Tennis - Former world no. 4 James Blake, of the United States, will hold a press conference on Monday at the US Open during which he is expected to announce his retirement from the sport.
The 33 year old American has dropped to no. 100 in the world rankings and has been slowed down by injuries and age over the past couple of years. He is playing this year's US Open and meet Croatian qualifier Ivo Karlovic in the first round.
The American, known as one of the nicest and most eloquent tennis players of his generation, has a 9-13 record on the ATP circuit in 2013, highlighted by a quarter-final finish at the ATP Atlanta event last month where he lost to compatriot John Isner. He also beat world no. 14 Jerzy Janowicz in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters last month - his biggest win on four years on the tour.
Blake turned professional in the year 2000 and peaked at no. 4 in the world in 2006, a season in which he won 5 ATP singles titles and finished as the top-ranked American in the world. In all, he won 10 ATP singles titles, the last of which came in New Haven in 2007. He also won 7 ATP doubles titles, most recently in Memphis earlier this year with young compatriot Jack Sock.
At the majors, Blake's best performances were making the quarter-finals of the Australian Open (2008) and US Open (2005, 2006). He was also part of the US' 2007 Davis Cup winning team and reached the finals of the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai in 2006. In 2005, Blake was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year award and in 2008, he was named winner of the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year.
Blake has been realistic about his game in recent times. At Wimbledon earlier this year, he commented, "You know, I can play well, having been top 5 in the world. I know that I can be the top 5 in the world. I know I can beat a top 5 player. I'm capable of doing that on any given day. The difference between 87 and top 5 is the consistency. I haven't put it together week in week out where I'm playing at that high of a level all the time.. right now my body has taken a little more of a toll the last 10, 13 years I have been on tour. I don't feel as perfect every day going out there. So there's going to be days it might not be pretty, but I still feel like the next day I turn around I can be the top guy. That's why I'm still playing because I still feel I have that confidence and I have that ability. If I can't do it every single week like I used to, I have to accept that. Father time gets us all, so I'm doing my best. If 87 is where I am now, so be it. I know I have the ability to keep moving up, and if I don't, then, you know, there will be hopefully other opportunities in life besides this. I'm just enjoying it while I'm still relevant out here and still enjoying it. "
Blake takes a 3-5 record against the 34 year old Karlovic into their first round match though the pair have not played in more than three years and a win could put him up against ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round. That should make for some fine one-handed backhand tennis.
Blake will surely find something interesting to do once his days are over. He recently became a father and has been actively involved in supporting social causes even during his playing days. And he would probably make a good public servant as well. In whatever he chooses, Blake will surely carry himself with the same class and dignity that he played tennis with. Here's wishing James Blake all the very best for the US Open and his life thereafter.
Tennis World Magazine - issue 31
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