Isner, Blake win in rainy Pilot Pen

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - American rookie John Isner waited through nine hours of rain, then beat Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4 in 57 minutes Tuesday night in the first round of the Pilot Pen.

Fan favorite James Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, also won his first match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, over Arnaud Clement of France in front of a rowdy group of fans known as the "J-Block" who showed up for the late match, despite the weather.

There were nine service breaks in the match, six by the third-seeded Blake, who broke Clement in the final game of each set. Clement was visibly upset by the numerous shouts from the pro-Blake crowd of 6,785, many coming as he was about to serve.

"(It was) maybe a little much tonight," Blake said. "He's a player that takes a little while in between points, and I don't know if he realized that they might not be the best idea against them, to give them that much time to get ramped up and get excited between every point."

Blake, who lost in the finals Sunday in Cincinnati to Roger Federer, said he likes the way he's playing heading into the U.S. Open next week.

"I feel like I'm playing better than in 2005, when I won here," he said.

Isner, the 6-foot-9 former University of Georgia standout had 14 aces, and was seldom in danger of being broken by the much smaller (5-10) German.

Isner and Becker were originally scheduled to play Monday night, but that match was rescheduled to Tuesday morning, and then rescheduled again when rain wiped out the entire day session.

n END MAY BE NEAR FOR HENMAN: Sidelined by a bum knee and slowed by a bad back, Tim Henman is in tough shape heading into the U.S. Open.

Once among the top players in the world, the four-time Wimbledon semifinalist has fallen to

No. 92 in the rankings. His slide prompted reports he might soon retire, and Henman planned to discuss his tennis future Thursday.

"Because of the recent press speculation I will be holding a press conference in New York ahead of the U.S. Open ... to discuss my plans for the remainder of 2007," Henman said on his Web site. "Until then, I'll continue to work hard on regaining full fitness ahead of the U.S. Open."

The 32-year-old Henman is entered in the U.S. Open, which begins Monday, and is scheduled to play for Britain against Croatia next month for a spot in the Davis Cup's World Group.


n DONOVAN LOOKS FOR SCORING MARK AGAINST SWEDEN: Landon Donovan could become the United States' career scoring leader when the Americans play Sweden in an exhibition game.

The 25-year-old forward is tied with Eric Wynalda with 34 goals for the national team. He also could break U.S. records for goals and points in a year. Donovan's nine goals equal the mark set by Wynalda in 1996, and his 21 points match Cobi Jones' output in 2000.

Donovan's last competitive games in Europe for the national team were in the World Cup in Germany last year, when they Americans didn't survive the first round.

"In the past we haven't played very well in Europe," Donovan said after the team's last workout Tuesday. "So for us it's another opportunity to do well against a European team in Europe. Obviously, the game doesn't mean anything towards anything. But it's a very good experience for us."


n CANUCKS RE-SIGN LINDEN FOR 16TH SEASON: Trevor Linden re-signed with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $600,000.

The 37-year-old Linden, who will be entering his 16th season with the Canucks, can earn an additional $350,000 in bonuses for games played.

"For the last week or so, I was, for the lack of a better word, getting a little cranky," said Linden, who has played 18 seasons in the NHL. "Just with the uncertainty, now it focuses in for me ... it just puts some closure to it."

Linden, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound center, is the Canucks' career leader with 1,081 games played and 721 points. He was a presence in Vancouver's 12 playoff games last season, tying for the team lead in scoring with seven points. He scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the first-round series against the Dallas Stars.

Auto racing

n NHRA RACES PUT ON HOLD AGAIN: Rain has once again postponed action at the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa. After on-and-off light showers all day Tuesday at Maple Grove Raceway, a hard mid-afternoon storm crushed any hope of vehicles being run safely down the track. Weather permitting, action will resume today at 9 a.m.