When his crosscourt backhander winner flew past Fabrice Santoroâ€™s outstretched racket on the final point of a U.S. Open second round match Thursday night, James Blake dropped his racket near the baseline and stood silently for a moment, soaking in one of the more satisfying moments of his career…
After falling short in nine consecutive best-of-five-set matches, No. 6 seed Blake finally prevailed, outlasting Santoro 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in a drama-filled, crowd pleasing thriller that finished after midnight. As he moved toward the net for the congratulatory handshake Blake reached behind his back and snatched an imaginary monkey off his back.
â€œItâ€™s finally gone,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve had so many close ones with things not going my way and, finally, they did.â€
Franceâ€™s Santoro, 34, playing on wobbly legs caused by cramps in the final set, came close to posting the upset. But Blake, with a bit more gas in the tank, held on to advanced to the third round.
â€œI started cramping everywhere,â€ Santoro said. â€œI tried to give him some trouble and I think I did quite good.â€