Blake falls in Aussie Open qualifying

It was an Australian Open qualifying match that wouldn’t have been out of place in the main draw. A few years ago, it would have been.

Former No. 4-ranked James Blake lost his qualifying match Friday to fellow American and one-time prodigy Donald Young 7-5, 6-4 at Melbourne Park. Young, ranked as high as 38th less than a year ago, is now 189th after winning only five matches last year and losing 24, including a run of 17 consecutive defeats.

The loss ended the 33-year-old Blake’s attempt at playing one of his favorite Grand Slam tournaments, and where he’s enjoyed some of his better moments in tennis before a series of injuries over the past decade – including a broken back, paralyzing shingles and most recently knee surgery – took their toll.

Now ranked 124th, Blake found himself having to qualify at a Grand Slam for the first time in eight years after missing the cut-off mark for direct entry into the main draw due to his knee problems. He had missed the Australian Open the past two years.

Blake, who has 10 career singles titles, reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park in 2008 and the fourth round four other times. In 2010, he lost 10-8 in the fifth set of a match against Juan Martin del Potro, who won the 2009 U.S. Open.

”I don’t want to be sitting at home when I feel good about my game,” Blake told the Australian Open website before the qualifying tournament began. ”If I have to play `qualies,’ then so be it.”

There has been good news at home for Blake. Last year, he married his publicist, Emily Snider. They have a daughter, Riley Elizabeth, born last June.