With the legendary US Open underway, former pro tennis player James Blake is feeling nostalgic about his own time on the court. In late August, Blake—who is also a New York Times best-selling author—joined us for an exclusive spin class at Flywheel Chelsea, hosted by Time Warner Cable. The tennis legend discussed the experience of being a spectator rather than a player, who he’s rooting for to win the Open and more.
How has your life changed since you retired?
Life on tour can be extremely selfish. That’s something every athlete has to go through…but now it’s about living entirely selfless. My needs come last after my kids.
What’s the best part about being a spectator rather than a competitor?
Just seeing the improvement. Seeing the guys do things that I didn’t think were possible five or ten years ago on tour.
The worst part?
At times you miss the feeling of a final, of a tense moment. You know, the nerves you get out there.
Is this week nostalgic for you?
Even when I was a player, the US Open felt a little nostalgic because I remember going there as a kid, as a fan. When I was playing, I was still getting goose bumps stepping out there. And now, as a spectator looking back on my career, it’s eye-opening for me… to see how lucky I was to be able to be play here.
Who are you rooting for?
I think right now, the biggest story line has to be Serena going for the calendar year Grand Slam. That’s something that is exciting to see. [She’s] great off the court and a ton of fun, so to see her accomplish that would be really special.
I heard that you’re training for the NYC Marathon. What have you been doing to prepare?
Running a lot! It’s been tough. I’m honestly not used to running those kinds of distances before. Before I started this, I never ran more than five miles in my life. It’s been interesting and another challenge so it’s exciting to get through it. But I’m doing it for my foundation—to raise money for cancer research. Hopefully, that’ll push me through as I’m getting to mile 18, 20, and 25.
You don’t have much of a presence on social media—is that intentional?
Right now I don’t feel like I need it. The younger [tennis players] are always worried about how many followers they have, or who liked this, or who saw this and who retweeted that. I’m kind of glad I didn’t have those distractions. You think about the fact that a lot people are missing the moments because they’re worried about getting the right picture, instead of just having the memories.