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post #226 of 279 (permalink) Old 12-12-2006, 06:41 PM
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James Blake's website has pictures and video of James and Andre Agassi from the charity match and behind the scenes pics too.

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post #227 of 279 (permalink) Old 12-17-2006, 08:18 PM
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Re: James News!

Lots of articles to post

Fast Chat: James Blake
Dec. 25, 2006 - Jan. 1, 2007

Continuing a remarkable turnaround, James Blake had the best year in American tennis, winning five titles to become No. 1 in the U.S. (and No. 4 in the world). He spoke with Nick Summers.

Compare this year with 2004, when you broke your neck and your father died.
I'm not sure this year would've been possible without that year. I don't know if I would've appreciated it as much; maybe I would've thought it was something I was entitled to, not even thinking about how my career could have ended at any point.

Has your friendship with Andy Roddick changed since you took over as No. 1?
Not at all. We were friends in '04, when my ranking dropped to whatever it did, and we'd be friends if his ever did that, too.

What's it like playing 92-5 Roger Federer?
It's pretty frustrating. But you try to appreciate it for what it is: he has a good chance at being the best ever. You don't have to hang your head too low, if you're maybe losing to the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet.

Is U.S. tennis in a crisis, with so many top European players?
Every sport is more globalized. In the NBA, the MVP is Canadian. It's tougher for any one country to dominate. We have two guys in the top 10, so to expect a lot more is possibly unfair.
Blake one of main lifelines for U.S. tennis
Blake, Fish to play in Austin today.
Friday, December 15, 2006

American tennis is not dead. Yes, John McEnroe's in the television booth. Jimmy Connors is coaching the other A-Rod. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang are all rich and retired.

And Switzerland's Roger Federer is beating everybody.

But here's a question: How many Americans are ranked among the world's top 10 singles players? If you answered one — as in No. 6 Andy Roddick — you are wrong.

Austin's Roddick isn't even the highest-ranked American. That distinction belongs to No. 4 James Blake, who will play his doubles partner Mardy Fish tonight in the featured match of the All American Tennis Shootout at the Austin Convention Center.

Blake also will pair with his brother Thomas to play the world's top doubles team, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.

Over the past two years, Blake has overcome a bout with shingles, a broken neck that came after he ran into a net post and the death of his dad. After a bout with paralysis that came as a result of his shingles, Blake re-entered the ATP top 50 in 2005 and climbed from 210 to No. 49 in the world by year's end.

"I just thought of accomplishing small goals while I was struggling,'' he said. "Going from 210 to No. 4 was like climbing Mount Everest. Before you know it, I hit my peak. I'm hopefully not there yet, but if it ends at No. 4 then so be it.

Along the way, he's been named one of People Magazine's sexiest athletes, and he also was featured among its "50 Most Beautiful People in the World."

His career-high five singles titles are an indication that Blake (who will turn 27 on Dec. 28) can make a realistic run at Federer in time, but he hasn't figured out the world's No. 1 yet.

Federer was a Swiss Can't Miss in 2006 with a 92-5 record and wins in three of the four majors, including a third straight U.S. Open title.

While Federer has had some problems with world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, he has a 6-0 record against Blake and a 12-1 mark against Roddick, who squandered three match points in a loss to Federer at the Masters Cup in Shanghai, China, last month.

"It's tough to be jealous of him but we're all envious because tennis players all want to be the best they can be,'' Fish said of Federer. "Besides, Roger is a nice, great guy and a great ambassador for our sport. And he kicks everybody's (tail)."

Federer's dominance does not means that American tennis has faltered.

Bjorn Borg was on top of the game before McEnroe and Connors combined to foil his repeated attempts to win the one major that eluded him — the U.S. Open. Sampras and Agassi eventually caught up to Boris Becker.

These Americans may never catch Federer, who may retire as the best to ever play the game. He has already won nine grand slam singles titles at the tender age of 25 and is two wins away from tying Rod Laver and Borg for third place all-time. Sampras won an all-time best 14, a number that Federer could reach in the next two or three years, assuming he remains healthy and motivated.

Federer's pace has been staggering, so don't fault the Americans for being merely good instead of awesome.

"American tennis is doing great,'' Blake said. "Roger is obviously an all-time great, but that's like comparing Charles Barkley and Karl Malone to Michael Jordan. Having two guys in the top six with how deep our sport has become is a big deal. And when you add in the world's top doubles team (the Bryan brothers), that shows you that we're still right there."

Fish, Blake's part-time doubles partner, was on the cusp of a top 10 entrance after earning a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Fish was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team and posted a No. 25 world ranking before a pair of wrist surgeries put him on the shelf last year.

His ranking suffered as a result, dropping to 347th. Fish had a solid 2006, with a 22-18 record and his third career singles title, which he won in Houston. His goal is to become the third American ranked in the top 10.

"Americans got spoiled with McEnroe and Connors,'' said Fish, currently ranked 47th. "I think it will all even out in the end. How can you complain with two top-10 players and the best doubles team? That's hard to believe."

The rankings are solid. But American tennis fans are like boxing fans who say the sport is dead because there are no American heavyweight champions holding world title belts. Tennis fans want grand slam champions. No excuses.

From 1995-2000, Sampras and Agassi combined to win 11 of the 24 Grand Slam singles titles. That figure has basically been cut in half over the past six years as Americans have won only six slams (Sampras and Agassi accounted for five of those before retiring).

The USA is 0-12 in men's singles slams since Roddick beat Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero in the 2003 U.S. Open final. It's also been 11 years since the United States has won a Davis Cup.

"We're getting there,'' Blake said. "It will just take a little time and patience."
The Comeback Kid: How James Blake reclimbed the tennis mountain
Ilana Berger
Wed, Dec 13, 2006

No athlete in recent times has had to overcome as much adversity as James Blake. Just when he thought taking on Andre Agassi and Roger Federer was hard, he had to defeat a new opponent in the shape of a broken neck and paralysis.

While Roger Federer won nearly everything there was to win, one player won over the hearts of hundreds of thousands of tennis fans around the world.

American James Blake had a superb Masters Cup tournament and it was only the genius of Federer which brought him down.

American tennis fans have been looking for a new hero since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi wound down their careers. The glorious era of US men's tennis that included Sampras, Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and even Todd Martin has become a distant memory.

While Andy Roddick seemed the natural choice to take over as America's number one player, he has had some good results but has let himself down with his inconsistency. His inability to wrap up important matches, the fact that he bases his game mainly on a powerful serve but not much else, was never going to be enough.

And then came Blake. The potential, everybody knew, was always there. A dream of an athlete, an intelligent guy and an intriguing character who graduated from Harvard University. A player who before becoming a professional gained experience in college tennis at its highest level. It was only a matter of time before he stepped up to the next level and took his place among the best .

During the end-of year Masters Cup tournament in Beijing, Blake showed the tennis world and especially himself what he has inside him - and left everyone wanting more.

The year 2007 is going to be an important one in his career. Ending the year at No.6 in the world brings a lot of joy and reward – but no doubt a huge amount of pressure that he will have to learn to play with.

For Blake, the possibility of becoming the best American tennis player and one of the best in the world must be a dream-come-true scenario.
Not many black players have left a mark in the men's game over the years and Blake, a big fan of the late Arthur Ashe - one of the most respectable and honoured tennis players in the history of the game - has talked again and again about his dream of following in his footsteps.

What makes Blake's story even more interesting is the tough road he has had to travel, especially in the last three years, in which he has been through a series of tragedies. Two years ago, Blake's career almost ended when he ran for a ball in practice in Italy, hit his neck on the net post - and broke his back. Returning home for six weeks of recovery, he spent most of his time looking after his father, who later died of cancer.

The shock of his own accident and his father's death triggered a viral infection in Blake that affected his hearing and sight, as well as paralysing half his face. No one really gave him a chance of recovering except Blake himself. He stayed optimistic and worked his way through recovery all the way up to world No.6, after finishing 2005 with a ranking of only 24.

Blake has endured so much tragedy, pain and heartache that playing a tough tennis match is nothing in comparison. He approaches matches in this vein, which is why it is so much fun to watch him play.

Blake is an exceptional men's tennis player. He deserves to be right up there with the best of them for a long time.

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"I beat him the last time. He's lucky I retired." — Andy Roddick on RF

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post #228 of 279 (permalink) Old 12-31-2006, 04:10 AM
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Re: James News!

Where is James starting his 2007 campaign?
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post #229 of 279 (permalink) Old 12-31-2006, 11:03 AM
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His first tournament is Sydney, a week before the Aussie Open. He is also the defending champion there!!

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post #230 of 279 (permalink) Old 12-31-2006, 04:45 PM
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Thanks for the info! I didn't see a 2007 cheering thread, so I didn't know what was going on. Go James!
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post #231 of 279 (permalink) Old 01-05-2007, 08:48 PM
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James Blake can he win the Australian Open

Manisha Maligaspe

The powerful American made a mighty comeback in 2006 with five ATP titles and a career-high ranking of number four. His first Australian Open title beckons.

Right now, no one can steal the spotlight from James Blake, not even King Roger [Federer]. After a horrid 2004 which saw him go through numerous setbacks including a broken neck, a severe case of shingles and the unfortunate death of his father, Blake made a fierce comeback in 2005. Fans around the world witnessed a memorable US Open quarter-final against Andre Agassi, a match which some aficionados labelled the finest ever witnessed at the tournament. Winning two ATP titles that year started what was to be a remarkable turnaround for the New York native.
After winning five ATP titles in 2006, including victories over Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick, Blake wrapped up the year in style by qualifying for a place in the prestigious Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, a tournament only reserved for the world's top eight players. Proving without a doubt that he is definitely a class player, he went all the way, only to be beaten in the final by the genius that is Federer. Despite the outcome, Blake ended the year on a high. His optimism and sheer perseverance in getting there, despite all that he endured, made it a beautiful comeback story.
What would make it even more beautiful would be a Grand Slam. The Australian Open, just days away, is a perfect place to start. Despite early exits from the tournament on previous attempts, Blake's successful run in 2006 will no doubt provide him with the motivation and impetus he needs to go all the way. His exceptionally powerful forehand is considered one of the best in the game and has seen many an opponent succumb.
His powerful serve and speed leave many opponents and fans simultaneously baffled and awestruck, while his backhand shows the result of being worked on. Blake has both the tennis prowess and mental strength to win a major as well as pose a serious challenge to King Roger's dynasty.
His performance in 2006 exemplified what he is capable of, so 2007 should be even brighter for James Blake. It will therefore come as no surprise this Australian summer if the charismatic champion adds the one thing missing in his trophy case.
Source: http://www.sportingo.com/tennis/jame...open/1001,1506
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post #232 of 279 (permalink) Old 01-06-2007, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Eden View Post
Thanks for the article, even though its highly unlikely unless Fed gets injured or upset early!!

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post #233 of 279 (permalink) Old 01-31-2007, 06:17 PM
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In James we trust
Blake dishes on comeback, Federer, state of the game

Wednesday January 31, 2007
Jon Wertheim, SI.com

Overcoming a broken back and the death of his dad in 2004 helped make Blake a tougher opponent. He's currently ranked No. 4.

A new feature here at the tennis page: We'll do a monthly interview with a figure in the sport. We'll kick it off with James Blake.

SI.com: Your story -- what your endured in 2004, how you came back and entered the top five -- has been told to death. But with a few years to reflect, what's your take?

Blake: I guess I'm still surprised it happened so quickly, that I got back. But when I did come back, I sort of figured I was doing so as a better player. I had learned a lot in that time and experience and perspective counts for a lot. But luck figures in too. I stayed away from injuries.

I mean that '05 U.S. Open, I was a wild card. I could have played Roger Federer in the first round. Then, I play Andre Agassi in such an important match. Either of us could have woken up with a little flu bug or a little off and it doesn't live up the hype. It just so happened that we played well. That's just one example. After all this, I definitely believe things happen for a reason.

SI.com: Are you religious?

Blake: I grew up catholic, but lapsed. I have my own beliefs. I'm not sure all the traditions are nearly as important as the morals. I feel like if you're a good person Sunday to Sunday it doesn't matter that much if you're at mass for an hour once a week. I was an altar boy growing up. I saw people who were in church all the time but weren't necessarily living good lives. It's not a free pass if you go to church. The way you live your life means more than saying prayers at a certain time on Sunday.

SI.com: Has your success changed has any impact on your racial identity?

Blake: It's definitely something I think about. It's funny because it's always "first African-American to do this or that" or "first African-American since Arthur Ashe." It's great to mentioned in the same sentence as him but I -- my mom especially -- gets antsy. "Why can't I just be American? Haven't I achieved enough on you own to just be James Blake: American?"

Part of me is African-American but it's not the only part. My mom was like, it was one thing when you were first coming up and there was novelty or whatever, but she feels, "You've done enough to warrant just being called an American." I tell people over and over, "I grew up in Connecticut," but it always ends up as "Harlem to Harvard, Harlem to Harvard."

I love Harlem, I love the Harlem Junior Tennis Program, but I grew up here and I'm not going to deny it to make a better story. To me, the story should be about the No. 4 guy in the world, and not where I'm from. Or not from.

SI.com: Is it a weird time in men's tennis?

Blake: Yeah. Even when Pete Sampras dominated, he wasn't consistently winning three slams like Roger. It's strange because people outside tennis don't always get it. They say, "You're No. 4? Only a few spots and you'll be No. 1." I don't think you understand they guy ahead of me. What he's doing is just incredible. It's like the years of frustration for the other teams when MichaelJordan was in the NBA.

SI.com: What do you do?

Blake: When someone's dominating, it can change on one match. Look at Björn Borg and John McEnroe, who were so dominant and faltered so quickly -- not that Roger will have the same kind of vices. But you never know. RafaelNadal had his number of a little while. Maybe Federer loses some confidence and comes back to the pack. But it's nothing where the rest of us can make a few adjustments and we're right there. This is tough to say as a competitor but, honestly, he's head and shoulders above the field right now.

SI.com: You guys all like him. Does it make it hard to get up for the matches?

Blake: No. There are a ton of nice guys on tour and I still want to beat the crap out of them. But a lot of times the number one player is easy to cut down. He's too arrogant, he's too cold, too robotic. But Roger, you can't really cut him down. If I'm out of the tournament, a lot times, he's the guy I'm cheering for.

SI.com: There's never enough time to make big changes to your game, but any pet projects?

Blake: You're right, there isn't time. Just hit a million backhands, work on my defense. It's funny because a couple of the guys who have been suspended for drugs have come back better. How could that be? They haven't had match experience. Well, they've had three months off to let their body rest and then complete rework themselves, and they had time to work on things. It's a little unfair that they get punished but they get better. I mean, Juan Ignacio Chela, Guillermo Coria, now Guillermo Canas is tearing it up. They do better when they're back than when they were suspended. They had the luxury of time and the rest of us don't.

SI.com: Are you with me on this, though? Overall, it's a pretty clean sport. Not 100 percent clean, but still clean.

Blake: I think it's the cleanest. I mean I got woken up at 9 a.m. on my birthday last December to get tested. The ITF tested me in Tampa twice out-of-competition. Guy came at 6:30 in the morning. Guy woke me up and said he was with USADA, they can come anytime after 6:30. At 6:33, I'm peeing. I guess it's great they're testing, though. People that are doing it will get caught.

SI.com: Pete or Roger?

Blake: Roger.

SI.com: Is it close?

Blake: On grass, close. On clay, no.

SI.com: How are you going to describe your dad to your kids?

Blake: A great man. It's going to be tough to put it into words. He's someone who taught discipline but was fair. Someone showed me how to be a great dad. I guess it's up to me to execute.

SI.com: Best advice you've ever been given?

Blake: For tennis? Have a short memory.

SI.com: What about not for tennis?

Blake: Have a long memory.
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post #234 of 279 (permalink) Old 01-31-2007, 08:34 PM
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Fun article. Thanks Tangy. Wonder if he will ever say something I don't like or can't relate to in some way

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post #235 of 279 (permalink) Old 01-31-2007, 10:45 PM
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That was a really good article. James has matured so much, it's great to see. He seemed very relaxed with his responses. I agree with him: Pete or Roger? Roger. I liked everything he said! He just seems really sincere. I know some people criticize him that he's not sincere, but I don't see that at all.
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post #236 of 279 (permalink) Old 02-15-2007, 02:26 AM
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After slow rise, among world's best

By Darren Sabedra
Mercury News
Feb 13, 2007

James Blake's ascent to the top 10 of the world tennis rankings, and the No. 2 seed at this week's SAP Open, was anything but conventional.

He wore a back brace as a teenager to cure a curvature in his spine.

He fractured his neck in 2004 after colliding with a net post.

He then had to overcome zoster, a medical condition that affected his vision and hearing and caused temporary paralysis on one side of his face.

After all that, cracking the top 10 should have been a breeze.

Only it wasn't.

Blake, who will play Igor Kunitsyn of Russia in an opening-round match Wednesday night at HP Pavilion, made a gradual climb, finally breaking through 11 months ago. When he did, the former Harvard student became the first African-American since the late Arthur Ashe, in January 1980, to be ranked among the top 10. Ashe is one of Blake's heroes and the reason Blake's father took an interest in tennis.

Blake, 27, has called the comparisons to Ashe "mind-boggling.'' But it's not just Ashe whom he is compared to now. Blake ended 2006 as America's top-ranked player, winning five ATP Tour events, fewer than only Roger Federer.

Blake has yet to win the San Jose tournament, but he has made an impression.

"Of all the players, Blake is the most enjoyable to work with,'' said Bill Rapp, the SAP Open's tournament director. "How I would describe that is, he's approachable. He's very real. I'm quite taken with him. I have three sons of my own, and I would say if he was my son, I would be extremely proud of him.''

Blake has had a good start to the new year. He captured a title in Sydney, Australia, reached a final in Delray Beach, Fla., and has won 11 of 14 matches overall.

But his fourth-round loss to Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open, coupled with Andy Roddick's semifinal run there, dropped Blake behind Roddick among Americans and to No. 6 in the world. He had been ranked fourth.

Still, no doubt because of everything he has gone through, Blake said he was honored to have held the distinction at all.

"It did make me reflect on if I thought that was ever possible, how hard I've worked to get that, how much I appreciate it,'' he said.

Now, Blake aims to get the ranking back. To do that, he'll have to again go through his friend Roddick. Blake is 2-6 against him but has won the two most recent encounters -- last year at Queens Club in London and then in Indianapolis.

"I hope it does go (back and forth),'' Blake said. "The fact that I have won the last two gives it a little more validity to have called it a rivalry.''

Because he and Roddick are friends, Blake uses the word "rivalry'' non-contentiously. He sees it as a win-win for both as they deal with the pressure of being compared with the previous generation of American stars -- Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier.

"There doesn't have to be one person that's bearing the brunt of all the pressure in the post-Sampras, Agassi, Courier era,'' Blake said. "That's why we get along so great. We know we're doing this together. It's a lot of fun to have such a great guy and classy guy to go about my business with.''

Roddick has been just as complimentary about Blake. He told "60 Minutes'' in November 2005 that "James could be one of the top 10 players in the world, no question.'' Roddick also has said, "Everyone on tour has a mutual friend in James.''

Some have wondered if Blake is too nice for his own good. How can you beat players like world No. 1 Federer if you're so darned friendly?

"There's a ton of nice guys on tour,'' Blake told Sports Illustrated, "and I still want to beat the crap out of them.''

He'll get another chance this week.

Congrats to Andy Roddick, 2017 Hall of Fame!

"I beat him the last time. He's lucky I retired." — Andy Roddick on RF

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post #237 of 279 (permalink) Old 04-03-2007, 05:33 PM
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Blake or bleak?

To knock off Spain, America's No. 2 player needs to quickly cure his game's ills
April 3, 2007

James Blake was “The Next Big Thing” by proclamation of the magazines with the slick paper. They weren't tennis magazines. Blake was being admired because he could wear clothes, attended Harvard and had a certain style to him.
In tennis, however, they don't pass out points for looking smashing when you are pictured among the ads for men's fragrances. Blake may have qualified as one of “the beautiful people,” but a reference to “next” still applies to him. As in next success. When is it going to come?
Perhaps this weekend, when Blake is to represent the United States in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a quarterfinal Davis Cup tie against Spain. Rafael Nadal has chosen to pass this one. Something about his feet. But even with the strongman from Mallorca having eliminated himself, the U.S. would seem to need Blake playing as he can because it has no certainty Andy Roddick can compete.
Roddick strained a hamstring last week in Miami.
An MRI done on Roddick was negative, according to U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe.
“The good news at least is that it is not torn, but it is a hamstring, so that is kind of tricky,” McEnroe said. “The word from Andy is that he is going to do everything he can to play. Of course, that is great news to my ears, the captain's ears. The problem is that it is not the sort of injury you can sort of play through. It will either heal quickly and he will be able to practice for a few days and be able to go, or it won't and we obviously would have to go to Plan B.”
Plan Blake, who would become the host country's No. 1 guy if Roddick is unable to make it to the starting line. Blake says he is ready to step into the breach. What has to be questioned is whether his game is ready. It has been missing. Blake has been experiencing a malaise in which he not only has been losing, he has been losing to players widely separated from him in the rankings.
At best on an indoor hardcourt in North Carolina, the U.S. is going to have this batting order in the singles:
Roddick, who has not won a tournament this season and could be treading carefully because of his hamstring problem.
And Blake, who in his last five tournament appearances, beginning with an event at Delray Beach, Fla., in early February, has failed against players ranked Nos. 31, 103, 99, 46 and 64. The names, in the same order, are Xavier Malisse, Ivo Karlovic, Evgeny Korolev, Julien Benneteau and Florent Serra.
Not included is Blake's effort in a first-round Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic. Blake also lost in it, but creditably, in four sets to Tomas Berdych, one of the world's most promising players.
Blake has been searching for reasons for his failures.
“In looking back,” he said in a conference call with tennis writers, “I think I may have stretched myself a little thin with my schedule at the beginning of the year, playing so many matches and doing a lot of media things. In general, a lot of engagements.”
To right himself, Blake has this formula: “Work hard and rest.” Fine, but isn't it difficult to do those things simultaneously?
Blake concedes that without Roddick, the U.S. faces a trying assignment against the Spaniards in remaining in contention for a tennis prize this country has not claimed since 1995.
“If we have him, we like our chances,” Blake said. “If we don't have him, we're lucky enough to live in a country that has exceptional depth.”
Uh, let's play a let on that one. The U.S. has three men ranked in the top 35, Roddick, No. 3; Blake, No. 9; and Mardy Fish, No. 22. Spain has five players in this group, Nadal, No. 2; Tommy Robredo, No. 6; David Ferrer, No. 16; Carlos Moya, No. 34; and Fernando Verdasco, No. 35. In this tie, it is the Europeans who have the advantage of depth, not the U.S.
McEnroe considers Blake a confidence player. When he has it, he has the serve, the ground strokes and the mobility to compete with anybody, including Nadal. He is 3-0 against Rafa. The problem there for Blake is that Nadal is not going to be in Winston-Salem. Spain in the singles is expected to align Robredo and Ferrer, both of whom are considerably stronger than the chaps that have been knocking off James.
Said McEnroe of Blake: “He's a guy that I think with a few good, hard days of practice and in the conditions we're going to play in is going to play well in the Davis Cup.”
Blake, meantime, said even before his career fell on hard times, he was steeling himself to be able to live through reversals of the sort he has had.
“Obviously, I haven't had the type of success in the last few weeks I would like to have,” he said, “and it's frustrating. But being realistic, I knew at some point in my career, these things would happen, whether it be lost confidence, lost fitness, whatever.
“Those things are bound to happen after having had so many good results. I'm ready to turn it around, hopefully,”
Last year, when his career was flourishing – his ranking was as high as No. 4 in November 2006 – Blake said he and his coach since he was 12, Brian Barker, discussed how he would deal with a downturn should it develop.
“That's what I'm trying to do now,” Blake said. “I'm still a competitor. I get really down on myself for a little while when I lose, but I have to be educated about it and work hard and figure out what the problems are.”
Blake is 3-2 against Robredo and 1-0 against Ferrer, but the Blake of the moment would seem a man who is searching for answers. The U.S. can only hope he finds them.

Source: http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports...1s3tencol.html
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post #238 of 279 (permalink) Old 05-22-2007, 04:37 PM
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Re: James News!

From USTA.com:

What Tennis Means to James Blake pt. 1
Tennis Month: James Blake Interview – Part One
By James Blake and Jason Brown

James Blake is one of the most recognizable athletes in the United States. Born in Yonkers, New York, raised in Fairfield, Connecticut and educated at Harvard University, Blake spent his formative years growing up on the public tennis courts of New England.

A mainstay on the United States Davis Cup Team, Blake famously made a remarkable comeback from a broken neck, a severe bout of shingles, and the loss of his father to play one of the most memorable matches in US Open history on his way toward becoming a Top 10-ranked player.

During an exclusive live Web chat on USTA.com, the 27-year-old answered questions from his fans, discussed the roots of his playing career, the importance of tennis in his life, and the opportunities that the sport has provided.

USTA.com: Why is tennis the sport for a lifetime?

James Blake: I think that tennis is the sport for a lifetime because you can play at many different levels. You can play it forever – my mother is 71-years-old and she still plays. I probably started hitting balls when I was five, and it doesn’t matter how good you are because there’s always people at every different level to play with. It’s also easy enough on your body. A sport like football you can play for only so many years. And you can still have fun with tennis when you’re older, even if you can’t move as well anymore. If you can run, tennis gives you a great workout, and will continue to do so for your entire life.

USTA.com: What does tennis mean to you?

James Blake: The one thing about tennis that I’ve always liked is that it’s an individual sport. You go out there, you do your best, and you’re proud of yourself for what you accomplish. If you don’t accomplish everything that you set out to do, there’s nobody to blame but yourself. It’s that kind of gladiatorial atmosphere that I’ve enjoyed my whole life. I’m sometimes a person that can be isolated and being out there on my own on the tennis court is something that excites me. That’s what first drew me to tennis. Of course having talent for it, that helps, too.

USTA.com: Growing up, was there a local public tennis court that had special meaning to you? Also, was there a specific person(s) that you credit for spiking your interest in playing tennis and motivating you?

James Blake: Yeah. When I first started playing it was on a public court right down the street from my house in Yonkers. It was actually where my parents met so it had a very special meaning to me. My brother, Thomas, and I would hit balls after my mother and father played. Then when we moved to Connecticut, I played a lot on the public courts there as well, including my high school tennis matches.

USTA.com: And it was around that time when you also met your current coach, Brian Barker, right?

James Blake: Yeah, I started working with Brian when I was 12 years old and since then, he’s helped me to become such a better tennis player and an even better person.

USTA.com: Everyone talks about the importance of confidence on the tennis court. Have you taken the confidence that tennis builds within you on and off the court?

James Blake: Tennis was a big deal for me, confidence-wise. All throughout high school, everyone is trying their best to fit in, be normal, and hang out with the crowd that they want to associate with. For me, tennis made a big difference in feeling normal, because I used to wear a back brace in high school which made me feel different from everyone else. Tennis made me feel good about myself. Nowadays, confidence is still really important to me. You’re going to win matches when you’re feeling confident and hitting your shots, especially on those big points.

USTA.com: You’ve always been known as a guy who gives back to the community. What are some of the charities that you’ve been involved with?

James Blake: The Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children is one that I’ve been involved with because that’s where I was a patient when I had scoliosis. Also, the Harlem Junior Tennis Program has been a big part of my life. I basically learned how to play tennis there and my father was a volunteer. I became a volunteer there as well – I’ve been there about six years in a row with my brother. Since then, I’ve also become very involved with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The last two years I’ve done a charity event in Virginia where all of the benefits go towards cancer research.

USTA.com: A lot of fans are interested in your upcoming tournament schedule. Which events are you planning to enter?

James Blake: I’m playing in Rome, Hamburg, and the World Team Championship in Dusseldorf. On the grass, I’m going to play Halle and Wimbledon. And then for the US Open Series, I’ll be playing Indianapolis, Montreal, Cincinnati, and Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven.

Congrats to Andy Roddick, 2017 Hall of Fame!

"I beat him the last time. He's lucky I retired." — Andy Roddick on RF

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post #239 of 279 (permalink) Old 07-14-2007, 08:47 PM
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Re: James News!

James was on Jay Leno last night and I missed it.

He's doing a lot of promotion for his book. This was taken from ESPN's Page 2:

Charging the net with James Blake
By Sam Alipour
Special to Page 2
July 11, 2007

No matter how you feel about the current state of American tennis, there's a very good chance that you respect James Blake.

Chances are also high that you'd enjoy hanging out with him, too. Sure, Blake may want to bring along his childhood pal, musician John Mayer, and ATP tour buddy Andy Roddick. And yes, rolling with these men will fill your mind with feelings of inadequacy and set your game back by months, but you'll make do.

These are the odds, because the immensely likable No. 2-ranked American tennis player, known for his speed and potent forehand, is mostly known for his improbable comeback from a broken neck, a paralyzing bout with shingles, and the loss of his hero and father, Thomas, all in 2004. Now, in "Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life" (HarperCollins), Blake shares his tale of heartbreak and triumph, from 2004 through '06, including his epic fifth-set tiebreaker against Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open, a match that put American tennis fans on alert for a young star's second coming.

Blake recently took time to talk about the journey detailed in his book, his not-so-bloody rivalry with Roddick, and the little-known shortcomings of this Harvard grad.

Well, a mere two shortcomings. So yeah, chances are, you'll still want to hang out with him.

SAM ALIPOUR: You're one of the best-liked athletes around. Not that I'm looking, but I've yet to read a single negative thing about you, which got me to thinking: You must have some serious skeletons in your closet. What sucks about James Blake?

JAMES BLAKE: (Laughs) I think my worst habit is I correct people too much. If you're writing an e-mail or even an instant message, you need to bring it. I get that from my mom. She was a newspaper editor, and even at church, she'll be editing the church bulletin.

SAM ALIPOUR: Typical Harvard guy.

JAMES BLAKE: I guess that's also from my Harvard side. Guys will always say, "Oh, sorry, I didn't go to Harvard like you."

SAM ALIPOUR: I guess I should put my editors on alert, huh?

JAMES BLAKE: I promise to lay off you, but watch out for my mom. If you have a grammatical error, you might get an e-mail from her. She's the one who gave me that sickness.

SAM ALIPOUR: Here's another knock on you: You used to have dreadlocks, and now you're bald. Does this pain you, as a formerly dreadlocked macho athlete, more than the typical man?

JAMES BLAKE: (Laughs) Well, not really. I don't really miss the dreads. I get out of the shower, dry my head with a towel, and I'm ready to go. Messing with my hair was fun when I was young, but it's easier now.

SAM ALIPOUR: Why write a book about the worst time in your life?

JAMES BLAKE: The original thought from my publisher was to do a whole autobiography. But my mom and I figured because most fans are only aware of my comeback, we wanted to let them know what inspired me to come back in the first place. I keep to myself a lot, so I'm glad I got a chance in the middle of my career to take stock. Most athletes go through their careers in their little fantasy world, not thinking about real life and how they can be affecting people. I got the chance to appreciate what I've been through.

SAM ALIPOUR: In the process of writing this, which topic proved to be the most painful to cull through?

JAMES BLAKE: The memories of my father were the toughest thing to write about. The times I spent with him toward the end of his life and dealing with life without him. It's still tough for me. He made me the person I am. He taught me how to be a good man, how to put your wife and family before yourself. He taught me the value of education, how important using your brain is in success. We never planned on tennis as my profession. Education was priority one in our household. He also taught me about perseverance: He never missed a day at work, even when he was battling cancer. He taught me about commitment to goals: As soon as he picked up golf, he became obsessed and wanted to get better. But he put his own interests down when we needed him, driving us to tournaments and practices, feeding us buckets of balls. And he was just about the friendliest guy you could ever meet. He knew more about my friends than I did. If someone was at the house, he'd ask them questions -- not to make conversation but because he was genuinely interested.

SAM ALIPOUR: In your mind, what will be the biggest surprise for readers?

JAMES BLAKE: I don't think they know how close I came to not playing tennis again because of shingles. My illness was much scarier and more painful than breaking my neck. I contracted it a week after my father passed. It comes about when you're stressed, and I hadn't been sleeping, staying up just thinking about my dad. Had I not gone to the emergency room and gotten the drugs to make sure the nerve calmed down and didn't actually die, my face would have been paralyzed forever. They didn't know if I would get back my normal vision or normal balance. It was definitely career threatening.

SAM ALIPOUR: Are you a better player now than you were before breaking your neck? Is that even possible?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I definitely think I am. I had the time to work on some weaknesses. I'm a lot better defensively. And I'm in better shape. Otherwise, the biggest difference is in my perspective. I'm not as hard on myself. I'm able to accept wins and losses, the ups and downs of the tournaments, without letting it affect my confidence. Every match is not the end of the world. I've become much more successful because of my attitude on the court.

SAM ALIPOUR: Although you lost your instant classic U.S. Open match with Agassi, can you appreciate its significance?

JAMES BLAKE: Oh yeah. I wish I had won it, but it's still one of my most memorable matches. Fans always want to talk about it. They tell me they stayed up until 1 a.m. watching us, and that it made them want to watch and play tennis again. It helped put tennis back on the radar for a lot of people.

SAM ALIPOUR: Talk to me about your rivalry with Andy Roddick. I don't know if I can call it a rivalry. Can you get this thing going?

JAMES BLAKE: (Laughs) Sorry to say, we're never going to have a heated rivalry. Sure, there are times when we're at each other's throats on the court, but at night, we're having dinner. I won't speak for him, but I'm so proud of him and I think it's great to see the top two Americans so committed to the team thing, the Davis Cup thing. And I'm pretty happy I got the best of him the past two times, but he's got the No. 1 American player spot back from me. He's playing well. We spend so much time together on the court and off; I know I have a friend for life in him.

SAM ALIPOUR: If you weren't childhood pals with John Mayer, would you listen to his music?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I really do enjoy it. When I first heard it, I didn't know it was him, actually. His "Room for Squares" CD is one of my favorite CDs of all time. It helps that I grew up with him, but it's mainly that he's an amazing guitar player and lyricist. He's going to be an icon for years to come.

SAM ALIPOUR: He did kick ass in his Live Earth show. You, John and Andy walk into a bar. Who gets the most attention?

JAMES BLAKE: John, for sure. He's a household name, and his music is such that my mom likes it, I like it, young kids like it and, of course, the screaming teenage girls love it. Just go to one of his shows and check out the screaming girls, and tell me he wouldn't get more attention than Andy and I would.

SAM ALIPOUR: You haven't won a Grand Slam title yet. Are you disappointed with your performance on that level?

JAMES BLAKE: The clay courts haven't been good to me, but they haven't been good to too many Americans. I just want to get better on that surface. At Wimbledon this year, I thought I did a good job until I ran into [Juan Carlos] Ferrero. For about two sets there, he played like a world-beater. Not much I could do except get ready for the hard-court season now.

SAM ALIPOUR: You and Roddick are carrying the torch passed from McEnroe and Connors to Agassi and Sampras. These days, fans are a bit down on the current state of American men's tennis. What are your thoughts on the American game?

JAMES BLAKE: It's getting a bad rap. The sport has become so much more diverse, with so many countries producing great talent. We still have two guys in the top 10, and we're still in the Davis Cup every year. We're doing as great as any other country, but people need to remember it's tough to rack up Grand Slam titles when they're all going to [Roger] Federer. He's becoming the most dominant athlete in the world.

SAM ALIPOUR: That's great, James, but the American sports fan wants blood. Tell me at least one thing you don't like about Andy. He seems like a frat boy to me.

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, but I like frat boys. (Laughs) I was in a frat at Harvard. But here's one: He doesn't answer his phone, and he's pretty bad about calling back sometimes. Oh, and he's also a bit of a slob. I'm pretty bad, but he's worse than me.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg pg2_blake_book_195.jpg (15.4 KB, 5 views)

Congrats to Andy Roddick, 2017 Hall of Fame!

"I beat him the last time. He's lucky I retired." — Andy Roddick on RF

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post #240 of 279 (permalink) Old 07-22-2007, 08:39 PM
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Re: James News!

Does anybody plan on getting this book?

"Breaking Back" Makes New York Times Bestseller List

James Blake's inspirational biography "Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life" debuted at No. 22 on the New York Times Bestseller List during its first week in circulation.

Acclaim for the book has come from numerous sources including CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell, who wrote, “It's quite simply the best athlete book I've ever read.” People Magazine awarded the book 3 ½ out of 4 stars, and said it is “the rare sports memoir that actually has a heart.” The Washington Post states that Breaking Back is Blake’s, “chronicle of a 2004 season filled with distress, injury, illness and -- ultimately – insight.” The book was also an “Editor’s Pick” in Reader’s Digest for the month of July.

In addition, Blake has appeared on The Tonight Show, Live! With Regis and Kelly, Extra!, ESPN News, ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption and has been featured in such publications as Men’s Health, Essence, ESPN the Magazine, Parade and featured on the cover of Tennis Magazine, regarding the book. He will also appear in the coming weeks on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“This is a tremendous honor to make it on the New York Times bestseller list,” said Blake. “I never imagined that so many people would be interested in my story, but I hope everyone who reads my book can ultimately find some inspiration from what I went through.”

Blake, who is playing this week at the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles, will continue his book tour at US Open Series tournament stops throughout the summer.

Book Signing Dates

Indianapolis, IN
7/23/07: Time, TBD, On-site at Tournament

Montreal, Canada
8/7/07: Time, TBD, On-site at Tournament

Cincinnati, OH
8/13/07: Time, TBD, On-site at Tournament

New Haven, CT
8/20/07: Time, TBD, On-site at Tournament

Congrats to Andy Roddick, 2017 Hall of Fame!

"I beat him the last time. He's lucky I retired." — Andy Roddick on RF

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