It's been a long time coming for the former fourth-ranked tennis player in the world, American James Blake, who defeated qualifier Jesse Levine in straight sets of the first round of the 2011 SAP Open. 7-5 and 6-4 was the score for Blake, and that 7-5 was a hard-fought set if there ever was one.
Blake met Levine with several early break opportunities, but squandered the break points and fell behind 5-4 in the first set. The two exchanged breaks though, as Levine took the lead as Blake failed to hold serve, but was broken right back as Blake went on to take nine games out of the last ten in the set.
One poor forehand later, and they were on to the second set where Blake dominated thoroughly. It was Blake's first win in over four months, a stretch of time that had to be unbearable for the former world number four. He's now ranked 170 in the world, and starting either the second or third "comeback" of his career. His four month absence from competition was due to shoulder and knee injuries he experienced in Vienna in October of 2010.
It's a long way back to the top for Blake, who previously had experienced a broken neck in 2004. However, his road to the aforementioned top five came two years following the very serious injury.
In the highlight exhibition matchup of Monday, Gael Monfils (number 12 in the world) beat 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras in straight sets. It was a fun matchup that say Sampras play very technically sound tennis, but he was unable to keep up with the raw speed and power of Monfils, a player who often beats others in their prime with such a skillset.
It was the first match at the SAP Open for Monfils, who will play local Stanford University product Bradley Klahn on Wednesday after defending champion Fernando Verdasco takes on his opponent earlier in the day.