When the USTA announced that James Blake was to give a press conference, today, at 11:45, everyone expected what was coming: a retirement.
It was not long to be confirmed when the 33-year-old sat down with the media:
“Everyone, I guess I don’t think I’m catching anyone by surprise by the e mails and calls I have gotten in the last 24 hours when I announced I’m having a press conference. No real surprise here. This is my last tournament.“
The veteran of 14 seasons had a difficult last couple of years, struggling with knee injuries, but despite the emotion of the moment, Blake was in good spirits regarding his decision:
“You know, despite the tears, I’m actually really happy about this. I can do it on my own terms. Always wanted to do that.”
That is one thing he can be proud of. His health had put him in many a tough spot over the years, and many times he could have called it quits for that reason. However, he hung on and fought back to earn the right to leave the sport at the moment of his choosing. That, in itself, is a big victory for him, who can now devote his time to his little family and to… his golfing!
However, he doesn’t hide that he would like, someday, to be Davis Cup captain for the United States.
A good list of achievements
In the 14 seasons he spent on the ATP World Tour, James Blake reached a career high of n°4 in the world in November 2006, a ranking he’s kept for 6 weeks. He also remained in the top 20, without interruption, from March 2003 to July 2009, including 114 weeks in the top 10 (74 consecutive).
He won 10 ATP World Tour singles titles, reached three Grand Slam quarter-finals, and was part of the team (along with Andy Roddick and the Bryan brothers) who won the Davis Cup in 2007.
“I really hope the mark is just that I did things the right way. I don’t kid myself. I know I have had a great career in my eyes, but it’s not one that’s going to go down in the history books. It’s not one that’s going to end in Newport, but it’s one that I’m proud of.”
In the end, that is what matters.
A gentleman, on and off the court
I might have been expecting it for some time, but it remains sad to see one of tennis’s true gentlemen bow out. To me, James Blake was one of a kind: a fighter, and a class act, both on and off the court. My only regret is that I will never have had the chance to watch him play other than on stream/TV.
Even in the last couple of years, when it became clear that he was on the last miles of his career, it was always a pleasure for me to watch Blake play. His incredible forehand is one of the shots that I liked best when he was in his prime, and one that I will miss watching.
Blake will play his first match, against Ivo Karlovic, on Wednesday. I hope it will not be the last, and that we will get to see him play at least one last night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
(Photos: Getty Images)