|James Blake - Wimbledon 2006|
It is difficult for me to remember all the details exactly now, but I think I was already loving James Blake prior to watching him play in London. One thing is for certain, I had no idea what he had overcome at that point in his life when I cheered him on to defeat Yeu-Tzuoo Wang 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the second round at Wimbledon on June 28, 2006. He was ranked #8 in the world at that time and he had just "broken back" into the tennis world.
|Toward the end of his match...before I stalked him down to autograph my Wimbledon ticket!|
His book, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, was not only interesting, but it was also inspiring. The book focuses on his struggles in the early part of the 2000's when his career was just beginning. He flashes back to his childhood and various struggles from those days (he was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to wear a back brace for much of his youth) along with his initial strides and setbacks with tennis as a newcomer to the professional ranks. The majority of the book is spent recapping his 2003-2006 seasons. He deals with losing his father to cancer, a broken neck, and zoster (shingles) before his comeback season and breakout year (which I happened to see a small piece of live in London...even though he didn't elaborate as much as I had hoped on that particular tournament in the book). Through it all he held strong to two main beliefs - working hard and getting better. One particular theme that struck me was his coach/mentor's notion of instilling the idea that if you can win one set, you can win two sets. I really think that carries over into life. Being confident and refusing to beat yourself up when you make a mistake or things don't turn out like you wanted are crucial to success in the future. There were many things in this book about life, family, and friendships that were transferable to everyday life outside of athletics.
I truly enjoyed this book. I am a huge sports fan (and I played tennis my senior year of high school), but I think anyone could appreciate it. It is more about overcoming obstacles and fighting the odds than it is about tennis. Although, I thought it was a nice touch that he included a tennis glossary in the back with many of the basic definitions and rules of the sport were explained. James Blake's story is really about realizing your full potential even if others may doubt you or circumstances may try to prevent you. It was truly inspirational.
What autobiography has made a lasting impact on you?