Tennis

Injured Blake's career in tough spot

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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WIMBLEDON, England

James Blake’s career appeared to be in jeopardy after he fought through more pain in his right knee in the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday — and lost 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 to Robin Haase of Holland who is ranked No. 151 in the world.

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Partially as a result of his 10-week injury layoff, Blake’s ranking is not much better — No. 109 — but that is the least of his problems at the moment.

“The knee is not great,” he said after the match, looking morose. “If it doesn’t get better soon, I’m not sure how much longer I want to play in pain. I’m doing my best. We’re trying everything, so hopefully we’ll find a solution. It was fine in Eastbourne and then had a little setback.”

Blake says he really wants to play the U.S. Open Series in the summer but is going to wait and see how the knee shapes up in the next two weeks. He says he doesn’t want to have surgery, which is one option, but is obviously not helping himself by refusing pain killers as well.

“I’ve never taken an anti-inflammatory or a painkiller in my life,” he said. “They asked me to do that but I didn’t do it. Maybe I am hurting myself by not doing that. I don’t know. It’s just something I’ve always stuck to since I was a kid. Sort of been a bit of a health nut and thought they were something that can mess up your stomach in the long run. You can get too used to taking them and build up a tolerance and become dependent on them.

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"I know rationally that doesn’t make sense because I don’t feel I have the addictive type personality and don’t have any other vices like that. I just usually like knowing what’s going into my body. If my shoulder or knee hurts, I want to know why. I don’t want it masked. And if I feel too much pain and I can’t take it, then I shouldn’t be playing.”

Blake, of course, is not new to suffering and a painful knee must seem somewhat less desperate than the situation he found himself in when he crashed into that net post in Rome, hurt his neck and became partially paralyzed in the face for several months afterwards. Coping with all that trauma, plus the death of his father, became the subject of his fascinating best seller “Breaking Back."

He will need a few more breaks to get out of his current situation and he admits that it is largely his love of competition that keeps him going. But, without surgery and without an aspirin, the future of this fine but frequently unlucky athlete may lie outside the tennis court.

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