Another of my favorite players James Blake, despite injuries continues playing professional tennis. The former world number 4 is participating in the challenger circuit event in Sacramento. He finds his way into the finals on Sunday. (Sacramento Challenger website http://www.natomaschallenger.com/News+%26+Media.html ) His enthusiasm for the game remains high; even though this venue is far from the scene of that 20,000 audience at the 2005 US Open quarterfinals that watched him battle with Agassi.
Ranked a career-high No. 4 in 2006, Blake plunged to No. 173 in March because of chronic tendonitis in his right knee. He “briefly considered” retiring last year but has rebounded to inside the top 100, at No. 63.
Read more about James below featuring excerpts from Blog: NorCal Tennis Czar
Blake having a ball, even in minor leagues
but James isn’t complaining…
“I don’t mind,” the top-seeded Blake said Monday after practicing with third seed and fellow American Sam Querrey for the $100,000 Rely Aid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger. “I love competing. I haven’t played since the U.S. Open (one month ago). I’ve just been training and wanted to get some practice in. “
James chose to participate in this event instead of travelling to Asia (for ATP World Tour events in China and Japan) to get ready for the European swing and gear up for next year. “It’s still fun to me. There are great players here like Querrey and (Ivo) Karlovic. I’m feeling great now, the best I’ve felt in the last two years, and I’m excited about that. Tour level or Challenger level, it just feels good to be on the court.”
- Mother from England, Father African-American
- Blake was inspired to pursue tennis after hearing his role model Arthur Ashe speak to the Harlem Junior Tennis Program
- He has a brother Thomas, who is also a professional tennis player,
- Diagnosed with severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) at 13 and wore a full-length back brace for 18 hours a day, not while playing tennis, for five years
- Attended Harvard for two years, becoming the top-ranked player in the country before turning pro
- Within two months in 2004, broke his neck during practice, lost his father to stomach cancer and developed zoster (shingles)
- Blake’s 2004 injury occurred when he slipped on a wet clay court in Rome while racing to return a drop shot. Zoster, a viral disease often caused by stress, temporarily paralyzed the left side of his face and affected his balance
- But he rebounded from the horrific sequence of events in 2004 to go on to have the best years of his career. His 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6) loss to Agassi in the 2005 U.S. Open quarterfinal is considered perhaps the greatest match in the tournament’s history. Almost all of the 20,000 fans in attendance stayed until the pulsating match ended at 1:09 a.m.
- In the 2011 US Open, Blake hit a forehand winner on match point against Jesse Huta Galung in the first round that was clocked at 125mph, thus making it the fastest forehand ever hit, eclipsing Gael Monfils‘s earlier record of 122mph against Marcos Baghdatis
Blake was named the Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, again reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2006 and helped the United States end its longest Davis Cup title drought in history, 12 years, in 2007.
In 2007 Blake wrote: “Breaking Back: How I lost Everything and Won Back My Life.”
Released in August 2007, the book discusses his comeback after his unlucky 2004 season debuted at Number 22 and reached No. 15 on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
In 2005, Blake was presented with the Comeback Player of the Year award for his remarkable return to the tour.
Blake who will turn 32 in December said he “briefly considered” retiring last year.
“I was opposed to taking Advil or Motrin, but it was not getting better,” said Blake.“Eventually, I broke down and took Motrin, which made a big difference. The knee is not perfect, but it’s much better. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Nothing is.”“I always said the body or mind will determine that,” he said. “One won’t be able to function, probably the body. I hope for another year, but we’ll see.”