By E.J. Crawford, USTAFoundation.com
James Blake has been a top junior, a collegiate No. 1, an inspirational story, a Davis Cup champion, an author and the No. 4-ranked player in the world. Now he is set to take on a new role: chairman of the USTA Foundation Board of Directors.
The new post as the public face of the USTA’s national charitable organization is a continuation of Blake’s lifelong philanthropic efforts. In addition to his support of the Foundation, Blake, who played tennis as a youngster at the USTA National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) chapter in Harlem, N.Y., created the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and holds an annual celebrity tennis and entertainment event, with proceeds going to raise fund for cancer research and prevention.
“I’m honored to have been selected as the chairman of the USTA Foundation board of directors,” Blake said. “I admire the Foundation’s pursuit to support the combination of tennis and education and the impact it has on so many youth around the country. I grew up playing tennis at a young age and participated in an NJTL program. It was there that I learned the value and influence tennis can add to my life, and it’s through the support of the USTA Foundation that students today are given the same opportunities. I’m proud to be a part of this outstanding mission to serve up dreams to those in need.”
Blake takes over as Foundation chairman from former touring pro and award-winning journalist Mary Carillo, who served as chairwoman of the board from 2009 to 2014, overseeing the expansion of the Foundation to encompass NJTL, Military Heroes and Individuals with Disabilities.
“The board of directors of the USTA Foundation enthusiastically welcomes James as our new chairman and ambassador,” said Thomas Chen, president of the USTA Foundation board of directors. “We have admired his success and reputation as a professional tennis player and are pleased that he shares our core beliefs in giving back through the sport of tennis. We are honored to have him join the Foundation and know he will continue the great work and leadership provided so admirably and passionately by Mary.”
Following an impressive junior career, Blake played collegiately at Harvard University, where he ascended to No. 1 in the national college rankings and twice earned All-America honors. He was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Player of the Year in 1999, following his sophomore season, and turned pro shortly thereafter.
Blake played professionally for 14 years, rebounding from a broken neck and a severe case of shingles to become the top-ranked American in the world. In his career, he won 10 ATP singles titles and seven doubles titles, helped lead the U.S. to the Davis Cup championship in 2007, advanced to the semifinals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and reached the quarterfinals at both the US Open (2005-06) and Australian Open (2008). In doing so, he became a global fan favorite and inspired the famed “J-Block,” an ever-growing group of supporters who cheered him on each year at the US Open.
In 2007, Blake co-wrote The New York Times best-selling autobiography, “Breaking Back” detailing his return from injury and illness as well as his rise back up the rankings. The following year, he was honored with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Blake officially retired from professional tennis at the 2013 US Open. He currently lives in Connecticut with his wife, Emily, and their two daughters.