Monday, August 12, 2002

Martin, Blake make big pitch for Davis Cup

Doubles champs impress McEnroe in 7-5, 6-3 victory

By Dave Schutte
Enquirer contributor

        MASON — Todd Martin and James Blake pulled off another upset Sunday to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters doubles championship, and they might have made the U.S. Davis Cup team in the process.

Todd Martin and James Blake hold their doubles trophies.
(Greg Ruffing photo)
| ZOOM |
        Playing with poise, confidence, finesse and enthusiasm, the unseeded Martin and Blake defeated the No. 3-seeded team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi 7-5, 6-3 at the ATP Tennis Center in Mason.

        It was Blake's first championship in either singles or doubles. Martin has 13 singles and doubles titles.

        After the win, Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe stopped short of making a commitment to Martin and Blake, saying: “They beat a lot of good teams and it gives me a lot more confidence in them.”

        The pair won a Davis Cup match in April, beating Spain's Juan Balcells and Alberto Martin.

        Sunday's win was significant for reasons other than the Davis Cup. Blake is the first African-American player to win a championship at the Cincinnati tournament that dates back to 1968. It was Martin's first Super Nine tournament championship.

        After the match, with 10,000 fans standing and cheering, Martin and Blake embraced before accepting the winner's trophy and $135,150 in prize money. The duo signed autographs for nearly 20 minutes before leaving the stadium court.

        “It's been a lot of fun playing with Todd and I'd like to do it again in France,” said Blake. The U.S. plays France in Davis Cup action Sept. 20-22.

        The unlikely duo of Martin, a 32-year-old veteran, and the 22-year-old up-and-coming star Blake began last year in Cincinnati.

        “I jokingly asked Todd if he would play doubles,” Blake recalled. “He decided to join me and I owe him a lot.”

        After winning a first-round match last year, they were forced to default the second match after Martin was hurt during a second-round singles loss to Nicolas Kiefer.

        “Todd told me he'd make it up and I assumed it would be this year in Cincinnati,” Blake said. “Todd's tossed me a few other bones, but he kept his word about playing.”

        Martin had nothing but praise for Blake's play in the championship match.

        “Luckily in the first set, the guy with firepower was solid while I struggled,” Martin said. “In the two games we broke them, we were both solid at the net.”

        Leading 6-5 in the first set, Martin came through with an outstanding shot down the line, and Blake

        nailed a backhand winner off Bhupathi's first serve.

        Obviously upset by the first-set loss, Mirnyi appeared tight serving at 0-1 in the second set. He had two double faults, allowing Martin and Blake to break and take a 2-0 lead, which they extended to 4-1.

        Blake and Martin will part ways next week in Washington, D.C., when Blake plays doubles with his brother. And Blake doesn't plan to play doubles in the U.S. Open.

        But, will the duo be able someday to say “We always had Paris?”

        Stay tuned. McEnroe plans to announce the U.S. Davis Cup team after the U.S. Open.

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