When his crosscourt backhander winner flew past Fabrice Santoro’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.

“It’s finally gone,” he said. “I’ve had so many close ones with things not going my way and, finally, they did.”
France’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.

“I started cramping everywhere,” Santoro said. “I tried to give him some trouble and I think I did quite good.”