James Blake defeated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals at the Olympics but I’m not digging the tennis event so far.

After James Blake beat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals at the Olympics today, he said he had no idea how he did it then added:

Maybe if you play him enough times, he’s bound to have an off day. He didn’t play his best today, but I felt like I served well when I needed to, especially in that tiebreaker.

Blake did serve well – he faced only one break point and beat Federer in straight sets, 6-4 7-6(2) – but Blake’s statement does seem to epitomize Federer’s current predicament: no slam titles, losses to players like Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Simon, and now no Olympic gold medal after Federer had focused his year on Beijing.

Yes, if you play anyone enough times they’ll have an off day, and, as time goes on, they’ll start having more and more off days. Blake seemed to be saying that he didn’t beat Federer, Federer just didn’t show up. That thought must we wearing away at Federer’s mind, so how will he gather himself for the US Open? Losing the Wimbledon final must have been a huge emotional blow after coming back from two sets down, and being thrashed in the French Open final no doubt felt awful, but at least he reached the final of the last two slams and knowing his propensity for throwing the best face on difficult results, he’s probably telling himself that very thing.

And there’s also the matter of having played in the best match ever in that Wimbledon final. Not a bad way to make a positive out of a negative. As for me, I am not enjoying this thing called the Olympic tennis and now I don’t even have the prospect of the best final ever in the Olympics between Federer and Rafael Nadal. Has there ever been a famous Olympic tennis moment? Anyone know?

In fact, I’m not only not enjoying the Olympic tennis event, it’s irritating me. I find myself complaining about the past-midnight start time for Serena and Venus Williams’ first round doubles match on Tuesday night. Especially after Serena looked lead-footed in a loss to Elena Dementieva today and Venus double faulted nine times in the first set of a loss to Chinese player Li Na. Would the organizers have started a doubles match featuring Li Na after midnight?

Actually, they might have, but I’m whining and sniping because I’m jealous. Not only is my favorite sport declining in popularity in my part of the world – the U.S. – while it’s increasing in popularity in Asia, but it’s not a very popular Olympic sport and, worst of all, my part of the world is declining politically while China is ascending – which was, of course, the point of the beautiful but interminable opening ceremonies.

The whole thing is leaving me out of sorts and even a bit depressed. Take the streaming tennis matches on NBC’s Olympic website. They feel like those soccer games played to empty stadiums as punishment for bad behavior by home fans. Not only are the stands empty, but there’s no commentary either, no verbal commentary anyway.

Actually, there were people in the stands in the early rounds. They all wore yellow t-shirts and cheered for both players. They were like the volunteer seat-fillers at the Oscar ceremony who fill up seats when actors leave to go to the bathroom or receive their statuettes.

And that’s what’s missing. Energy, particularly the partisan version of it. If this was a Davis Cup event, there’d be drums banging and cymbals clashing every time a player won a point. If this was slam, momentum would build over the event until we were glued to the screen for the semifinals. We’d even be arguing about the commentators.

There is a big semifinal coming up. Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet in the semifinals and one of them will take home a gold or silver medal. Blake will play Fernando Gonzalez. Blake has lost five straight matches to Gonzalez and that is probably a better predictor of the outcome than Blake’s eight straight losses to Federer. You’d think Blake would have lost a ninth time but Federer’s matches are now totally unpredictable.

I will watch the semifinals and finals, but a few years from now, I won’t remember who medaled. Thank heavens the US Open is coming soon. Maybe the biggest tennis event in the US will cheer me up.

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