| James Blake says Sampras has been a big influence on all American players
Duesseldorf, May 24 (Reuters): While Andre Agassi will carry most of America’s hopes at the French Open, it is the new breed, led by Andy Roddick and James Blake, who will command much of the attention at Roland Garros over the next fortnight.
And though they have yet to break through with a Grand Slam victory, there seems little doubt that the young Americans are ready to make an impact on the biggest stage.
Roddick, 21, whose huge serve and forehand have already taken him to world No. 6, has always shown the talent to suggest he would be dangerous at Grand Slam events. Those who doubted his mental strength will have been impressed by his marathon victory over Younes El Aynaoui in the quarter finals at the Australian Open in January, a match he won 21-19 in the final set.
Fatigue and Rainer Schuettler got the better of him in the semi-finals but, for the first time outside the US, he proved himself to be a true contender for the biggest prizes.
Blake, 23, who along with Mardy Fish, Graydon Oliver and Todd Martin formed the US side at the World Team Cup in Duesseldorf, the week before Paris, has shown signs of making the big breakthrough. “I think I’m getting better and better,” Blake said this week. “I need to find that happy medium between attacking and being patient, and that’s not easy for me.”
Martin, 32, who has revelled in the company of the younger breed in Duesseldorf, said they still had a way to go. “They understand how to hit all the shots and understand probably what they need to do in their physical training but they don’t know how to put these elements together yet,” Martin said.
Pete Sampras, will be missing in Paris, but Blake said the seven-time Wimbledon champion had been a big influence on all the American players, particularly during their time together in Davis Cup.
“I used to have a really long memory, thinking about people I lost to in the under-12s and 14s,” Blake said. “But the person who helped me have a short memory was Pete Sampras. You have to do that in tennis and he really helped me a lot. He helped me see that you can be a good person and a good player.”