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Court Appeal

James Blake brings his life to the game



Reminiscing about the world’s 17th ranked touring professional—just before this summer’s Wimbledon Grand Slam matches—his former high-school coach, John Honey, confessed to having “one small regret” about their relationship. “I’ve known James on and off the courts for more than 20 years, but he’ll never change. He still won’t call me by my first name. It’s always Mister Honey. What it tells you, I guess, is a lot about his upbringing. Plus the fact that success and celebrity have never gone to his head. He’s still as courteous and deferential with people as he was as a teenager learning the game. I often wonder if James isn’t that way with the likes of Federer or McEnroe or Bud Collins. The thing, or things, about him are style and character.”  A quick look at the James Blake résumé makes that abundantly clear. The second son of a mixed-race couple, Tom and Betty Blake, James attended Fairfield High School, became a National Merit Scholar, and, like his older brother, Tom Jr., was admitted to Harvard. Following in Tom’s footsteps on the school’s tennis team, James succeeded by his sophomore year in becoming the nation’s top college player. Determined to make the most of his fast-accelerating skills and ambition, he then dropped out of school, “for the time being,” to turn professional. (Sort of a Bill Gates route-to-fame approach.) Starting in worldwide Challenger Cup matches in 1999, Blake reached the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) number-seven spot in world singles play by 2006. This was seen as all the more remarkable given what Blake had to endure along the way. In 2004, he suffered a broken neck from a practice-session crash into a net pole in Rome. Not long after that, his father’s early death from cancer was another devastating setback, the stress of which brought on a debilitating, paralyzing bout of shingles.

But return to form he did, and by 2006 was named Comeback Player of the Decade by Deuce magazine. “I never expected anything else from a guy with such steel-like determination,” says Coach Honey. “Did you know that all through the time he was learning and playing tennis here, James had to wear a back brace for 18 hours a day to help correct a spinal curvature. That’s just plain guts.”

Fairfield Magazine interviewed Blake the day before he played his first-round Wimbeldon match, which he lost in a close three-set match, to Andreas Seppi. The U.S. Open begins August 31. You referred in an early exchange to “life in the pro-tennis bubble.” What do you mean by that?

Well, at this level of the game you tend to get caught up in a lot of hype and hoopla, media coverage, sponsor events, meetings with fans, and photo shoots. You have to schedule yourself carefully so as not to detract from your practice and conditioning routines—but at the same time, deal with the realities of being on the ATP tour.

Do you enjoy it?

Some of the stuff that’s come my way over the years has been strangely delightful. Men’s fashion spreads, posing in a bathtub of Evian water for a commercial, being interviewed on “60 Minutes” and “Oprah”—and one year having to cope with People’s ‘Sexiest Athlete’ accolade.

Does all the travel help broaden your cultural horizons?

In some ways, but on the tour you actually have very little time for exploring. I did get a thrill out of being in Rome a few years after I got bonked in the head. But the thing is, if you go sightseeing or to museums, four-star restaurants and such, it probably means the tournament isn’t going so well for you.

Do you do a lot of reading on the road? 

Oh, yes, that’s always been my routine. Lately, I’ve read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmail, Lucky Man, by Michael J. Fox—and, of course, Obama’s Audacity of Hope. Nor will I ever forget Arthur Ashe’s Days of Grace. 

Besides Ashe, did you have any other tennis idols as a youngster? 

Yes, I had a good number of heroes—Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg for their attitude. And I really liked Jim Courier for his work ethic. Also, let me say that Michael Jordan is the most exciting person I’ve ever met.

About the long pro-tour season and its effect on players—does this concern you? 

I’ve been saying for quite some time that the ATP schedule lasts far longer than it should. No other professional sport has 11 months of events. The fact that none of the tournaments wants to give up spots on the calendar makes such a decision very difficult. But to protect the longevity of players, I think it’s a real necessity. Also, coaching should be allowed.

About your J-Block fans, the noted sports writer Frank Deford says they’re “too rowdy.” Any comment?  

Putting aside the fact that they’ve buoyed up my spirits and revved up any number of matches from Miami to Melbourne, let me say that the J-Block has been solidly behind one of the most important causes in my life. If you’ll recall, after my dad succumbed to cancer, our family set up the Thomas Blake Sr. Research Fund at Memorial Sloane Kettering in his memory. From the programs connected with the fund—in which J-Block members play a role—more than $1.5 million has been collected. Nothing I’ve ever done has been as satisfying. Dad was a relentless self-improver.

What are some moments you’ll always remember?

Let me think. So many, and they won’t come out in any special order. Being named to the U.S. Davis Cup team for the first time. Getting rid of the dreadlocks—for charity! The kind, sympathetic way Mike Wallace treated me on “60 Minutes.” The fact that Mr. Honey wrote a letter of recommendation to Harvard for me. Visiting Fairfield High and seeing that the courts were named after me. My enduring relationship with coach Brian Barker. Winning ten singles titles from 2002 on; and taking the quarter-final in three sets from Roger Federer in last year’s Beijing Olympics. Wow! A few years back, the ATP honored me with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award.

Anything else?

And, oh yes, there’s knowing that I’ll go back to Harvard some day, get my degree, and keep some other balls in the air in a new career. I also treasure the fact that I was raised as a normal kid, in a loving family—in a town and school system that fostered individuality, lasting friendships, and real-world experiences. That’s a huge difference from what happens if you come up through the tennis academy route.

You’re probably ready to tune us out in favor of your iPod. What’s on it at the moment?

Well, not being a big fan of opera, country, or techno—almost everything else. My rock-star high-school buddy, John Mayer, gets a lot of play. Along with Gavin Degraw, Jay-Z, Eminem, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, and lots more in between.

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November 2018

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Join us for a Forum on the Worldwide Refugee Crisis comprised of two panels in the Dogwood Room of the Barone Campus Center on Tuesday, November 13 from 3:30 - 7:00 p.m. Panel 1: The Syrian...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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Join us in viewing a Sudanese-American Coffee Ceremony as representatives of the Sudanese-American House in New Britain, CT demonstrate how to prepare and serve traditional Sudanese coffee. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

In 1920, the 18th Amendment was enacted banning the sale of alcohol across the country. However, in our "land of steady habits," alcohol consumption was a habit that proved hard to break. In the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Members of Fairfield’s Arabic Language Club will offer a fun introductory language lesson—learn basic greetings, introductions, and more! Join us on Wednesday, November 14 from 7:00 - 7:30 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Quick Center for the Arts
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

Join us for a FREE lecture! Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults. However, the fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life. Learn strategies for preventing falls and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stamford Health Tully Health Center
32 Strawberry Hill Court
1st Floor Auditorium
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: HSS Sports Rehab
Telephone: 203-705-2933
Contact Name: Pamela Villagomez
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Mishka returns as a duo to perform your favorites and new music off of his forthcoming album. An 'organic' singer mixing the relaxed styles of Jack Johnson with a deep reggae groove. His...

Cost: $25 Members Save:$3 /tckt

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOned
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

 BRODY WILKINSON EMERGING ARTIST SERIES Rambunctious Danish indie rockers New Politics formed in the late 2000s around the talents of vocalist David Boyd, guitarist/vocalist/keyboard player...

Cost: $28 Standing Room Only Limited Seating First Come First Serve No Member Discoun

Where:
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theatre Company
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: BRODY WILKINSON
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Wine & Cheese Reception: 6 – 6:30pm; Program at 6:30pm. Register online at the link below: A panel of journalists and professors, moderated by Larry Rifkin, will examine the state...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Each event in our Art in Focus series offers an opportunity for an hour of close looking and informal discussion around a single work of art, led by Curator of Education Michelle DiMarzo. On...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

 Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Brooklawn Country Club Host a Business After Hours: November 15, 2018   The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Brooklawn Country Club will host its November...

Cost: $20 Chamber Members, $30 Non-Chamber Members

Where:
Brooklawn Country Club
500 Algonquin Rd
Fairfield, CT  06825
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Website »

More information

Learn winning plays, key strategies, and new vocabulary in a fun and friendly environment. For grades 3-12. The club is taught by Dusty Brown, who competed in both the 2017 North American Scrabble...

Cost: $125 per student

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Chapter of the National Charity League are pleased announce our 4th annual Holiday Pop-Up Market!  We have had tremendous success with this event and we are...

Cost: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Celebrate a Fairfield tradition from the early 1800s. Before Thanksgiving, friends and families visited neighbors, sampling a variety of pies at each house. As the revelers moved on, they grew...

Cost: General admission $5; Seniors and Students: $3

Where:
1750 Ogden House
1520 Bronson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Natural Pet Outlet is hosting Pictures with Santa! Bring your pet on Saturday November 17th from 10am-5pm and join The Natural Pet Outlet staff and Santa for a free 5 x 7 photo. No...

Cost: no cost

Where:
Natural Pet Outlet
3380 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Chapter of the National Charity League are pleased announce our 4th annual Holiday Pop-Up Market!  We have had tremendous success with this event and we are...

Cost: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Join us Saturday November 17 from 11-2 in the Sportsplex in Fairfield to find out about LivenUp's custom IV Drips, Hyperbaric Chamber, Beaner, and Wellness Support Systems. Dr. Salerno...

Cost: $39-$275

Where:
LivenUp in the Sportsplex
85 Mill Plain Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

St Joseph High School's Maroon & Gold Gala is a scholarship event that casts a spotlight on the school’s strong commitment to community service and leadership. It is a fabulous...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Waterview
215 Roosevelt Drive
Monroe, CT  06468
View map »


Sponsor: St Joseph High School
Telephone: (203) 378-9378
Contact Name: St Joseph High School
Website »

More information

Described as “one of the sharpest, funniest storytellers in rock” by Rolling Stone and “an exceptional songwriter” by NPR's Fresh Air, Todd Snider’s due diligence...

Cost: 38

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) with the first annual Pequot’s writer’s conference. Join Tim Tomlinson of the New York City Writers for a day of workshops focusing on your...

Cost: $100 lunch included

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Parenting is never easy, but raising children with learning and attention disorders presents unique difficulties. This conference will help parents focus on developing their children's...

Cost: 50

Where:
Winston Preparatory School
57 West Rocks Rd.
Norwalk, CT  06851
View map »


Sponsor: Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
Telephone: 203 682-1664
Contact Name: Alison Brown
Website »

More information

Please join us on Saturday, November 17, for Family Day: Life in Ancient Greece. Family Day activities include arts & crafts and a child friendly gallery tour designed for ages 4-10. Session 1: 1...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

On Saturday November 17 at 6 p.m. join a wonderful team of astronomers and view planets, stars, and constellations. Note: Families are invited to a special preview in the Learning Center...

Cost: $4/New Pond Farm member ($16 max/family), $6/non-member ($24 max/family)

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

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