James Blake loses, Andy Murray wins in weather-delayed matches

James Blake reacts after hitting a forehand just James Blake reacts after hitting a forehand just wide to Ivo Karlovic in their first round men's singles match. (Aug. 28, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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Conclusions were not being reached easily -- if at all -- at the U.S. Open Wednesday. Extended weather delays had Open officials scrambling to shoehorn 18 first-round men's matches into a late-evening window and postponing eight second-round women's matches until Thursday.

Day-session matches still were undecided past 11 p.m. The night match scheduled for 7 p.m., with defending champion Andy Murray, didn't start until 9:55.

Through the long day's journey into night, form held except for 29-year-old, 128th-ranked American Rajeev Ram's straight-sets upset of No. 16 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy. The expected results included Murray's 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory over France's 49th-ranked Michael Llodra.

Even James Blake's swan song seemed to take forever, the match starting three hours late and not ending until after midnight, the 33-year-old Blake's two-set lead slowly slipped away to 6-10 Croatian veteran Ivo Karlovic and was sent into retirement, 6-7 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2).

While night-session ticket holders were held outside Arthur Ashe Stadium for more than three hours, former Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, ranked No. 74 , alternately scrapped with each other and waited out the rain.

They started at 1 p.m. and finished at 9:20, with del Potro finding Garcia-Lopez no more cooperative than the annoying drizzle that kept the hard courts just slick enough to be dangerous.

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Garcia-Lopez repeatedly called for a trainer to work on his left hamstring and, upon resuming play, pestered the erratic del Potro with surprising movement. Not until Garcia-Lopez faced a fourth match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker did del Potro complete matters. With a cross-court backhand off a short Garcia-Lopez return, del Potro was through -- barely -- to the second round, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (7).

"It was a long day for me and the rest of the players," said del Potro, the 24-year-old Argentine whose 2009 Open title was followed by wrist surgery and a long rehabilitation. "Sometimes it's frustrating, but we are all professionals. In the end, if you win, everything is OK."

The day's drawn-out theme certainly applied to Blake, who was near the end of the third day of a planned retirement he announced on Monday. He didn't strike a ball until 8:40 p.m., because what was supposed to have been a 1 p.m. Venus Williams match in Louis Armstrong Stadium still was being played out.

Against Karlovic, Blake was scrambling to play another day, while many kind words about him -- a form of tennis eulogy -- flowed from his colleagues. "When I was 17," said Sam Querrey, "before Australia [Open], he was in Chicago around Christmastime, and I remember he invited me there for five days to practice with him, which as a 17-year-old I thought was one of the coolest things."

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