James Blake, once ranked as high as no. 4 during his professional tennis career, joined ESPN in 2020 as an analyst at Wimbledon and the US Open. In 2021, he also worked the Australian Open.
Blake grew up playing tennis despite severe scoliosis, requiring a back brace when not on the court. A native of New York and later Fairfield, Connecticut, he attended Harvard and was the top-ranked player in college before leaving in 1999 to pursue a professional career. He began to make a name for himself when in 2004 he broke his neck when practicing on a clay court in Rome and hitting the net post. Later that year, he battled shingles. His ranking plummeted before he returned to form in the latter half of 2005, winning the ATP event in New Haven and defeating Rafael Nadal at the US Open. He ended the year ranked 22 and was named ATP Comeback Player of the Year.
In 2006, five titles and reaching the finals of Indian Wells and the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai lifted Blake to his career high, a season-ending ranking of no. 4 in the world. In 2007 he was part of the victorious U.S. Davis Cup team, going 2-0 in the finals vs. Russia. At the 2008 Olympics, he defeated then no. 1-ranked Roger Federer for the first time and he placed fourth. His career continued through 2013, as he amassed 10 tour victories and seven additional in doubles.
Born December 28, 1979, Blake is married with two young daughters. Since his playing days, he has been involved in philanthropy, including founding the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in memory of his father. He also has done tennis commentary for Tennis Channel, NBC and CNN; and since January 2018 serves as tournament director for the Miami Open where he heads player relations, media, broadcast and tournament improvements and innovations. His memoir, Breaking Back, was a New York Times Best Seller.