James Blake beats Kristof Vliegen 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

James Blake was honored on the first night of the U.S. Open. As

some friends pointed out, that’s the kind of recognition usually

reserved for retired players.

”They’re trying to get rid of me already,” Blake said with a

grin a night later.

The 30-year-old American isn’t going anywhere for now. He

cruised into the second round Tuesday, beating Kristof Vliegen of

Belgium 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Blake hadn’t lost in the first round at the Open since his debut

in 1999. But he’d also slipped to 108th in the rankings and needed

a wild card to get in.

”Really just happy to get through and hopefully put as little

stress on my body as possible since it’s getting older and there’s

plenty of miles on it these days,” he said.

Asked a question about Andre Agassi, Blake got to reminiscing

about their five-set classic in the 2005 quarterfinals – when

Agassi was 35.

”You know,” Blake said wistfully, ”there’s a chance I still

could be playing in four or five more years.”

On Monday night he was honored for overcoming adversity to

inspire others. He’ll keep doing so from the court in the second

round when he faces 205th-ranked qualifier Peter Polansky of

Canada, who knocked off 30th-seeded Juan Monaco.

”I don’t think I want to put it all into perspective quite yet,

because I think I’ve got more career left in me, more good

tennis,” Blake said. ”I’m looking forward to that. Then when I’m

done, I really hope I can sit back and really be proud.”