New US number one James Blake sets sights on Grand Slam
November 24, 2006 7:45pm CST
New US number one James Blake has set his sights on next year's Grand Slams after outstripping Andy Roddick's ranking with an impressive performance at the Masters Cup. Blake was the last to qualify for the season-ending tournament but surprised three top-10 players to reach the final, pushing his ranking to a career-best fourth. He said the run had given him the confidence that he could compete in next season's biggest tournaments, after reaching this year's US Open quarter-finals in his native New York. But he said his biggest problem was top-ranked Roger Federer, who ended his US Open run and thrashed him 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's final. "If I could do something about that (Federer), then I've got a good chance maybe at one of the Grand Slams," Blake said. "I think Australia is a good chance for me. The US Open is a good chance for me. The other two surfaces I'm not as comfortable on, but I still think I can improve on those surfaces. "You never know. Being number four in the world gives me better draws at the Grand Slams, and I know it also comes with added pressure. "But I feel like I'm up to that now, being a little older, more mature, learning a lot from the guys who come before me, and I think I do have a chance at the Grand Slams." Blake claimed five titles and broke into the top 10 for the first time this season, just two years after a series of setbacks saw him drop to 210 in the rankings. The 26-year-old broke his neck, lost his father to cancer and developed shingles which partly paralysed his face, putting his career in doubt. He is writing a book about his troubles but said the thought of his progress still made him emotional. "To to be sitting on my couch dizzy and feeling like I couldn't get up to get anything to eat two years ago, to being number four in the world now, to me is something I don't stop and think about too often because I know it would just make me tear up or something," he said. "It's something that I never thought was possible. I'm proud to have done it. But I know there's no chance in the world I would have been able to do it without the people around me." Blake ends the year as the top US player ahead of Roddick, whose ranking dropped a place to sixth after he failed to make the semi-finals here. But he insisted there was only friendly rivalry with the Texas resident, who is enjoying a renaissance under advisor Jimmy Connors. "It's not uncomfortable. It's something we'll joke about," he said. "We're friendly rivals. I've gotten him the last two times but he's gotten me a whole bunch of times head-to-head."