(November 13, 2014) NEW YORK, NY – Former top American tennis player and world No. 4 James Blake played host to a kick-off “Serving for a Cure” shopping event at the Brooks Brothers flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York City on Thursday night to benefit his foundation.
Blake’s foundation raises funds for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, specifically the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund, which supports early detection cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Blake began “Serving for a Cure” in 2005 a year after he lost his father Thomas to cancer. The fund is named after his father.
Blake talked about the beginning of his foundation: “I wanted to do something one time as a memorial for him, and it turned out that the support I had that first year made me feel that I couldn’t stop at one. It’s been going strong ever since and now it feels like it’s never going to stop which is a really good thing and I’m proud of it. We passed the million dollar donation mark to Memorial Sloane Kettering.
“My father unfortunately was detected so late, but once he was a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, he said it was like night and day. The treatment there was great, the research was unbelievable. They tried everything they could and we just want to give everyone a fighting chance. That’s why our research for early detection, we want give people a chance to beat the disease.”
In addition to his own philanthropic endeavors, the current Westport, Connecticut resident, commented on how dedicated players on the ATP Tour are to charity.
“It’s kind of like the spirit of community,” said Blake. “We’re all in the same locker room together. We’re all not really part of the same team, like in team sports but it feels like it. We see what the others are doing and we see the example set at the top especially. Some of the older guys when I was growing up. -I saw (Andre) Agassi, I saw (Pete) Sampras, a lot of guys who were doing right by the rest of the world. It made me think that I’d want to do the same.
“Once something so personal hit my family, it made me realize I can make a difference in a positive way, because most of our lives as a tennis player are selfish. We’re playing tennis and doing it for ourselves.”
“I hope the young guys – the Sam Querrey’s , the John Isner’s, the Jack Sock’s, the Donald Young’s, they want to make difference too whatever way they can,” Blake continued.
Since Blake’s retirement from the tennis tour in 2013, he still is active in tennis in one form or another.
“Well I helped Jack Sock a little bit,” he said. “I also have stayed close with the USTA and with Katrina Adams becoming the new president. I’m proud of her and hopefully I’ll be able to be part of the staff soon if that comes to be we’ll see. But right now I’m mainly focusing on my family, being at home and spending a lot of time with two little girls, that definitely keeps me pretty busy.”
Blake admitted that he likes coaching but there are some drawbacks.
“I like it but I don’t like to travel, I don’t like being on the road 30 weeks out of the year like I was when I was playing,” he said.
“So in terms of Jack (Sock) I just helped him with some of the bigger picture stuff- to be able to talk to him on the phone and helping keep his mind set the right way, because he’s got a full time coach, I don’t want to interfere with that, I’m not dealing with the X’s and O’s, strokes and stuff. I’m more of a mentor and a friend, someone that’s going to be a sounding board for him.
“He’s going through a lot of stuff I was going through at his age, so I just want to be that resource that can help him. If I can do that for others, that would be something in the future that I’d be proud to be a part of. I went through it all and hopefully have others have that knowledge as well.”
Blake who was a member of the 2007 Davis Cup championship team told Tennis Panorama News that down the line he’d like to be the U. S. Davis Cup Captain. “I thought about it the first time I played Davis Cup,” he said. “I would love to have that opportunity and it’s something that’s such an honor. Jim’s (Courier) doing a great job. I know it won’t be for a long time to get a chance because I know Jim’s got a pretty good handle on it. There would be no reason to make a change anytime soon. Hopefully I have plenty more years to have that opportunity and if it ever comes my way, I won’t pass it up, that’s for sure.”
Blake had the opportunity to be in the broadcast booth for Tennis Channel as an analyst in February 2013 when the U. S. played a first round Davis Cup tie against Brazil in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I thought it was going to be much more natural than it was,” said of the transition to working on television.
“I worked with Brett Haber, who is a true professional ad he really helped me. I got better through the weekend.”
“The biggest thing was when to talk and when not to talk, because I felt like I needed to say more and he said it was ok to let the tennis do the talking, that actually made it easy for me to get better and just let the players do the talking on the court. I was getting better. It still feels there is a lot more work for me to get to anyone’s level like Bret Haber, John McEnroe and the people who have been doing it for years, but it’s something that’s fun and I think it helps me that I played again most of the guys I’m commentating on, so I don’t need to do as much work on the scouting reports I’ve already done that.”
Blake entertains doing more television work in the future. “It’s something that was fun the first few times I did it. I think it would be great to stay close to the sport. It may give me an opportunity to stay involved as it gets closer to a time if I have the opportunity to be Davis Cup captain but it is a good way to stay involved. It may be tough for me to stay objective. I maybe have a few favorites especially with the Americans. I like to see them doing well but I have to do my best to stay objective, just commentate on the facts.”
Brooks Brothers is a new sponsor for “Serving for a Cure.” “I’m really happy to be affiliated with a company with such a great tradition as Brooks Brothers. You see them at a lot of classic events, I know tennis and golf are known for that kind of classic feel and Brooks Brothers really brings that to the table.”
Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News