Veteran Blake advances at Atlanta Open

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iol spt july18 James Blake AFP James Blake overcame a slow start and a 2-1/2 hour rain delay to beat fellow American and No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 at the Atlanta Open.

Atlanta – Veteran James Blake overcame a slow start and a 2-1/2 hour rain delay to beat fellow American and No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 at the Atlanta Open on Tuesday.

Blake is 32 years old, coming off right knee surgery and playing with a sore right shoulder, but his game was precise enough against No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison to win his 350th career match on the ATP World Tour.

“My knee hasn't been that far off, but it's been far enough off that it's affected me,” Blake said. “When that starts getting better, my shoulder starts giving me problems, and it makes me realize I'm not 20, like Ryan, anymore.”

Eighth-seeded Go Soeda of Japan, Matthew Ebden of Australia and Michael Russell overcame a nearly three-hour rain delay in the afternoon matches.

Soeda beat Belgium's Xavier Malisse 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 and advanced to a second-round clash with Russia's Igor Kunitsyn.

Ebden held off qualifier Sergei Bubka of Ukraine 5-7, 6-1, 6-1

and will next meet Blake, who won a match for the first time since last Nov. 3. He was 0-6 this year.

Harrison was disappointed in the outcome, but doesn't believe the setback will affect his preparation for the Olympics. After a difficult second set, he seemed to have gathered himself together with Russell beat Alex Kuznetsov 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4), setting up a meeting with fifth-seeded South African Kevin Anderson.

John Isner and two-time defending champion Mardy Fish, the second seed, will play their first-round matches on Thursday.

Third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and Roddick will play their first-round matches on Wednesday.

Malisse had 10 aces before Soeda broke his serve to go up 6-5 in the second. It was one of two break points Soeda won in nine tries.

Russell was down 3-4 in the second set, but shifted the momentum by breaking Kuznetsov's serve.

“As soon as I saw that he was a little bit tight, I was able to get some free points,” Russell said. “He got a little frustrated towards the end of that second set.”

Russell managed one ace to 14 for Kuznetsov.

“Even when it still got down to that second set, I knew he still would have to come up with either a great serve or a great shot to beat me,” Russell said. “I was able to get through those tight games.”

Nishikori will face Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, a 6-3, 6-2

winner over Russia's Dmitry Tursunov. Roddick will play Nicolas Mahut of France.

In the late match, Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium breezed past Rajeev Ram 6-1, 6-3. – Sapa-AP

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