2014/09/22

Update: Four Found Dead in a Fire at a Home Owned by Former Tennis Pro James Blake

WTSP

Photo from WTSP.com

(May 7, 2014) A fire broke out in a home owned by James Blake, north of downtown Tampa, Florida. The fire was reported at 6 a.m. Firefighters found four bodies in the burning mansion owned by the former world No. 4 player. Blake does not live in the house as he rents it out.

 

WTSP Tampa, Florida reports:

Tampa, Florida — Four bodies have been found inside the large, million-dollar Tampa home that went up in flames Wednesday morning.

During a 5:30 p.m. press conference Wednesday, Col. Donna Lusczynski of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said it took firefighters several hours to extinguish the fire as hot spots continued to pop up and the blaze kept restarting. Investigators were able to finally gain access to the inside of the mansion around 3 p.m.

Once inside, authorities found the bodies of two adults and two teenage children in their respective bedrooms. While investigators confirmed the home was being rented out by the Campbell family, they say a positive identification of the bodies would not be available for several days. Lusczynski did say, however, that the family is unaccounted for at this time.

SEE ALSO: Neighbors say family died in Tampa house fire

It was also revealed at the press conference that two of the victims suffered upper body trauma, but the extent of those injuries and how they were caused is not yet known. No weapons were located as of now inside the home.

Lusczynski went on to say that the fire was started intentionally by an accelerant that has not been identified at this time. Also, various commercial fireworks were found inside which is what the loud explosions likely were that neighbors reported hearing during the blaze. She also said investigators are considering murder-suicide as a possibility as to what happened and that no one else in the community is believed to be in any danger.

Investigators are expected to be out at the scene for days trying to collect evidence.

10 News’ search of property records confirm former tennis player James Blake owns the 5,856 square-foot mansion at 16223 Sierra de Avila, inside the exclusive Avila Golf and Country Club.

We were able to reach a contact with the James Blake Foundation, who says Blake was not inside the house when the fire broke out. He had been renting the home to someone else.

Blake is a former professional tennis player, who at one point was the #1-ranked American in the world. Blake retired last year.

 

 

Share

James Blake on a Roll as the Champions Shootout Comes to Sacramento

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

By Kevin Ware

(February 26, 2014) World-class men’s tennis returns to Northern California tonight with the Champions Shootout: the next stop on the PowerShares Series 12-city tour.  Featuring a roster of tennis icons and legends, the PowerShares Series combines the best of competitive tennis and fan appreciation in a condensed format that’s fun for both the players and fans alike.

The last PowerShares visit to the Bay Area saw Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Todd Martin battling it out for supremacy (and rankings points) in San Jose. This time around, Sacramento is the battleground. And stalwarts Courier and McEnroe are joined by Pete Sampras and series newcomer, James Blake.

McEnroe currently leads the rankings, followed by Courier and PowerShares newcomer Andy Roddick. Blake, however, is quietly making a run for the top spot after picking up his first PowerShares title with a 7-6 (5) win over McEnroe in Salt Lake City.

It’s hard to believe that Blake only just retired from the pro ranks this past fall at the ripe old age of 28. Hard to believe, maybe, but understandable given the toll that injuries have taken on his body over the years.

After struggling in qualifying rounds through most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Blake made his official retirement announcement at the 2013 US Open, after a first-round loss to Ivo Karlovic.

With pro tennis seemingly behind him, Blake looked ready finally enjoy some quality time with his wife and young daughter. But the lure of competition proved too strong, so five months later he’s back on the courts: hitting blistering forehands as though he never left, and having a good time with his old friends.

Blake’s first outing in Denver ended in a finals loss to Andre Agassi. His second was another finals loss to his good buddy Roddick in Houston. The third time definitely proved to be the charm, however, with his win in Salt Lake City. At this rate, McEnroe had better watch his back in Sacramento!

The Champions Shootout begins at 3PM with a special “Play with the Pros” on-court hitting session with Sampras and Blake, followed by a second session featuring McEnroe and Courier at 4PM. Semifinal match play begins at 6PM, with the winners advancing to the finals immediately afterward.

Kevin Ware is in Sacramento covering the Powershares event, The Champions Shootout as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

Share

Tennis News & Net Notes

WTA Tour changes ranking points system for 2014: “Among the changes confirmed by the WTA are first round points at Premier Mandatory tournaments being doubled (from five to 10), qualifying points at International tournaments being increased and Grand Slam qualifying points being adjusted to lessen the difference between WTA Premier event qualifying points.” via WTA TOUR

(L-R) Sara Errani of Italy, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic, Serena Williams of USA, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Li Na of China, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, and Angelique Kerber of Germany pose with the Billie Jean King trophy for the official photo of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for WTA).

(L-R) Sara Errani of Italy, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic, Serena Williams of USA, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Li Na of China, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, and Angelique Kerber of Germany pose with the Billie Jean King trophy for the official photo of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for WTA).

ATP Player Retirement Recap for 2013: James Blake, Igor Andreev, Igor Kunitsyn, Ivan Navarro & Dick Norman via ATP Tour

James Blake

Australian Open Announces Music Lineup for 2014 Tournament: The Rubens and Clare Bowditch are set to headline the musical program at the Australian Open, playing on the night of the men’s and women’s finals, respectively. via Faster Louder

Share

Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner Team Up to Particpate in Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund Tennis Exhibition

Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund Tennis Exhibition

By Josh Meiseles, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(December 7, 2013) CHATHAM, NJ – Centercourt Athletic Club in Chatham, New Jersey played host to the Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund Tennis Exhibition for the sixth time on Friday, as the star-studded event raised money for the former ATP pro’s foundation. The fundraiser amassed over $300,000 in support of comprehensive healthcare services for children with cancer and blood disorders. In conjunction with The Valerie Fund, a New Jersey-based non-profit organization, the event also included a free 10 & under tennis clinic.

 

“When we started this event and my foundation fifteen years ago, I could never have imagined it would have grown into what it is today,” said Gimelstob in a press release. “It brings me so much pleasure to come back home and bring world-class tennis with me…all for a great cause.”

 

A day after James Blake held his ninth annual Serving for a Cure event in New York City, the former ATP World No. 4 accompanied Gimelstob, Andy Roddick and John Isner for a few singles and doubles exhibition matches. Celebrities in attendance included David Duchovny, Anne V., Brooklyn Decker, ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, New York Mets star pitcher Matt Harvey and former New Jersey Nets guard Kerry Kittles.

 

“It means a lot to us, to all of us,” said Isner. “All of us support each other and our causes as well and that’s really what we’re doing here. We did it last night with James, tonight with Justin and these guys are coming down with me to North Carolina. We’re all very good friends and through that friendship and our tennis we’re able to give back to some unbelievable causes. You really get a lot of satisfaction out of this time of year.”
The evening included plenty of comedic moments, especially from the witty Roddick. With no shortage of banter, the former World No. 1 razzed on Isner’s net game and jumped on Duchovny for overcooking a volley: “You know, I hated the X-Files before that shot.” The shot of the day came when Blake ripped a massive forehand winner off a Roddick serve to which the US Open champ replied, “You realize I’m going right for your forehand next time.”

 

Roddick also reflected on his first full season away from the tour. “I guess every retired guy has that kick in the gut moment where you miss it. Mine was Wimbledon and the grass season. I don’t know if that was because I didn’t quite get there. That’s what I wanted most. It didn’t help that all the guys lost in the first couple rounds and I’m thinking ‘what did I do?’ The cumulative six-week process of getting to the point of competing in Australia is what I couldn’t get to anymore. Obviously being at the [US] Open was great, seeing it again. I was sitting up top watching the final and I was just amazed at how the guys play.”

Share

James Blake Serves for a Cure to Raise Money for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

 

(L-R Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

(L-R, Andy Roddick, James Blake and John Isner)

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(December 6, 2013) NEW YORK CITY – The James Blake Foundation brought tennis to New York’s 69th Regiment Armory Thursday night for the 2013 edition of Serving for a Cure.  The event, first held in 2005, raises money for the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund, supporting early detection cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

As in previous years, the popular American was able to draw the support of some his high profile tennis pals including former World No. 1 and Fox Sports 1 host Andy Roddick as well as the current top-ranked American, John Isner.  The centerpiece of the event was a doubles match with Isner and Roddick taking the court for a light-hearted exhibition against Blake and Real Husbands of Hollywood actor Boris Kodjoe.  Kodjoe, though better known as an actor, is an accomplished tennis player in his own right, having been a four-year letter winner in the sport at VCU.  The actor held his own with the tennis champs, prompting Andy Roddick to crack at one point “If I could retire again, I would” after a Kodjoe passing shot whizzed by him. Though the mood was kept light by emcee Justin Gimelstob, there was still some competitive fire on display.  Roddick smacked his racquet on the court after an error that cost his side a game; while Isner briefly argued with officials over what he felt was a botched line call.

Read the rest here.

 

Related story: Blake: Mandela’s life a hundred lifetimes’ worth of accomplishments

Share

Players React to James Blake’s Retirement

James Blake

James Blake

(August 26, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY –  On Monday some players were asked in press about James Blake’s announcement about his retirement after the US Open. Here are a few reactions:

 

VENUS WILLIAMS:  You know, James, obviously the US Open was a special place for him.  I understand how he would want to end here.  You know, I think he still has, you know, a lot of great tennis in him, but he’s decided that now is the time for him.

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.  Hopefully he will be able to contribute to tennis outside of the game, outside of playing pro tennis, in whichever way he chooses.

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.

 

SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, just pure heart.  I mean, 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.

It’s just sad to see.  Sad to see another good friend of mine that I’m not going

 

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, James was one of the more charismatic players on tour.  His style of game was spectacular a lot of days.  He was able to play winners on the return with great first serves, and his forehand was one of the best on tour, no?  Without no one doubt, he was able to hit very hard.  His image was great.

He’s a good example for the kids and a good example for the tour.  He’s a really good person.

 

RYAN HARRISON:  James has been a good friend in the locker room to everybody.  I mean, it’s funny.  Whenever you ask anyone about James, he’s left a great impression and just a great impact on everybody that he’s known in the game.

His career is one thing.  He obviously has his results.  I think something far more important that he’s leaving behind is the fact he left a really positive impact on tennis and the people he was around, which is what you are ultimately looking forward to doing after having a long, successful career like he’s had.

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.

Share

James Blake to Retire After US Open

 

James Blake

(August 26, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – James Blake announced in a Monday morning news conference at the US Open that he is retiring from the tennis tour. The US Open will be his final tournament.

”No real surprise here,” said the former No. 4. “This is my last tournament.  I have had 14 pretty darn good years on tour, loved every minute of it, and I definitely couldn’t have asked for a better career.”

Blake who was tearful at points in his news conference, said now his focus will be on his family.

“The competition is something else I will miss,” said the 33-year-old American.  “I will miss pressure‑packed moments, break points, set points, match points, crowd getting into it.  But I’m so, so fortunate to have a life after this that I’m looking forward to with my wife, with my family.

“You know, 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.  That’s something that I’m truly looking forward to, being able to spend more time with my wife and daughter.”

Blake, who left Harvard before becoming a pro in 1999 reached his career high No. in the world in 2006.

“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 (home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame) but it’s one that I’m proud of.”

Blake survived two major health scares – breaking vertebrae in his neck and suffering from an illness which affected his sight and temporarily paralyzed a portion of his face.

He also raised money for cancer in honor of his father who died from stomach cancer.

“I know I’m lucky enough to have spent 24 years with a guy I couldn’t have asked for a better father and someone to treat me ‑‑ to raise me the way he did and for me to learn how to be a man from no better role model.”

Blake lists his proudest moment as being a member of the 2007 US team along with Andy Roddick and the Bryan Brothers, which won the Davis Cup title.

“I don’t want to be dragged out of this game”, said Blake. “I don’t want someone telling me I need to leave.  I want to leave on my own terms.  I’m happy doing that right now.”

Blake, who is ranked No. 100 in the world, will face Ivo Karlovic in the first round.

 

 Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

Share

Taste of Tennis Brings Tennis Stars and Culinary Celebrities Together for Pre-US Open Soirée

 

Serena Williams photo by Josh Meiseles

Serena Williams photo by Josh Meiseles

By  Vito Ellison  and Josh Meiseles Special to Tennis Panorama News

(August 22, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – There are few tennis events that reveal players’ personalities and exhibit their creativity outside the court quite like the Taste of Tennis. An annual pre-US Open event in midtown Manhattan, the Taste of Tennis serves as an amalgam of tennis, fashion and a premier culinary showcase from some of New York’s finest restaurants.

Venus

The 14th annual BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis was held Thursday evening with proceeds benefitting the James Beard Foundation, an organization that helps develop the culinary arts. Serena Williams hosted a star-studded event, featuring former ATP Top-10 talents James Blake and Janko Tipsarevic, as well as WTA stars Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams.

 

 

ESPN analyst and former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert made an appearance, along with doubles legend Mark Woodforde. Two-time Winter Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan also took part in the festivities.

“I had two or three different sushis, the little slider was good. Very good food,” the always animated Gilbert exclaimed. “This event I think I’ve gone every single year for 15 years and the lady behind it Judy Lerner is good people right there.”

Among the chefs that participated, Top Chef Masters champion Marcus Samuelsson joined fellow alums Harold Dieterle, Dale Talde, Jesse Schenker and Jonathan Waxman. World-renowned chef David Burke was also on hand.

IMG_0132

There was plenty of tennis discussion on the red carpet, with Tipsarevic discussing the grind of the ATP Tour and the current state of his game. “You really need to be focused every single day of your life, because you have other younger and better guys who are working to take your spot. I kind of lost my focus a bit and you can see the results. But I’m feeling good now, I’m playing good, it’s not the end of the world and I hope I’ll be back in the Top-10.”

Aga

Blake also commented on whether the J-Block will be out in full force at the US Open. “I think they’ll be here. They might not be as big as they used to be, because my friends had to go out and actually get real jobs, so some of them can’t make it out to the day matches. If there’s a night match, there’ll be plenty of J-Blockers.”

The evening also included some breaking news as 39-year-old Jill Craybas, who reached a career-high singles ranking of 39 in 2006, revealed that she will be retiring from professional tennis following the US Open.

“It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long,” Craybas said. “But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life. I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”

The BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis benefited the James Beard Foundation. The event was produced by AYS Sports Marketing.

 

Share

James Blake Leads List of Wild Cards for Cincinnati

cincinnati-tennis-open-logo-e1313014647325

CINCINNATI (August 8, 2013) — Seven of the eight men’s wild cards for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have been awarded to American players, with four US players being added to the main draw and three entered into qualifying.

 

James Blake, Brian BakerRyan Harrison and Jack Sock have been granted wild cards in to the main draw.

 

In qualifying, Australian Bernard Tomic joins a trio of Americans who each reached a career high ranking last month – Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla and Rhyne Williams – in the field.

 

“We’re happy to welcome a familiar face like James back to a tournament where he has had a tremendous amount of success in his career,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “At the same time, it’s exciting to offer these younger players a chance to participate in a tournament of this caliber. We look forward to having all eight of these players in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open.”

 

Blake, the 2007 Western & Southern Open finalist, will be making his 12th apperance at the tournament, third among active players behind Tommy Haas (14) and Roger Federer (13). He also ranks sixth among active players for wins in Cincinnati with a 15-10 record.

 

Baker, from Nashville, returned to tennis in 2012 after a series of injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six seasons. He climbed to almost No. 50 in the rankings before suffering a knee injury at the Australian Open in January that has kept him out of action until this week’s Aptos Challenger.

 

Harrison, a 21-year-old who now calls Austin, Texas, home, reached the semifinals last month at the ATP event in Atlanta. He also claimed the title at the Savannah Challenger this season. It will be his third Western & Southern Open main draw appearance.

 

Sock, a 20-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., won the title at the Challenger event in Winnetka, Ill., last month. He reached his second career ATP quarterfinal in February at Memphis. In 2010, Sock won the US Open Juniors title.

 

The four wild card entrants to the qualifying field will compete in a two-round tournament over this coming weekend for one of seven spots in the main draw.

 

Tomic, 20, is the top-ranked player from Australia. He recently reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and early this season claimed his first career title with a win in Sydney.

 

Kudla, a 20-year-old who grew up in Virginia, reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club in London in June.

 

Johnson, 23, won back-to-back NCAA singles champions in 2011-12 while playing for the University of Southern California. He won the Nottingham Challenger in June.

 

Williams, 22, turned pro after his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, and was the NCAA singles finalist in 2011. He reached his first career ATP semifinal at Houston in April.

 

In addition, the following players have been added to the main draw – Radek Stepanek , Thomaz Bellucci and Denis Istomin. These three were entered following the withdrawals of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Viktor Troicki (suspension) and Marin Cilic (personal).

 

The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

 

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

 

Share

NY Sportimes Defeat Philadelphia Freedoms, 22-17 in World TeamTennis

James Blake

By Jerry Milani

ALBANY, N.Y, July 15, 2013 – The NY Sportimes won four of five events as they topped the Philadelphia Freedoms, 22-17, in Mylan World TeamTennis action at SEFCU Arena at the University of Albany on Monday.

Jesse Witten and James Blake opened the evening for the Sportimes (3-3) with a men’s doubles triumph over Samuel Groth and Jordan Kerr, 5-2. Anna-Lena Groenefeld followed with a 5-2 women’s singles victory over Victoria Duval to double the Sportimes’ advantage to 10-4. Groth then turned the tables on Blake, topping the Sportimes’ marquee player by the same 5-2 count in men’s singles to shave the Freedoms’ (1-5) deficit to 12-9 at halftime.

Kveta Peschke and Blake then teamed to upend the Freedoms’ mixed doubles tandem of Liezel Huber and Groth, 5-4, for a four-game NY advantage heading into the final event. Groenefeld and Peschke then closed out the match by edging Duval and Huber, 5-4, for the final margin.

The Sportimes next host the Boston Lobsters on Tuesday SEFCU Arena, beginning at 7:30.  Team captain John McEnroe will then lead the Sportimes in their final match of the Albany portion of the Mylan WTT home season, set for Thursday at 7:30 vs. the Orange County Breakers.
Philadelphia hosts Washington at The Pavilion at Villanova University on Tuesday in its next action.

Mylan World TeamTennis
NY Sportimes 22, Philadelphia Freedoms 17
At SEFCU Arena, Albany, N.Y.
Men’s doubles, Jesse Witten/James Blake (Sportimes) d. Samuel Groth/Jordan Kerr, 5-2
Women’s singles, Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Sportimes) d. Victoria Duval, 5-2
Men’s singles, Groth (Freedoms) d. Blake, 5-2
Mixed doubles, Witten/Kveta Peschke (Sportimes) d. Liezel Huber/Groth, 5-4
Women’s doubles,  Groenefeld/Peshke (Sportimes) d. Duval/Huber, 5-4

Share