Battered Blake hopes tap energy from rowdy Open crowd

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rejuvenated by the familiar surroundings of the U.S. Open, New Yorker James Blake promised to deliver some inspired tennis if his broken-down body will allow him to compete at a higher level.

James Blake of the United States hits a return to Peter Polansky of Canada during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Blake, who defied a host of ailments to beat Canada’s Peter Polansky 6-7 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Thursday, will need a full tank to deliver on his promise since he faces third seed Novak Djokovic in the third round.

But Blake, who is ranked 108th in the world and needed a wild card to get into the tournament, is hoping to feed off the hometown crowd’s energy at Flushing Meadows, where he has made it to the quarter-finals twice before.

“When I come to the Open, there is definitely something different, some memories for me, some good feelings,” he said. “Just the energy level from the crowd gets my feet moving a little better. I want to go on a good run for them.”

The 30-year-old has been taking anti-inflammatories for a damaged knee since Wimbledon and is also dealing with shoulder and hamstring injuries yet still pledged to play with a smile.

Despite the injury problems, Blake is confident his body will be able to handle the rigors of a run into the second week at the U.S. Open.

“You saw tonight there were some shots I was getting to that even some 21- and 22-year-olds might not have been getting to,” he said. “But I feel great, my knee’s feeling great.”

In his latest match, the crowd inside the Louis Armstrong Stadium got behind Blake from the outset with chants of “James, James, James” throughout the two-and-a-half hour encounter.

After that match, he credited the fans for his improved performance and promised something special in his next match on the show courts.

When asked what the Flushing Meadows crowd could expect from him for the remainder of the tournament, he said: “Well, hopefully some more pretty high level tennis and a lot of fun.

“People say I’ve been struggling and everything, but I’m still having fun. I’m still having a great time competing. I still love what I do, out here I love it even more.”

Editing by Frank Pingue