NJTL 50 for 50:
McCarton Ackerman | August 7, 2019
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com looks at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who helped shape this incredible community dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life.
In this installment, we catch up with NJTL alumnus James Blake, who went on to lead the United States to the Davis Cup title in 2007 and peaked at No. 4 in the ATP Rankings. After his playing career, he served as the USTA Foundation chairman from 2015-18.
The James Blake File
Name: James Blake
NJTL Chapter: Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program
Role with NJTL: former participant
Year became active in NJTL: 1985
How did you first get involved in NJTL?
James Blake: I first became involved with NJTL [at age five] because my father was a volunteer and brought my brother and I to a program. ADVERTISEMENT I enjoyed the structure of it. I had a great time with the other players who were there to improve and enjoy the game.
How did being involved in NJTL programming benefit you on and off the court?
James Blake: Being involved with the program helped give me the idea of how I needed to take the next step in tennis. No matter what level I was at, the program gave me the process for getting better and getting to the next level.
You had the chance to listen to Arthur Ashe speak while part of the Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program. How much of an impact did Arthur have on you?
James Blake: Arthur made more of a difference when I learned all about his life and career later in my life. My father looked up to him, and that made it so that I looked up to him and learned everything I could about him. He was an inspiration that way.
What are some of the accomplishments related to NJTL that you’re most proud of from your time as USTA Foundation chairman?
James Blake: As USTA Foundation chairman, the big accomplishment I was proud of was raising more than $15 million to make a difference for programs that benefit tennis and those players looking to play tennis that normally may not be able to afford it.
How do you hope to see NJTL continue to evolve in the coming years?
James Blake: I just see the NJTL continuing to grow. The goal is to create more players and more fans for the sport that we love.