Retirement from professional tennis might be beckoning for James Blake, but the charismatic American has not ruled out returning to the game as USA’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas captain.
Blake, who on Monday announced his decision to retire from tennis after the US Open, revealed that he would love to skipper his country in the competition that he holds close to his heart after being part of the Davis Cup-winning team in 2007.
“I don't have any specific plans,” said the 33-year-old. “Way down the road I would obviously love to be back in tennis as the Davis Cup captain. [Jim] Courier has got those guys playing unbelievable right now, so I wouldn't step on anyone's toes. But in the future, that was such a great part of my career that I'd love to be a captain, as well.”
Such is Blake’s passion for the competition, he called his part in USA’s Davis Cup victory in 2007 the “proudest moment” of his career.
“Being a part of that team was such a joy,” he said. “Andy [Roddick] was our clear-cut leader. I thanked him for everything he did, for our team and for me, to make my life easier, taking all the pressure off me.
“But that match in Portland, he won, I won, and the Bryans won. We all played a role in that, and that was something that was so special to me.
“Those weeks are something I will never forget. Some of my best memories are playing cards, shooting the breeze with those guys in the team rooms.”
Blake, who reached as high as world No. 4 in singles, has decided to call time on his career after a string of injuries in recent years, including a knee injury that required surgery, has made it harder for him to recover from the rigours of playing the modern game.
Having become a father to daughter Riley last year, Blake is excited about the prospect of spending more time at home.
“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 daughter wake up in the morning,” he explained. “That's something that I'm truly looking forward to, being able to spend more time with my wife and daughter.”
Blake has had more than his fair share of ups and downs both on and off the court. The American narrowly avoided a life-threatening injury when he was involved in a freak accident in 2004 against Robby Ginepri in Rome.
Blake crashed into a netpost while chasing down a drop shot during practice and fractured a vertebra in his neck. Following the death of his father later that same year Blake contracted shingles which caused a rash and temporary paralysis to the left side of his face and affected his vision.
Despite these setbacks he continued to play at the highest level and he also established a fund to raise money for cancer in aid of his father. No matter what happens at the US Open he will be remembered fondly by all those that met him.
What the players have said
“The guy has been really just a great person with a great heart. He's been through so much. Being even able to be a professional player with his back, and then doing so well. We won together at Hopman Cup. He was such a great partner and a great friend. Sad to see another good friend of mine that I'm not going to see on a daily basis.”
“James was one of the more charismatic players on tour. His style of game was spectacular. He was able to play winners on the return with great first serves, and his forehand was one of the best on tour. He's a good example for the kids and a good example for the tour. He's a really good person.”
“He's one of the greatest guys out here on tour. He's into the next stage of his life, which is being the family man, having the baby, having his wife and kid, just going that route. I'm extremely happy for him. I congratulated him when I saw him. You know, I look forward to keeping in touch with him throughout his life after tennis.”
“What I admired period about him was how he gave back, you know, obviously using his tennis career and celebrity to give back, especially to cancer because his dad passed. And also the excitement he brought to the game. I think he brought a lot of people into tennis. It's always great and also sad to lose someone who helps grow the game. People are always interested in James, so that's what I'm going to miss.”