Don't miss any stories Follow Tennis View

James Blake: Tribute to a True Professional

Aug 28th 2013

James Blake announced through a special press conference Monday that the 2013 US Open would be the last tournament of his decorated 15-year career on the ATP World Tour.

Blake spoke to the comfort and peace of mind that he has obtained from retiring at a moment of his own choosing.

I'm really, really excited I have gotten to do this on my terms,” said Blake. “I had knee surgery a couple years ago, and if that had been the end it would have been a little more disappointing to me to end it without going out the way I am now where still just two weeks ago I beat a guy top 20 in the world.”

Blake’s level of confidence in his decision serves as a microcosm of the intent he brought to the court every single match. The American’s style of play was characterized by fearless aggression. He knew that he wanted to control the center of the court, generate tons of pace, and hit lots of winners. Regardless of the surface, the score, or the opponent, Blake wanted to ensure that the outcomes of matches were decided by him.

James Blake

In a sport where the magnitude of the moment can tear away at physical and mental capacities that players have developed and worked on for years, Blake’s game plan never faltered under pressure whether it was the first point of the match or the last.

Decreased racket head speed, belabored movement, and a shift towards extremely low-risk play are classic symptoms that players experience when the pressure begins to override their skill sets. Put simply, when times get tough, many tennis players play not to lose. James Blake has always been a player that went out on to the court to win matches.

In Cincinnati just two weeks ago, we saw a striking example of this trait. There, Blake took out the high-octane Polish upstart Jerzy Janowicz in straight sets. Janowicz is one of the most offensive-minded players that tennis has seen in a while yet Blake made certain that his own racket did all the talking.

Whether or not James Blake’s commitment to aggression prevented him from achieving more is debatable, but what is undeniable is that this trait paved him a path to a top-five ranking, 362 career victories, three major quarterfinals, 10 titles, and wins over Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Andre Agassi. There is no shortage of tennis players who would love to end their careers with Blake’s resume.

 “I really hope the mark is just that I did things the right way,” emphasized Blake. “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.”

Doing things the right way is definitely how James Blake should be remembered. The manner in which he approached his matches is a beautiful lesson for all tennis players. If a player enters each match with a game plan, one that may or may not be adjusted, and stick to it, he not only shows belief in himself but also signals his confidence to his opponent. Blake is not necessarily known as a player who scrapes and fights for each and every ball, mainly because he works from offensive positions. Still, his devotion to approach each and every point as an opportunity to attack his opponents is something to be admired.

The American thus shows the importance of being a strong-minded individual to molding a successful tennis player. Compared to team sports, such as basketball and soccer, tennis does not give an athlete teammates to encourage him through each moment of adversity. Besides actually playing the game, tennis players also must be their own coach and best friend out on court, at least in singles. Tennis is difficult because it forces individuals to complete the functions of several different people. Blake excelled at this task throughout his career.

As Blake enters his first-round match with Ivo Karlovic tomorrow, fans should not expect anything out of the ordinary from the American. His game plan will stay the same. He will try to rip the cover off almost every single ball. He will try to play as much offense and as little defense as possible. And he will execute his desired strategy from the first ball to the last.

So sit back, watch, enjoy, and most importantly, take what may be your final opportunity to learn from a tennis player who plays his sport with commitment and without compromise.