NEW YORK – For James Blake, retired now for eight years from his pro tour playing days (where he won 10 titles, played a key role in the 2007 Davis Cup win for the United States and once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world), there’s been no issue with being bored without what he calls the all-encompassing “lifestyle” that is the life of a player on the pro tennis tour.
For Blake, in his second year as an ESPN tennis analyst who’s been providing insight during the US Open the past two weeks, there’s been no time to be bored.
One very important part of his life is philanthropy, raising funds for cancer research. In 2008, he established the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
It is named in honor of his father, who succumbed to cancer in 2004.
“Cancer touches too many of us – one in four,” he says. “I want to promote early detection to give them a chance to survive.”
A one-time tennis/music fundraiser was created, and quickly became an annual event. Today, it’s been replaced by more smaller events, including N.Y. Marathon runners competing to raise money. In the most recent race, there were 33, and in 2016 James was one of them. “My goal was to do it in four hours, and I made it.”
The former Harvard star, who once was the top-ranked collegiate player in the nation, has dabbled in covering tennis for various outlets over the years. He joined ESPN in 2020.
“It’s an opportunity to use what you learned playing the game,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into this game, and enjoy using what I know in a positive way and give insight that fans otherwise wouldn’t know.”
On the well-established ESPN tennis team, he is still the “new guy” and gets grief about it.
“This is a close-knit family, a great group, and just like in team sports, the rookie has to pay his dues,” he explains.
Miami Tournament Director
In 2018, Blake was presented with the opportunity to be the Miami Open tournament director. His focus is on player relations, media, broadcast, as well as tournament improvements and innovations.
“The position intrigued me,” he says, “and it’s a way to give back to the sport and use the knowledge I’d gained.”
Blake hasn’t completely put away his tennis racquet. Since retiring, he has played on the Champions Tour. His next event is this coming Monday at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
“It’s a fun way to stay in shape at least a little bit and catch up with the guys,” he says.
His Most Important Job
Oh, by the way, in addition to all those other roles, Blake is a family man. He and his wife have two young girls.
“That’s the biggest job and most fulfilling,” he says. “I like being the dad at soccer practice and picking them up after school, and I’m still young enough to jump on the trampoline with them and play in the pool.”
Who is James Blake Now?
For 30 years, Blake was a tennis player. With all these different aspects to his life, who is he now?
“The first thing I think of is a dad,” he says. “I led a very selfish life playing tennis. Everything and everyone around me worked around my schedule.
“Now, my kids and wife are my No. 1 priority, the most unselfish way to life. Some athletes struggle when they retire, but it’s been easy for me because it’s been a total reversal of selfish to selfless.”