Blake Gets Back to Winning Ways at Tunica Challenger

May 9, 2005 12:27 PM

American James Blake picked up his first ATP Tour tournament win in three years this past weekend in Tunica, MS when he defeated Nashville's Brian Baker in straight sets at the inaugural Harrah's Entertainment $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger. The title win was his first since he captured his first championship in 2002 in Washington.

Blake, who was once ranked as high as No. 22, has had a very difficult year, enduring a variety of injuries, an illness and the passing of his father. Blake, once a regular on the American Davis Cup team, entered the Harrah's $50,000 Pro Challenger with a ranking of No. 187.

Blake, 25, only lost one set en route to the title. It came in his second round match against Frenchman Jerome Golmard. Along the way he also defeated fellow Americans Paul Goldstein (No. 3 seed) and Atlanta's Brian Vahaly.

The win was his fourth on the Challenger Circuit which he was playing on for the first time in three years.

Baker, 20, was playing in his first tournament since tearing ligaments in his left wrist at the ATP Tour stop in Memphis this past February.

Ranked 195th Baker earned a berth in the finals with an upset victory over No. 8 seed Juan-Pablo Guzman in the second round and a win over No. 6 seed Juan Pablo Brzezicki in the semis. Baker was the USTA Pro Circuits leading money winner in 2004.

Download the Harrah's Entertainment $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger draw here.

Blake has plans to compete in another Challenger in Forest Hills, NY before flying to Paris to play in the Qualifying tournament for the French Open.

"After you get a win like this, it kind of steadies you for the rest of the year,'' Blake said. ''You know you have the ability, but you're no longer doubting yourself in a third-set tiebreaker. You've won so you know you must doing something right. Hopefully that feeling is going to continue.''

The USTA organizes, sponsors, and administers the USTA Pro Circuit - the gateway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis professionals, and a frequent battleground for established players. The 2005 circuit features nearly 100 events for men and women. Prize money at the USTA Pro Circuit events range from $10,000 to $75,000. Players also earn valuable ATP and WTA tour ranking points. The USTA Pro Circuit boasts as alumni some of the biggest names in tennis, many of whom have gone on to Grand Slam titles, including Andre Agassi, Lindsay Davenport, Chanda Rubin, Tim Henman and Mary Pierce.