Articles, Blog

Why Breaking My Neck Was the Best Thing to Happen All Year | James Blake

December 16, 2019

So, back in 2004 I had pretty much a trifecta
of setbacks. I first broke my neck, which was the best
thing that happened to me that year, and I’ll explain that in a minute. I was on a practice court in Rome and pretty
much slid headfirst into a net post and fractured C7 in my spine and got to the hospital and
eventually got home. When I got home to Connecticut it was the
last six weeks of my father’s life. He had been suffering from stomach cancer
and ended up passing away. So that’s why I say breaking my neck was the
best thing that happened to me, because I got to be home with my dad and spend that
time with him and say all the things that needed to be said to him. And he wouldn’t have let me come home otherwise
I don’t think, because I would’ve still been on the road and playing and competing. So that was the best thing that happened to
me. And after that—stress has an amazing way
of bearing itself physically on me and it created a zoster, which is shingles, and it
attacked my facial nerves so the left side of my face was paralyzed and I lost my balance
and part of my hearing and part of my eyesight, so I was pretty much struggling and didn’t
know if I would ever play tennis again, and the doctors weren’t sure if I would ever play,
so that’s where setting goals day by day was so important to me. Because if I thought about any sort of playing
in the US Open or getting back and being top ten in the world, top 20 in the world, anything
like that, it would’ve seemed so far away. And I think I would’ve gotten a little depressed. I would’ve been upset about the fact that
I was so far away from that. So all I did was every day think about what
I can do a little better. I would try to move my eye a little bit more
or try to be able to smile a little bit more and go out on the court. The first times I went out on the court it
was really just being able to see the ball when I tossed it up to serve, it was just
spending five minutes on the court with my coach and just seeing if I could actually
make contact with the ball. Then the next day it could be ten minutes,
and then, “Okay now I need to take a couple days off because it’s disheartening. Now I need to get back to it and try it.” Everyday was getting a little bit better and
I still remember a friend of mine joking that, “You know what, next year it’s all right,
you’re going to win the US Open.” And I thought, “You’re absolutely crazy,
that’s not even in my mindset.” And before I knew it, the next year I was
in the quarterfinals of the US Open against Andre Agassi and I thought, “Man, I wonder
if he was right. Maybe I will actually win the US Open this
year.” And I didn’t unfortunately, but the setback
was such that I needed to focus on such small goals every single day, that if I had thought
that the next year would have been one of the best years of my life and 2006—just
two years later—would’ve been the best year in my career by a long shot and finish at
number four in the world, if I had thought of that two years prior when I was laid up
and my face wasn’t working, I don’t think I would’ve ever gotten there. I needed to just take small steps every single
day to reach that goal. And before I knew it when I was reaching that
goal I wasn’t even thinking back to all the hard work I was doing, and I was like, “This
is just the progression, this is where I belong, this is where I should be.” And I think that played a huge part and it
was just the process I was taking to get there.


  • Reply Frank the Tank August 14, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I feel so honored to be the first comment. All of my hard work and dedication has paid off. Getting the first comment has been a dream of mine for many years, and I would like to thank those who have helped me along the way. First and foremost i would like to thank god for giving me this opportunity. Next i would like to thank my parents. I want to thank my friend Peter Griffin for being really skinny and always there for me. I would also like to thank my pet tadpole for surviving against all odds for over a week. Next i would like to thank the squirrel that lives in my backyard for climbing trees because that gives me inspiration that i need to get through the day. This is a special moment in my life and i would like to thank any of my unmentioned friends and family that have helped me along the way. This moment will be a moment that I will never forget. I just remembered a few other people i would like to thank; Abraham Lincoln, the fish I caught in the third grade, my light in my room because i wouldn’t be able to see the keyboard without it, the internet for letting me go on the bodybuilding forums, my house because without it i would be homeless, and last but not least i would like to thank all the people out there that actually took time out of their day to read this. I cannot stress how much of a big deal to me this is. I have been trying to be the first on a post for years, but that has not been possible until this amazing day. Hopefully my good luck will continue, but this is undoubtedly a rare occasion. If you asked me how I did this, I would say, you can achieve anything u set your mind on. To all the kids out there reading this, I would like to tell them to follow their dreams. Being the first is truly amazing, thank you everyone

  • Reply Aditya menon August 14, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    I assumed this was a Clickhole video at first, goddamn.

  • Reply Happy TX August 14, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Great advice. The hardest thing to do is letting go & going with the flow. Trusting life is so difficult for me. It has gotten easier with age. Thanks

  • Reply VANDY August 14, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Breaking my neck at work has been one of the most devastating things to happen to me. Three herniated disc and two fractured vertebrae. 23 months later and an ACDR surgery and I still have chronic pain.

  • Reply khalid mohamud August 14, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    zero dislikes ? the world has changed !

  • Reply mikalsen4 August 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Not the James Blake I was expecting.

  • Reply 7hi5 on3 August 14, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Breaks neck…Dad dies…Looses WoW authenticator…

    Worst week of my life..!

  • Reply Jason Bean August 14, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    It's a process, not an event.

  • Reply Shawn Baker August 14, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    I broke my leg and was told I'd never walk again, i had to leave my restaurant in the Caribbean and go stay with my grandma in Boston.

    I got to spend her last time on earth with her. Best thing that ever happened to me was breaking my leg.

    A year later I was winning cage fighting tournaments in China/Thailand/and South Korea, and back to work as a Chef.

    Make no mistake, the universe is trying to end you every second you live, and it will win today….if you let it.

  • Reply SKYwalker 777 August 14, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    How many gifts we take for granted daily. What an awesome human experience!

  • Reply Lao Mark August 14, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Sincere congratulations man! Good exemplary demonstration of the power of the mind and of your inner self/ soul.

  • Reply Xäp 8 August 15, 2017 at 3:54 am

    I thought I was having a bad few weeks

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