NEW YORK — Wiping away tears, former top-five player James Blake announced Monday that he will retire from tennis after the U.S. Open.
“No real surprise here. This is my last tournament,” the 33-year-old Blake said at a news conference during the opening day of action at Flushing Meadows.
“I always wanted to end my career at the U.S. Open,” the American added.
Blake, who attended Harvard before turning pro in 1999, reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in 2006. He is currently 100th and has a 9-13 record this season heading into his first-round match in the U.S. Open against Ivo Karlovic.
Blake reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including two in New York, losing at that stage to Andre Agassi in 2005 and to Roger Federer in 2006. He mentioned that five-set defeat against Agassi as a match that stands out as a highlight and lowlight of his time on tour.
Blake’s announcement comes a year after his friend and former U.S. Davis Cup teammate, Andy Roddick, retired after the U.S. Open.
“Despite the tears, I’m actually really happy about this,” said Blake, noting that he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and their 1-year-old daughter.
Asked about what he would like to do in the future, Blake mentioned two possibilities: serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and working as a television commentator.
SQUEAKY CLEAN: The slips and slides of the soft clay have been replaced by the squeaks of sneakers on the hard courts.
Nobody is handling the switch better than Rafael Nadal.
Nadal improved to 16-0 this year on the hard surface Monday, defeating American Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
“It’s difficult to analyze now,” Nadal said, when asked if he’s playing the best hard-court tennis of his career. “I am playing well. Happy the way I was playing. I don’t know if it was the best or not, but it was very good because I was able to win.”
The victory in front of a half-full Arthur Ashe Stadium marked the first for second-seeded Nadal on any Grand Slam surface other than clay since the first round of Wimbledon in 2012.
EARLY SCARE: American Sloane Stephens overcame numerous deficits Monday to pull out a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Mandy Minella.
Stephens, seeded 15th, lost the first set to the 110th-ranked Minella and trailed 4-2 in the third, then 3-1 in the final-set tiebreaker.
Stephens won five consecutive points from there, then closed it out on her third match point to improve to 9-1 in the first rounds of majors.
BRIT SPRINGS UPSET: Daniel Evans’ tattoo was mocked by Laura Robson, so he questioned some of her hairstyle choices.
British tennis is all smiles these days. At the site of Andy Murray’s breakthrough last year, Evans notched the first big upset of this U.S. Open.
Ranked 179th, Evans stunned 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, in Monday’s first round. The two players are both 23, but their careers share little else in common.
Nishikori was already playing in his 17th major tournament, coming in with a 25-16 record that includes a run to the quarterfinals at the 2012 Australian Open. Evans was making his debut at the U.S. Open and had been 0-2 in Grand Slam matches, both coming at Wimbledon.