These days it's Blake who hopes to give opponents fits, including at next month's U.S. Open. Since turning pro in 1999 after his sophomore year at Harvard, he has steadily risen in the rankings to No. 32. "He plays with flair and delivers big shots,"
says Patrick McEnroe, who coaches the U.S. Davis Cup squad on which Blake, 22, has notched a perfect 5-0 record. "I don't think winning major tournaments is out of his reach."
In the meantime he has been winning fans with his class and, yes, maturity. Many remember the poise with which Blake handled the controversy at last year's U.S. Open over eventual winner Lleyton Hewitt's suggestion that an African-American linesman had favored him. (Blake's father, Thomas Sr., 55, a senior account manager with 3M, is African-American, and his British-born mother, Betty, 66, an administrator at the Trumbull club, is white.) Refusing to make an issue of the remark, "James did a wonderful job defusing the situation," says David Fish, his Harvard coach. "He has learned to wear the mantle so well."
Blake, whose brother Thomas Jr., 25, is also a tennis pro, seems less comfortable with his status as a sex symbol, especially since modeling for Kenneth Cole and DKNY. "I never really thought of myself as a good-looking guy," insists the currently unattached Tampa resident. "But I hope if fans are coming just to look at me, they'll end up noticing there's tennis going on."
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