Over the last few years, the Australian Open has become accustomed to seeing the most unlikely of players reach the latter stages of the first Grand Slam on the tennis calendar.
Names such as Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, Fernando Gonzalez, and Marcos Baghdatis managed to kick start their careers while playing at the Australian Open, thus establishing themselves as key forces on the ATP tour.
Others such as Marat Safin and most recently Jelena Dokic have been able to resurrect their careers somewhat playing down under.
As the 2010 Australian Open summer begins, there will be a host of other players seeking to re-establish themselves on either the ATP or WTA tour.
Former world No. 4 James Blake will undoubtedly be one of those players desperate to find the necessary spark that will help the American re-discover his best form.
Currently ranked 44th in the ATP rankings, Blake has experienced a steady decline since winning his last title in 2007—the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven.
Despite making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2008, Blake exited in the second round of both the French Open and Wimbledon, before succumbing in the third round at the US Open.
Thoughts of retirement must have plagued Blake's mind in 2009, as the American saw his ranking plummet following very lean results in each Grand Slam tournament.
After a somewhat respectable showing at the Australian Open, Blake's season headed south, as he exited in the first round at the French Open and Wimbledon, before losing to Spaniard Tommy Robredo in the third round at the US Open.
Immediately following his loss at Flushing Meadows, Blake parted ways with former coach Brian Barker, who was then replaced by Kelly Jones.
It was the first move in hopefully rectifying a poor 2009 season which saw the American finish just inside the ATP top fifty.
No doubt Blake will be looking to continue his ascension up the rankings in the Brisbane International beginning on Jan. 3.
The 24 time ATP tour finalist will have to fight his way through a competitive list of players if he is to achieve peak form prior to the start of the Australian Open.
At age 30, Blake approaches a defining moment in a career which has experienced its fair share of ups and downs.
After a torrid 2009 on the ATP tour, Blake will be hoping that a solid showing in Brisbane will serve as the key to perhaps reigniting a career in an Australian Open summer which has become accustomed to seeing players come back with a bang.
Failure to do so, however, could spell the end for a player who really did have the qualities necessary to challenge for a maiden Grand Slam title.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!