James Blake Wins Final in Stockholm

Sunday, October 15th 2006, 4:31 pm
By: News On 6

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ James Blake defeated Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 6-2 Sunday to win the Stockholm Open for the second straight year.

The second-seeded American became the first player since Thomas Enqvist in 1996 to defend his title at the Royal Tennis Hall.

``I'm really happy that I did get a chance to defend. I've never done it successfully before,'' Blake said after receiving the winner's trophy from Bjorn Borg. ``I'm proud of the accomplishment. I beat some pretty darn good players this week.''

The 26-year-old Blake also improved his chances of reaching the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup next month in Shanghai, China. He is sixth in the standings with 410 points, with the top eight qualifying.

It was the fifth ATP title of the season for Blake, tying him for second with Rafael Nadal. Only Roger Federer (nine) has won more.

Nieminen, seeded fifth, lost the final for the second time. Sjeng Schalken beat the Finn in 2001.

Nieminen was coming off a tough semifinal that went to three tiebreakers.

``I don't know if it was fatigue,'' Blake said. ``I don't know if it was me kind of playing kind of well and winning all those big points. He's generally a mentally tough player.''

Blake won the first set in 32 minutes after breaking Nieminen's serve twice.

The second set lasted only 23 minutes. Blake broke in the first game, then added another break to lead 4-1 when Nieminen netted a volley.

This was Blake's fourth consecutive win over Nieminen. Two weeks ago, he beat him in the semifinals en route to the title in Bangkok.

Blake is unbeaten in 10 matches in the Stockholm Open. He won the tournament in his first appearance in the Swedish capital last year.