James Blake made it clear at the outset of the 2013 U.S. Open that this would be his final tournament, and that finality arrived sooner than he'd hoped. No matter how it happened, Blake determined his exit from the Open would end an alternately promising and disappointing 14-year career as a pro out of Harvard. That exit came in the first round, with a heartbreaking defeat in a long, rain-delayed match-up against the towering Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. The score: 6-7 (2-7), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2).
What was supposed to be a primetime match didn't get started until late Wednesday night because of intermittent rain. Early on, it seemed like Blake would handle things quickly, as he followed a hard-earned 7-6 first set with a breezier 6-3 win in the second set. The rest of the match took an unpleasantly familiar turn for Blake-- Karlovic broke his serve and took the third set 6-4, then outlasted him in consecutive tiebreaks. The final heartbreak came after midnight, in front of a sparse but vociferous crowd pulling desperately for Blake's survival. After collapsing for the last time, Blake gave a tearful address to his home fans.
And so ended a respectable if somewhat disappointing career for one of the better Americans of his era: 14 years, 10 titles, no stand-out Major finishes, no better ranking than fourth overall, but numerous fine moments and plenty of adversity conquered along the way.