- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Much of James Blake’s postmatch news conference Monday night was dedicated to Donald Young, the 22-year-old American whose development Blake has aided. But Tuesday night after yet another victory, the spotlight belonged to the 31-year-old veteran, who isn’t ready to step off the stage.

Blake was on top of his game in the second round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, not only beating defending champion and No. 8 seed David Nalbandian but doing it soundly – 6-2, 6-4.

“That was one of the best matches of my career,” Blake told the adoring crowd at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park. “That’s the best I’ve served in two years.”

Nalbandian couldn’t keep up, with Blake’s shots striking the perfect spot almost every time. Blake finished with seven aces and just three double-faults.

But even when the defending champ returned serve, Blake battled him with an aggressive style along the baseline coupled with a confident attitude.

“My confidence has got to be high,” Blake said. “If you’re playing aggressive tennis but not confident, it’s going to be ugly.”

Instead, it was ugly for Nalbandian, who struggled in his first match of the tournament. Blake was fortunate, he said, to get some familiarity in the first round Monday. The Argentine blamed the struggles on his serve for the loss.

“He’s a good return player, and he’s aggressive all the time,” Nalbandian said. “When your serve doesn’t work, he has more chances to be aggressive.”

Having won here in the District back in 2002, Blake undoubtedly had the crowd on his side. A strong evening contingent was there to watch the American show glimpses of the play he displayed when he was ranked in the top 10 in the world.

Blake thanked the crowd for the support, waving his racket and offering up a fist pump as well as words of gratitude. The applause was an affirmation that Blake’s game is giving fans something to cheer about in a tournament largely devoid of household names.

And as much as Blake showed off under the lights in Rock Creek Park, don’t call it a statement.

“It wasn’t a statement saying I was back or anything like that,” he insisted. “It was just, I knew I had to play that well to win.”

Blake will face John Isner in the third round.