James Blake’s time of year has come. He showed it Thursday at the BB&T Atlanta Open, knocking out No. 8 seed Evgeny Donskoy 6-3, 6-2 in their second-round match.
“I always feel like hard-court summer is my best chance to get points, to play my best tennis,” said Blake, whose 10 career titles have all come on hard court. “The courts usually suit me the best. When it’s not, I play pretty well.”
Blake is through to the quarterfinals for the first time in his four appearances in Atlanta. The former world top-five player has won his first two matches in the main draw of an ATP World Tour event for the first time since the Sony Open in Miami in March. Thursday’s heat didn’t bother him much.
“For me, once I get used to it, it’s not as much of a problem,” he said, “so getting through that first match for me was huge, because once I get through it, I feel I’m in good shape in the heat.”
Blake, warmly supported by the Atlanta crowd, likes the venue at Atlantic Station.
“I love it,” he said. “The convenience of it, being right in the heart of the city. I think it helps for the fans, too. You just come straight from work and go right out and watch some great tennis. I think this is a ton of fun. The facilities are great. They’ve got everything we could ask for.”
Results: In other singles matches, Denis Istomin defeated fifth-seeded Yen-Hsun Lu 7-5, 6-2. No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson eliminated Matthew Ebden 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-2.
Michael Russell, who defeated two-time winner Mardy Fish on Wednesday night, retired from his match against Santiago Giraldo because of a stomach ailment. Giraldo advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-7, 6-3, 3-0 (ret.) decision.
In the first match of the day, the doubles team of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram knocked out the top-seeded entry of Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the quarterfinals. The Dodig-Melo pairing became the top seed when the world No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan pulled out because of a left-shoulder injury to Bob Bryan.
Erlich and Ram, both from Israel, won 7-5, 4-6 (10-8).
The doubles team of Chris Guccione and Lleyton Hewitt defeated Rajeev Ram and Ken Skupski 6-1, 6-2.
Former Georgia Tech teammates Kevin King and Juan-Carlos Spir, who received a wild card into the draw after the Bryans pulled out, gave a run at Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Igor Sijsling before losing 7-5, 6-3. Longtime doubles partners, King and Spir will head to South America to play in tournaments together.
Schedule: The schedule, set by tournament organizers for Friday, includes all four singles quarterfinals.
On the stadium court, No. 3 seed Ivan Dodig will play No. 7 seed Lleyton Hewitt at 1 p.m. John Isner will play Blake in the next match, not to begin before 4 p.m. Giraldo will face Ryan Harrison on the stadium court, not to start before 7 p.m. Istomin will play Kevin Anderson in the final stadium match, not to start before 9 p.m.
On the grandstand court, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Igor Sijsling will play Ricardas Berankis and Giraldo at 7 p.m.
On TV: Television coverage of the event will begin Friday. ESPN2 will carry singles quarterfinals at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Tennis Channel will broadcast the third quarterfinal beginning at 9 p.m. On Saturday, ESPN2 will have a semifinal at 4 p.m., and the Tennis Channel will have the other at 8 p.m. Sunday’s final will be aired on ESPN2 at 3 p.m.
Sam Gore and Jimmy Arias will call the action on ESPN2. The Tennis Channel team is Justin Gimelstob, Mark Knowles and Brett Haber.