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Tennis: Blake to retire after US Open

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

James Blake, who snuck into the US Open as a youth by crawling under a fence, said Monday that he will end his 14-year career at his hometown Grand Slam event.

The 33-year-old right-hander announced his retirement from the conclusion of the US Open, which began Monday on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts where Blake reached his first Slam quarter-finals in 2005 and 2006.

And even after a tearful farewell announcement, he apologized for sneaking in so often all those years ago.

"If they want to take $40 out of my check this year for the tickets that I owe them, I'm happy to pay that," Blake said.

The former world number four, now fallen to 100th in the rankings, won 10 career ATP titles, the first in 2002 at Washington and the last in 2007 in New Haven and Sydney. He never reached a Grand Slam semi-final.

"Despite the tears, I'm actually really happy about this," Blake said. "It was becoming clearer and clearer most of this year. Little things throughout the year made it more obvious to me that this was the right time. Now it's crystal clear and I'm happy about it."

Blake, who enters his final event with a 366-255 ATP record and a 60-41 showing in Grand Slams, opens against Croatian qualifier Ivo Karlovic and could face Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka or Czech Radek Stepanek in the second round.

Blake lost to Roger Federer in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Australian Open and 2006 US Open, to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Olympic bronze-medal match and to Andre Agassi in the 2005 US Open quarter-finals in a fifth-set tie-breaker after ousting Rafael Nadal in the third round.

"I don't kid myself," Blake said. "I've had a great career in my eyes but it's not one that's going to go down in the history books. But it's one that I'm proud of.

"I really hope the mark is just that I did things the right way."

Blake defeated 14th-ranked Jerzy Janowicz of Poland last week at Winston-Salem, a triumph that helped convince him that he could leave on his own terms even as he was a threat to some of the world's best.

"I know I have the capability of still playing at that level at times," Blake said. "It's just not with the same consistency I was able to four or five years ago when I felt like every week was an opportunity to win a tournament. I don't feel like that as much anymore.

"I want to walk away when I know I still can. I don't want to be dragged out of this game. I don't want someone telling me I need to leave. I want to leave on my own terms."

Blake overcame scoliosis as a child that forced him to wear a back brace for 18 hours a day and a 2004 season where his father died, he suffered a severe back injury and was diagnosed with Zoster, a condition that dulled his hearing and vision and paralyzed part of his face.

"Easily could have ended right there," Blake said. "I know how lucky I am to be where I am."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130826/tennis-blake-retire-after-us-open