James took part in the Swingtime event this weekend in Florida.. here are a few articles
Blake, Morariu both know about adversity, how to overcome it
By ANDY KENT, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 20, 2005
As lonely a sport as tennis appears to be, it might be a bit surprising to some how tight the ranks close on both the men's and women's circuit when one of their own is hurting.
James Blake and Corina Morariu discovered this closeness separately on their own, then again when they first met each other in person. And in the process, they discovered another link that drives them to help others, which is one of the reasons why both are in Naples this weekend as part of the Swingtime tennis exhibition benefiting the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation.
Morariu, who has rebounded from a fight with acute leukemia that nearly ended her life in 2001, was coached by Tim Gullikson when she was an 11-year-old living in Boca Raton. Gullikson died of brain cancer at the age of 44 in 1996, and one of his doctors was Morariu's father, a neurologist.
"Tim coached me when I was 11-years-old and he was like a second father to me, so I would do anything for him," said the 27-year-old Morariu, who teamed up with Mardy Fish in a mixed doubles exhibition against Xavier Malisse and Jenny Hopkins on Saturday afternoon at the Players Club & Spa at Lely Resort.
Blake, 25, lost his father, Thomas Blake Sr., to stomach cancer in July of 2004. Two months earlier, Blake fractured a vertebrae when he crashed into a metal net post during a practice session with Robert Ginepri on a wet clay court in Rome. He was almost paralyzed, and then after his father passed away, he came down with shingles.
Overcoming physical adversity was nothing new to Blake. He had scoliosis as a child and stood just 5-feet tall when he started high school. Now 6-1 and no longer affected by the disfiguring condition, Blake still never forgot the important lesson his experience taught him.
"If you're appreciating everything that's going on in your life from a day-to-day basis you're going to be happy just because you can appreciate the little things," Blake said. "I appreciate being able to get up and smile in the morning, or just a nice day, a beautiful setting right here or a football game."
But Blake also didn't realize how many people he inspired even before his incredible comeback this past summer that culminated with a thrilling five-set loss to Andre Agassi in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
He first caught Morariu's attention in the 2001 U.S. Open when he lost a hard-fought match to Lleyton Hewitt that was marred a little by a controversial remark made by Hewitt about an African-American linesman. Blake handled the matter in the post match press conference very well, and at the time Morariu was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy treatments.
"I remember thinking he just handled himself with such class," Morariu said. "He started doing well when I was sick and in the hospital. So I started playing again and I played against his team in a team tennis match and I remember him just pulling me aside and saying, 'I think it's so great what you've done, you're such an inspiration.' I just remember thinking for a young guy to pull me aside and say something like that, I just remember thinking that was really incredible."
When Blake found out how much of an impact he had on Morariu while she was fighting her cancer, he was taken aback.
But the two developed a friendship after that and an equal passion for helping other people with life-threatening illnesses. He said they both have been given a newfound perspective on life and realize how lucky they are to be able to still be playing tennis and to have the means to help with causes like the one supported by the Gullikson's foundation.
Morariu, who described her cancer experience as "visiting hell on earth," looks at Blake as the type of person Tim Gullikson would have had the utmost respect for and as a great ambassador for the game. Blake feels the same away about her.
"She's incredible," he said. "Everyone seems to make a big deal about everything I've done or gone through last year, but there needs to be more of a big deal made about how much she's endured and the fact that she's still smiling, still healthy, still playing the sport she loves.
"She really appreciates being at events like this and she supports causes like this, which is great, and she is an inspiration to so many kids that it's very exciting to be a part of it with her."
Tom Gullikson, Tim's twin brother, can't say enough about both players. He pointed out that Blake is a board member of the foundation and referred to Morariu as "simply one of the finest young ladies on the tour today."
Blake had to pull out of his scheduled exhibition with Taylor Dent on Saturday due to an injury.
Gullikson also hopes that Blake, Morariu and the other men's and women's players who continue to participate in events like Swingtime — Dent, Fish, Xavier Malisse and Jenny Hopkins — receive the recognition that they deserve.
"The players are often portrayed as aloof and inaccessible and greedy," Gullikson said. "And these players that are here this weekend refute all of those points, they really do a great job."
Players entertain fans at charity event at Lely
Tournament provides pros with practice at same time
By Jl Watson
Originally posted on November 20, 2005
They traded backhands for barbs, top spins for trash talk.
The players at Swingtime — a Pro-Celebrity, Pro-Am Tennis and Golf Tournament held Saturday at Lely Resort in Naples — entertained fans while getting in a little extra practice time on the courts. Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) star and all-around nice guy James Blake had to sit this one out, but signed autographs and talked to fans.
"I sprained a ligament in my foot," Blake said. "I hurt it Wednesday on a treadmill while I was running."
It was one of his first workouts after coming off a short layoff. Blake said he thought the injury was minor but found out on his way to Naples that the ligaments needed rest.
"My foot is supposed to be better in a week," he said. "I'll get back to training, hopefully without hurting myself again."
With 2005 singles titles at the Stockholm Open and Pilot Pen tournaments, Blake has had a great year, considering that in 2004 he battled huge obstacles: a broken vertebrae that threatened his life, never mind his career; the death of his father; and a virus that kept him off the tour for eight months. Perhaps his greatest match this year was in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, where he took on Andre Agassi. Agassi won in a grueling, five-set marathon that sapped the energy from both players.
"We both have a ton of respect for each other," Blake said. "He's an incredible person. We both played our best. If you're going to lose a match, you want it to be one like that, where you're playing well."
If he didn't walk away with the win, Blake at least won the congeniality category. His friends and fans, the "J-Block," are avid followers and are a vocal presence at most of his matches.
"I'm so lucky to have people like that," Blake said. "I've had people ask me, 'Do you really know all those people?' I can tell you the personal lives of all of them. They're friends, coaches, people I grew up with, friends' parents. I'm so happy to see them out there."
Blake left the J-Block at home for Swingtime, but spent time cheering on his doubles partner Mardy Fish, who is rehabilitating a left wrist injury. Both players said they will be ready to play in warmup tournaments Down Under while gearing up for the Australian Open in January. ...