NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 04: James Blake of the United States reatcs after a point against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during his men's singles match on day six of the 2010 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

James Blake Playing SAP Open, Ending Four-Month Hiatus

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James Blake Playing SAP Open, Ending Four-Month Hiatus

There's no doubt American James Blake has been through a lot in his playing career. There was the broken neck after he slipped and fell onto a net post while training on a clay court in Rome in 2004. Then shingles that same year. The former World No. 4 hasn't played a match since September 2010, dropping straight sets to Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open, but he will take the court again this week in San Jose at the SAP Open.

The loss to Djokovic, as well as his 13-15 record, dropped him outside the top 100 for the first time in a decade. After that third round loss, he was quoted as saying that this was not a "pity tour," and hoping, "that wasn't my last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium."

The People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, currently ranked No. 171,  ranked No. 171, faces qualifier Jesse Levine in the first round of play. 

If Blake were to make it to the finals he might meet the reigning SAP Open champion Fernando Verdasco, as well as Juan Martin del Potro, Sam Qurry or Llyeton Hewitt, but first he'd have to pass No. 6 seed Benjamin Becker, No. 4 seed Xavier Malisse, and No. 2 seed Gael Monfils.

Although he's not sure he'll ever get back up to top-five playing condition, Blake is recovered from both knee and shoulder issues and is ready for his next comeback.

"Being healthy, it gives you a better perspective how much you miss the competition, how much you like to be out here," Blake said last week. "Once I'm out here playing, I'll let the ranking take care of itself. If I get back, I get back. If I don't, I'm going to have a whole lot of fun trying."    

"The hunger isn't gone," Blake said. "It's actually, if anything, gotten stronger because of the fact I've been out of competition for a while. We'll see how the next year, two years, three years, four years, however long I can play, goes. Right now, I've done everything I can to get back, everything I can to make the most out of my potential.

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