Asked by a reporter earlier this week about his schedule for the remainder of the year, James Blake could not resist the chance to let U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe know about his desire to be on the team that will face Belgium Sept. 23-25 in a playoff.
Blake can rest assured that he is one of several players McEnroe is considering. McEnroe said he has watched Blake's improvement since broken neck vertebrae and shingles sidelined him for much of last year.
Among the players McEnroe said he is considering are U.S. Open Series leader Robby Ginepri and Vince Spadea. He also is waiting to gauge Andre Agassi's interest, which he believes will depend on how well he performs at the U.S. Open later this month.
Blake, ranked No. 101, made his Davis Cup debut in 2000 and competed again in 2002, when the United States made it to the semifinals. He was chosen again in 2003.
"First of all, we all feel for what Blake had to go through just to get back," McEnroe said. "Now that he is healthy, you're starting to see that his results are improving. He's definitely had a nice run of late here."
McEnroe said Blake's athletic ability makes him a strong contender for the clay-court surface in Leuven, Belgium. He also was impressed when Blake won a clay-court challenger at Forest Hills, N.Y., in May. He planned to watch Blake in his semifinal win against Tomas Berdych last night.
"Let's just say, I've taken notice," said McEnroe, laughing.
Harkleroad on a Comeback
It doesn't seem odd to 20-year-old Ashley Harkleroad that she is making a comeback after a 10-month layoff. After all, Jennifer Capriati did the same after some off-court trouble, and returned to win two more Grand Slams.
At a peak ranking of 40 on the WTA Tour last year, Harkleroad made the difficult decision to take time off after she developed severe swelling in her right elbow and her mother learned she had skin cancer.
Harkleroad, who is 170th in the WTA rankings, advanced to today's final of the Legg Mason Women's USTA Pro Circuit event. Harkleroad will face Olga Poutchkova, who defeated Suchanan Viratprasert, 6-2, 6-3.
Harkleroad won a Pro Circuit event in Louisville in July and qualified for Wimbledon a month earlier, where she lost in the first round to Jill Craybas. Harkleroad, though, probably is best known for wearing extra tight shorts and a midriff-baring top in a first-round loss at the U.S. Open in 2001.
"I definitely feel like I'm getting into a groove," said Harkleroad, who hopes to get a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open. "The most challenging thing about coming back has been doing it. I've had to just tell myself that it is going to take a while. If I hadn't got off to a strong [start] at Wimbledon, who knows where I would have been."