James Blake got it wrong on his NCAA bracket.
But he got it right on Stadium Court, where he wasn’t supposed to be Friday until Dimitry Tursunov’s “acute gastroenteritis” helped advance fifth-ranked David Ferrer in the Sony Open — meaning Blake got his second-round match moved from the Grandstand in the far corner of the Tennis Center at Crandon Park to the home of the elite.
World No. 95 Blake, a fan favorite and at 33, the second oldest U.S. player in the Top 100, never thought his former school Harvard would win its NCAA Tournament opener Thursday against New Mexico, so he left the Crimson off his bracket. But he nonetheless followed his school’s lead by upsetting 27th-ranked Julien Benneteau 6-2, 6-3 on Friday as an adoring Stadium Court crowd stood and roared its approval.
A long time later, after rain delays set back play nearly three hours, 89th-ranked Tobias Kamke of Germany provided the first major upset of the tournament, defeating world No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
“Yeah, we have a big delay, but [it] doesn’t affect my game,” Del Potro said. “I come to the court again trying to be aggressive, but I made a lot of mistakes [with] my forehand.
“Just a bad day and he played really well.”
The next delay came in the middle of No. 2 Maria Sharapova’s match against wild card Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. A 14-minute power outage blackened the premises and caused a 27-minute delay on Stadium Court. Sharapova, the Russian who lost in the 2012 Sony final, followed Del Potro’s match with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Finally, in a late Friday match that was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. but didn’t begin until 10:30, world No. 1 and reigning two-time Sony Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia defeated Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-0.
For Blake, a wild-card entrant once ranked as high as No. 4 to end the 2006 season, the match marked the second time this week he won in straight sets. Because it was scheduled for the early afternoon, he said he went to sleep too early Thursday to watch basketball.
“Still upset for me for not taking Harvard in my bracket,” Blake said. “I thought I was being silly and loyal, but I was like, ‘Be smart and realistic.’ I should have gone with my heart.”
On Friday he dug deep into the Blake James’ oldies-but-goodies vault, rocking a strong net game and plenty of confidence against 31-year-old Benneteau.
“It seems like a long time ago I was in the Top 10 but today I felt pretty good at the advanced age of 33,” an energetic, visibly happy Blake said into a microphone to his cheering fans. “It’s a matter of still enjoying it so much that it makes it worth it,” he said later at his press conference. “Makes it a lot of fun. I know I probably don’t give quite as much emotion as I did when I was younger. I can’t use all that [energy] up giving a ton of fist pumps and jumping up and down, but I do have that same excitement burning inside.
“I’m realistic. I hope I’ve got plenty left in the tank, but I’m also… getting into senior citizen range on tour.”
But not too old to be the father of a 9-month old daughter, Riley.
“They’re here,” he said of his wife and baby. “Riley was up in the suite watching. It just changes your perspective on everything.”
Blake, who has 10 ATP World titles but hasn’t won one since 2007, will meet No. 61 Albert Ramos of Spain in the next round on Sunday. Ramos upset 14th-ranked Juan Monaco of Argentina, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
“If someone gets to the third round here they deserve to be here,” Blake said of Ramos. “I can’t look at someone and say, ‘This should be easy.’ I’ve got to be ready and sharp for anyone I’m playing out here.”
Blake was asked if he realized that Kimiko Date-Krumm, at 42 the oldest woman on the WTA, had saved six match points Thursday before falling to former world No. 1 Venus Williams.
“Yeah, I do know that,” he said. “That’s impressive. I don’t think you’ll see me out here at 42. I wish my body would hold up for that long, but it’s just not possible these days.”