James Blake's tennis career will always be remembered as the second-best American player of his generation. Unfortunately, it's a time that witnessed the collapse of the era of American male tennis dominance. Unlike his close friend Andrew Roddick, Blake was never able to win the elusive Grand Slam, but did reach three quarterfinals and had his closest calls in New York at the U.S. Open. His closest call on the tennis court wasn't with success, but near disaster.
Blake's career nearly ended in 2004 after he slid and crashed into a net. Doctors say he was minutes away from his facial nerve dying. The incident did however result in a broken neck and nearly paralyzed him. For nine more years, Blake was able to resume a productive career and he was able to end things on his own terms. Before the 2013 U.S. Open, a teary-eyed Blake announced that it was finally time to call it quits while taking the court for one last Grand Slam.
Via USA Today:
"This is my last tournament," Blake says. "I have had 14 pretty darn good years on tour, loved every minute of it, and I definitely couldn't have asked for a better career. For me to think of matches I should have won and to make those as regrets for me has always just seemed greedy.
"... I don't want to be dragged out of this game. I want to leave on my own terms."