For 14 years, James Blake carried the torch as the only African-American male of note on the pro-tennis circuit. Monday, he ended his commendable run.
Through tears at the U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y., Blake said, “Despite the tears, I’m actually really happy about this. I can do it on my own terms. Always wanted to do that. I thought about it a ton this year.”
Married and with a child, Blake, 33, prefers family life over professional tennis.
“There are so many athletes that say they can never replace that feeling of having that adrenaline rush, but I get more of an adrenaline rush now seeing my (1-year-old) daughter wake up in the morning,” he said. “That’s something that I’m truly looking forward to–being able to spend more time with my wife and daughter.”
Blake went to Harvard University before turning pro in 1999. His highest ranking was No. 4 in the world in 2006. He goes into his first-round match in the U.S. Open against Ivo Karlovic ranked 100th.
“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,” Blake said. “It’s not one that’s going to end in Newport” — the Rhode Island home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame — “but it’s one that I’m proud of.”
He called helping the United States defeat Russia in the 2007 Davis Cup final in Portland, Ore., as “my proudest moment. . . without a doubt.”
Blake won 10 singles titles, the last in 2007. He reached the quarterfinals three times in Grand Slams, all in U.S. Opens. In a riveting match, he lost to Andre Agassi on one of those occasions. The”biggest highlight and lowlight, at the same time,” Blake called it.
“Obviously, the U.S. Open was a special place for him. I understand how he would want to end here. You know, I think he still has a lot of great tennis in him, but he’s decided that now is the time for him,” Venus Williams, former World No. 1 Champion, said. “He has a family now, so those are important priorities, from what I hear. He’s ready, so all we can do is support him.”