to get a break point. Haas duly dumps a backhand into the net and Blake will serve for the set.

Blake 4-4 Haas
Blake opens up with a big forehand and goes 30-15 with a sharp backhand volley but Haas hauls him back to 30-30 with a winning return. Blake stays positive and heads to the net again to punch away another backhand volley, going on to hold serve comfortably in the end.

Blake 3-4 Haas
I’m not sure what the ladies in general think of Haas, although British junior star and BBC columnist Anna Fitzpatrick thinks he is “hot”. The German holds serve to 15 and it’s looking like a tie-break already. That normally guarantees a break.

Blake 3-3 Haas
It’s pretty low-key stuff at the moment, Blake holding serve without fuss again. Today he is wearing a bright blue top and matching headband. Apparently the ladies like James. Maybe I’ll get myself a headband.

Blake 2-3 Haas
Haas may not look happy but he’s serving well and another ace gives him a love game.

Blake 2-2 Haas
Things look a bit sticky for Blake when he double faults to go 30-30 on serve but Haas fails to capitalise on a lengthy rally in the next point and the half-chance disappears. The German never looks exactly happy but at the moment he looks like a man with indigestion.

Blake 1-2 Haas
A fizzing forehand and a slam-dunk smash from Blake get the crowd going but Haas holds to 30.

Blake 1-1 Haas
A straightforward start for Blake too, who holds to love as the spectators file back into Arthur Ashe Stadium after their break, and there’s plenty of support for the local boy.

Blake 0-1 Haas
It remains a blustery day in New York but Haas manages to handle it well enough as he holds serve to 15, finishing with an ace out wide.

1935: I am boldly going to go for Blake to win this, although I did back Lleyton Hewitt and Maria Sharapova to reach their respective finals. Let me know your thoughts via text on 81111 or on 606.

1930: Here we go with world number six James Blake up against world number 10 Tommy Haas, and the American goes into the match with a 3-1 lead in career meetings.

To be honest, the whole thing has caught me a bit by surprise. After successfully negotiating a trans-London journey in the middle of a tube strike, I arrive to find that Berdych has pulled out of his match against Roddick.

I hope the world number nine is OK but, really, he wants to try getting from Peckham to Shepherds Bush without the Central Line.

Story from BBC SPORT


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