Blake loses in U.S. Men's Clay Court final

HOUSTON The seventh-seeded Spaniard came back from 3-0 down in the third set, turning back the American who at one point won 18 of 19 points.

But Granollers-Pujol, No. 84 in the world, would not go away and Blake, the world's eighth-ranked player, missed a chance to win his first clay-court title. He lost in the quarterfinals two years ago, the semifinals last year and reached the final this year.

The Spaniard won it when Blake hit a backhand long. After the match, Granollers-Pujol turned to his coach and screamed as he squatted and clenched his fists.

"I feel very, very good," the 22-year-old Barcelona resident said. "It's my best day of my life, I think. I'm very happy for this."

He served for the match a first time up 5-4 but netted an easy backhand volley at 30-all that would have taken him to match point. Blake closed out the game to break.

Up 30-love on his own serve, Blake missed a backhand passing shot after the Spaniard approached the net. Blake lost the next three points to drop his serve and only managed one point when Granollers-Pujol served for the match.

Afterward, he and his coach leaped into the River Oaks Country Club pool in celebration.

The match was stopped for about 20 minutes early in the second set when a spectator collapsed and paramedics came to treat him and wheel him out on a gurney. Because of the break, the players were allowed a warm-up before resuming play.

When Granollers-Pujol was down 3-0 in the final set, the Spaniard didn't crater. He held and broke Blake in a game that had four deuces. He got the break after Blake chased down a deft dropshot, returned it up the line before Granollers-Pujol hit a crosscourt backhand passing shot that the American could only touch with his frame.

"When I made 3-2, I think I come back very, very good and with more power." the Spaniard said.

Blake said he was going for a little too much with his shots when he was up 3-0.

"And maybe I started thinking that the finish line was in sight," Blake said. "He made me hit the extra ball every single time."

Blake was despondent that he let the match slip away.

"Right now, I'm very upset about it, very disappointed," the No. 2 American said. "But hopefully in a day or two I'll think about the fact that at least I made it to the finals of my first clay-court tournament and had chances to win it."

The Spaniard said he tried not to think about having lost his serve when he was up 5-4.

"I miss an easy volley, but I come back good and finally I can win the match," he said.

Granollers-Pujol, unlike most other Spanish players, hits little topspin on his backhand and meets the ball tight to his body. The ball has little if any spin.

"It's definitely different looking but it's very effective and, I think, his better wing," Blake said. "He doesn't miss it much at all and he can kind of put wherever he wants to. It doesn't matter what it looks like, he gets the job done."

Blake lauded the Spaniard's play.

"He played well, fought hard and competed very well all week," he said. "I wish I could have played better (in the final) and executed a little better."

Blake has been here before this year. Blake lost to 18-year-old Kei Nishikori of Japan in three sets in Delray Beach, Fla., in February. It was the teen's first career final.

"It's tough because I'm really happy for (Granollers-Pujol)," Blake said. "This is now the second time this year I've kind of made a young player's day. It's tough being on the receiving end of it."

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