Go Away With … James Blake

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
August 25, 2009

As a child, James Blake suffered from scoliosis. The budding tennis star had two choices: surgery, to correct the curvature of his spine, or a back brace. Because the former meant he would have to give up the sport, he opted for the brace — which he took off only for tennis practice. An economics student at Harvard, Blake dropped out after two years to play on the pro circuit. At 29, he is one of America’s best tennis players. He will compete in the U.S. Open, which runs Aug. 31 through Sept. 13. Blake — who has dabbled in modeling — also collaborated with his sponsor Fila on his new line of clothing, which he named after his late father: Thomas Reynolds. For more information on Blake and his line of athletic wear, visit www.fila.com.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
Melbourne. It has great restaurants, beaches and casinos, which I always enjoy because I love to play blackjack and poker. Plus it’s easy to get around and the people are incredibly friendly. Definitely a place I encourage people to check out. I don’t think they will be disappointed, especially if they go during the Australian Open.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
I split my time between houses in Tampa, where I train, and Fairfield, Conn., where I grew up. So from Tampa, I love to jump off to Miami and the Bahamas. Miami is a really fun place with great nightlife and clubs, while the Bahamas is relaxing and beautiful, but still has a fun vibe. From Connecticut, I have always loved going to Cape Cod. We used to go there all the time on family vacations growing up, so I have a lot of fond memories of hanging out with my family, going to the beach and playing a bunch of mini-golf.

Q. What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
My favorite hotel is the Crown Casino (www.crowncasino.com.au) in Melbourne, Australia. It is just an incredible place that I always enjoy. I also have stayed in a pretty incredible room at the Mirage (www.mirage.com) in Las Vegas. My favorite restaurant in the whole world, and I have been to a ton, is Annapurna, an Indian restaurant in Paris. I look forward to going there every spring during the French Open.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
I never leave home without my computer and my iPod. They keep me connected to family and friends and make all the traveling I do a lot more enjoyable. I am on the road for more than half the year so being able to get the latest books, movies and music makes a lot of my down time more enjoyable.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
None. I know it might sound crazy, but everywhere I go, there are so many local people and players at tournaments that I just go by word of mouth. I’ll ask about the best places to eat, what sites to check out and where we should hang when we aren’t playing or practicing. I don’t feel like I miss out on that much, so it seems to be working for me.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
I haven’t ever been to Tahiti and I hear that is a really cool place. We have a swing through Asia in the fall, so that is a place I would love to check out on the back end of that trip. I also haven’t ever been to Africa. I would love to go on a safari in South Africa and also check out some of the local culture. That would be an amazing trip.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?
There isn’t one place or one trip that sticks out for me, but needless to say I have had a ton of travel delays and other various misadventures. Just earlier this year I was taking a flight home from Paris, and three hours into the trip the plane had to land for a medical emergency. We got rerouted, and it added four or five hours to an already long trip. After a while you learn how to roll with the punches, but after being on the road for multiple weeks at a time, sometimes you just want to get home as soon as possible.

Q. How do you try to fit in when you’re a tourist?
I try to learn a little about the people and the culture wherever I go. Just learning little things like how to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you in the local language seems to make people more at ease and help me blend in a little bit more. Otherwise, I just try to play my best tennis, and that seems to do the trick as well!

© 2009 JAE-HA KIM


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