NEW YORK — American James Blake, who has won 10 ATP titles and reached a career-high ranking of No. 4, announced his retirement on Monday. He said the U.S. Open will be the final tournament of his 14-year career.
“I know I have the capability of still playing at that [high] level at times,” Blake said. “It’s just not with the same consistency I was able to four or five years ago when I felt like every week was an opportunity to win a tournament. I don’t feel like that as much anymore.”
Red-eyed from an emotional 24 hours, the 33-year-old who grew up on Connecticut needed a towel to wipe away tears as he talked about his legacy and looked forward to spending more time with his family.
“There are so many athletes that say they can never replace that feeling of having that adrenaline rush,” Blake said, “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.
“I don’t want to be dragged out of this game,” Blake said. “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 will play his first-round match against Ivo Karlovic on Wednesday.
Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable moments from Blake’s career:
• 2005 U.S. Open: It was Blake’s best and worst memory at the U.S. Open. He defeated No. 2 Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the third round and had Andre Agassi on the ropes in the quarterfinals after winning the first two sets. But Agassi rallied to win 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6), prevailing in one of the more memorable fifth sets in recent history.
“We left our absolute best out there on the court,” Blake said Monday. “I think that tiebreaker in the fifth set was all winners; I don’t remember any errors … I read [Agassi's] book and I still remember that one shot he was talking about where I stepped around a forehand and hit it inside in and he was 30 feet from it because he couldn’t believe I would go for that shot down match point.
“I’ve got a couple of friends that are big tennis fans, and some of them have said to me still that that’s their favorite shot that I ever hit. For me, I will have fond memories of that time, even though I definitely would have liked to have won two more points and won that match and been in the semifinals against Robby [Ginepri].
“Again, that’s just greedy. I still remember that night was great for tennis. I still hear people talk to me about that match. I heard people that next day, that next week, telling me they lost plenty of sleep. I think that’s great for tennis.”
• 2007 Davis Cup: Along with Andy Roddick and Bob and Mike Bryan, Blake helped the U.S. defeat Russia in Portland, Ore., for the Americans’ 32nd Davis Cup title. Blake said he would love to be Davis Cup captain someday.
“[Current captain Jim] Courier has got those guys playing unbelievable right now, so I wouldn’t step on anyone’s toes,” he said. “But in the future, that was such a great part of my career that I’d love to be a captain, as well.”
• 2008 Olympics: Blake stunned Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the quarterfinals to advance to the medal round, where he lost to Fernando Gonzalez 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 in a heartbreaker that was tinged with controversy.
• 2006 ATP Masters Cup: Blake was the last man to qualify for the ATP’s year-end championships in Shanghai, but he defeated Nadal 6-4, 7-6 (0) in round-robin play and eventually advanced to his first and only Masters Cup final, where he lost to Federer.
• That signature forehand: His insistence on playing a bashing, athletic, risky style was always the criticism of Blake, but when he connected with that lightning bolt of a forehand, the gasps from the crowd would suck the air out of stadiums all around the world.
His health and consistency may have wavered as he got older, but that shot never lost any power. Here he is clocking a return at 125 mph on match point at the 2011 U.S. Open: