James Riley Blake (born 28 December 1979) is an American professional tennis player.
Blake was born in Yonkers, New York to parents Thomas Sr. (an African-American) and Betty (who is European-English). He has a brother, Thomas Jr., who is also a professional tennis player, and two older half-brothers, Christopher and Howard.
Blake attended Fairfield Warde High School, in Fairfield, Connecticut. He dropped out of Harvard University after his sophomore year to pursue a career in tennis. Blake was inspired to pursue tennis after hearing his role model, Arthur Ashe, speak to the Harlem Junior Tennis Program. Brian Barker was his first (and current) coach.
At age 21, Blake saw his first Davis Cup action in 2001 against India and became the third African-American man to play the Davis Cup for the United States. Blake won the 2002 USTA Waikola Challenger in Hawaii. He has also twice won the Hopman Cup (with Serena Williams & Lindsay Davenport).
Blake was named Rookie of the Year for the 2000 World Team Tennis season, and he has appeared in People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue. He is also good friends with singer/songwriter John Mayer, who is also from Fairfield.
Away from tennis, Blake also enjoys golf, basketball, and baseball. Blake has also been featured on Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown.
2004 was an especially difficult year for Blake. He broke his neck while practicing at a tournament in Rome in May, developed shingles, and in July lost his father to cancer. James did not know if he would ever play tennis again. However, he persevered with help from his family and friends, reentered the tennis world at No. 210 and climbed up to 49 in the rankings. He entered the 2005 US Open as a wildcard, where he staged a remarkable comeback, defeating 2nd seed Rafael Nadal in the round of 32. In beating his next opponent, Blake achieved his best Grand Slam effort of his career reaching the quarterfinals, where he succumbed to Andre Agassi in a fifth-set tiebreak.
However, Blake continued his superb play winning in October 2005 by his third ATP tour title at the Stockholm Open in Sweden. Blake defeated Thai player Paradorn Srichaphan in the final 6-1 7-6. Blake finished 2005 ranked at No. 22 in the world according to the entry ATP rankings.
January 2006 started out slow for Blake as he lost in the second round of the Adelaide International. However, Blake bounced back and won the Sydney International winning his fourth ATP tour title defeating Russian Igor Andreev in the final 6-2 3-6 7-6 in blistering heat. Blake had high hopes at the 2006 Australian Open he was seeded No. 20, yet he lost in the third round to Spanish player Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-4 6-4. The loss was a set back since Blake had a 2-0 in career head to head against the Spaniard. Roberedo clearly was seeking revenge after Blake ousted him at the US Open in the fourth round last year. However, according to the January 30th 2006 ATP entry rankings he has cracked into the top 20 for the very first time in his career.
His main weapons are his incredible speed, return of serve, ability to hit the ball on the rise, and his "monster forehand", giving him an ability to hit down-the-line winners from seemingly impossible positions. He is also very agile and covers the court extremely well. His first serve, while powerful, is somewhat mercurial, his second serve accuracy sometimes fluctuating between the seventies and the low thirties in a single match. Blake has greatly improved his backhand which used to be a weakness.
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Overall record in Davis Cup is 9–4, and 6–3 in singles.
Reached the fourth round in the 2002 Australian Open, losing to finalist Rainer Schuettler.
Finished 2002 ranked No. 28 on the ATP men's tour.
Won the 2002 International Series Gold tournament in Washington, DC.
Won the 2005 Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven, Connecticut.
On 3 September 2005, beat Rafael Nadal in the third round of the 2005 US Open, his first win over a Top 10 player in a Grand Slam event.
2005 US Open Quarterfinals: Lost to Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-7. After completely dominating the error-prone Agassi in the first two sets and getting a break early in the third, it looked as if Agassi's possibly final US Open would come to an unpleasant end in under 2 hours. However, despite being under constant pressure, Andre adapted to Blake's power game in the third and hit winners from all angles in the fourth to take the match to a fifth set. The players traded breaks to take the fifth set to a tiebreak. Blake got the early lead and looked to the heavens to thank his deceased father. Agassi would not go down, however, and lived up to his title as "The Legend" by winning the tiebreak. Even John McEnroe was speechless and could only shake his head in awe. This was a match for the history books and Blake's biggest match to date, though he still considers his win over Agassi in Washington to be his sweetest moment.
Won the 2005 Stockholm Open, defeating Paradorn Srichaphan in the final.
Won the 2006 Medibank International, defeating Igor Andreev in the final.
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