2007 Davis Cup Winner and Member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Tennis Team; Author of the NY Times best-seller "Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life"
Yes, in Portland
It had been awhile since an American tennis player had won something noteworthy to the national media -- to be exact, it was 2003 when Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open. The first weekend in December of last year changed that when James Blake and his American teammates went to Portland, Oregon and won the first Davis Cup for the U.S. since 1995. "I'm going to savor this for a while," Blake told The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). "People are already talking about whether we're going to win it again next year and I'm all for that. But I'll never forget this."
Nothing hard about winning
Since 2001, Blake has played in 29 Davis Cup matches, compiling a 17-8 record in singles and a 3-1 record in doubles. He remains a perfect 12-0 when representing his country on hard court, which he will do again in Beijing. The U.S. is also currently in Davis Cup play, which will resume in September following the Olympics and U.S. Open play. They are in the semifinals versus Spain after defeating France in the quarterfinals.
Blake has said he looks forward to playing in the Olympics for the first time, but he wanted those who may be criticizing Roddick for skipping out on the Games to understand where the Texan was coming from. "You know, it's such an individual sport that what works for one isn't going to work for others, and everyone prepares differently," Blake told reporters at the Sony Ericsson Open in early April. "... I haven't prepared my life the same way Andy Roddick has, so I trust his decision as well as anyone to know what's best for him. ... I'm honored and have had the privilege of being his teammate for so many years now in the Davis Cup team that I couldn't think of a better teammate ... so I don't ever question his desire or his commitment to the Davis Cup team or to his country. ... He's earned the right to do whatever he wants to do after how hard he's worked for the Davis Cup. "
There's no denying that these Beijing Games are going to be met with a certain amount of protests, and many have asked athletes to take a stand on the issues being raised by having the Games in China. Blake told reporters at the Sony Ericsson Open that while he may have opinions on the matters at hand, he nor any one athlete nor any one country is the voice of an entire world. "I've worked hard; I would love to be there," he said to reporters in Miami. "I'm proud to be a part of the U.S. Olympic team. If they tell me it's the right thing to do to go over there, I'll go over there. If they tell me it's the right thing to do to stay home, then I'll stay home. I would be disappointed, because I want to compete in the Olympics and I want to be there. But I don't feel like it's my decision to go and say, ‘I know what's best for the entire country of China; I know what's best for the entire Olympic team.' I think it should be a joint decision, kind of all for one decision, whether every Olympic team boycotts or we all go and we represent our (countries) with pride."
A Harvard man
Blake got his start in tennis at the age of five and began to gain notoriety in high school at Fairfield High School in Connecticut -- the high school renamed the courts after Blake in 2006. After high school, Blake went to Harvard for two years before turning pro in 1999. He was the nation's top collegiate player in his sophomore year.
Battling back, always
The early part of Blake's career -- even dating back to when he was diagnosed with severe scoliosis at the age of 13 -- was plagued by injury and illness. In 2004, he fractured a vertebrae in his neck, knocking him out of competition for two months, and he contracted Zoster, a condition that affects hearing and vision and that left half of Blake's face temporarily paralyzed. In 2005, he was named the ATP Comeback Player of the Year, and in 2007, he published a book, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, that hit No. 15 on the New York Times best-seller list.
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