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James Blake loses his cool and the match

WIMBLEDON NOTES

The American takes issue with critical comments by ESPN analyst Pam Shriver he hears while playing, and they engage in a back and forth. He loses to unheralded Robin Haase, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

June 22, 2010|By Diane Pucin

Reporting from Wimbledon, England — It was an unseemly match for American James Blake.

He's been a major tournament quarterfinalist three times in his career, though never at Wimbledon.

And he has always been a graceful winner — and loser. Yet on Tuesday, as his game unraveled on Court 5 and he was falling to unheralded Dutchman Robin Haase, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, Blake overheard ESPN analyst Pam Shriver speaking critically of his play.

Blake yelled at Shriver, herself a former player, and used an obscenity while doing it.

Shriver's analysis of Blake included a mention that she thought Blake would have been eager for Wimbledon since he had been sidelined with a knee injury. "You might not be match-tough," Shriver said. "You might miss a lot of shots but mentally you're not burned out."

The network commentators sit outside, perched above the court, and Blake could hear her.

"Amazing you used to play tennis," Blake yelled. "I can still hear you." Shriver responded by saying on the air, "James just yelled at me. I'm way above the court but evidently he can hear me. He's got rabbit ears."

Blake, 30, heard that too and his next response included an obscenity. Shriver wouldn't be stopped though. "There he is, talking again," she said.

After his loss, a despondent Blake said his knee hurts and he's not sure how long he wants to play tennis in this shape.

"You know, it's almost embarrassing to go out and play a Grand Slam match like that," he said. "The knee is not great. I just took 10 weeks off. I thought that was going to do it and be the answer. The reason I wanted to take time off is I didn't want to continue playing in pain."

Shriver said she regretted engaging in any conversation with Blake after she realized she could be overheard.

"I should never have said a word to him once I realized he could hear me," Shriver said. "He was already down a set and a break and once I realized I could be heard, I've got to step back, talk quieter. That's the only thing I regret."

This is the first year ESPN has televised Court 5 and the broadcast position was unfamiliar to Shriver.

"And I helped make what happened into an exchange," she told The Times. "I shouldn't have."

No roofs on these courts

Americans John Isner and Vania King were not on Centre Court on Tuesday. There isn't a roof on the outside courts, so when it gets dark, play ends. Isner, seeded 23rd, forced a fifth set with his French opponent Nicolas Mahut on Court 18 by winning the fourth-set tiebreak. And Long Beach's King lost a second-set tiebreak to 24th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova after she had won the first set. So both Isner and King will need to prevail in winner-takes-match sets Wednesday.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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