NEW YORK — James Blake used to mock Todd Martin for his gray hair, “for just in general being old.”
Martin, a decade his senior, would warn his fellow American: “Just wait. You will be, too.”
On the first day of this year’s U.S. Open, Blake was the veteran proving he still has it at age 32, while 19-year-old Jack Sock was the up-and-coming kid from the United States.
Both needed wild cards to get in, and both took advantage with first-round wins Monday.
“Now I’m getting it from everyone,” Blake said. “I deserve it, because if I dish it out, I’ve got to be able to take it. I’m getting the old jokes, the grandpa jokes, and I’m OK with that.”
Blake reached the second round of a Grand Slam event for the first time this year, beating 54th-ranked Lukas Lacko 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. He hasn’t lost in the first round at Flushing Meadows since his debut in 1999.
Blake needed a wild card to make his 12th appearance at the Open after his ranking fell out of the top 100.
Sock was leading 6-3, 6-2, 3-2 when 22nd-seeded Florian Mayer retired because he felt dizzy. It was the first win over a top-50 player for Sock, who came in ranked a career-best 248th in the world. He missed four
months this season because of elbow surgery.
Sock won his first-round match at the Open for the second consecutive year. In 2010, he won the boys championship at Flushing Meadows, the first American to do so since Andy Roddick 10 years earlier.
“I think for some reason here in New York at the Open, the last couple years I played here, I played well here overall, pretty consistently,” he said. “I always served pretty well.”
American Tim Smyczek played a five-set match for the first time in his career Monday, beating Bobby Reynolds 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over 3 hours, 33 minutes.
LI ADVANCED: Li Na reached the second round of the U.S. Open for the first time since 2009, beating Heather Watson in straight sets.
The ninth-seeded Li won 6-2, 6-3 on Monday. She’s coming off a victory in Cincinnati, her first title since the 2011 French Open.
Li was upset as a top-10 seed in the first round at Flushing Meadows in each of the previous two years.
The 30-year-old from China had 28 winners Monday.