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Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life
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Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  673 ratings  ·  70 reviews
In 2004, James Blake's life was getting more perfect by the day. A rising tennis star, with each passing year his game seemed to improve. In 2002, he was named Sexiest Male Athlete by People, and along the way he continued to gain in the rankings and earn respect on the court. Each day seemed to offer a new milestone, a new achievement; he was leading a charmed life and lo ...more
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published July 5th 2007 by Harper (first published 2007)
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Open by Andre AgassiRafa by Rafael NadalA Champion's Mind by Pete SamprasYou Cannot Be Serious by John McEnroeThe Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
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294th out of 611 books — 520 voters

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Community Reviews

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Another really good tennis book...I wasn't as engrossed by this one as I was with Andre's, but I appreciate this book for very different reasons. Blake's career high occurred after I wasn't playing/watching tennis nearly as much, so I didn't feel as close to him as I did to Andre. But his attitude about tennis was completely different than Andre's --- really positive, and that came as the result of his father's influence. His dad was a great guy/mentor, and I learned a lot about how the attitude ...more
I am a huge fan of all of the American Tennis players. But after reading Blakes book I am now a huge fan of him and everything he does. From being in the top 10 then nearly losing his life, and then working his way back up into the top 10 is amazing. He talks a lot about how much of a mental sport tennis is, and how he struggled in matches due to lack of confidence or letting something else get in his head. Which is something only a tennis player can appreciate. Overall great book if you are a f ...more
Matt Talford
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was very well-written and is one of the better memoirs I've read. I've been a tennis fan since childhood and James was a player I followed since he turned pro. I really felt like the book provided me with a very good look into the life of this tennis great, both on and off the court. I honestly was hard on James for the better part of his career and felt like he perhaps underachieved during his prime, when I felt his was arguably the most athletically ...more
This was one of the best athlete autobiographies that I've ever read. Talk about adversity, and having the ability to battle through it. This guy, James Blake, is one tough guy. James Blake was living a great life on the ATP World Tour and then everything spiraled downhill. First he broke his neck, then his father died of stomach cancer, and finally he got zoster which paralyzed half of his face. After all of that he somehow managed to push through, and start playing tennis again. Not only did h ...more
Natalie Schriefer
Jun 10, 2015 Natalie Schriefer rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tennis fans, sports fans
Breaking Back details James Blake's devastating losses and his trials overcoming them. The writing is clear and concise, filled with details; the pictures in the center add a delightful visual to Blake's words. As a tennis fan, this memoir engrossed me; as a reader and a writer, some off-putting sections read like a newspaper blurb or a play-by-play. Despite this, Blake's story, which centers around a back injury and his relationship with his father, is both touching and inspirational, a great ...more
I was hoping for fast-paced look into the tennis world, one that would take readers right into the action of tennis matches with some of the great players in the world. The second-to-last chapter was just that, with descriptions of matches with Federer, Roddick, and most notably, the 2005 U.S. marathon match with Andre Agassi. But the rest of the book was far different. I guess I should have read the title closer. Here Blake is out to explain what went wrong in that disasterous 2003-2004 year, i ...more
Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life By: James Blake is very interesting autobiography about a tennis player and what he had to accomplish to get where he is today. I gave this book four stars because I found it really inspiring in how the author has all these bad things happen to him and yet he manages to bounce back instead of letting the bad things tear him down. Another reason I liked this book was that it wasn’t all about tennis like I thought it would be instead it re ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Noah Sch.
Breaking Back by James Blake
Nonfiction: Autobiography
288 Pages


James was born and grew up in a small town in Massachusetts called Fairfield. He had a very good life growing up, and he was also an amazing junior tennis player. He climbed his way up the ranks, and then he was off to college at Harvard. Not only is James amazing at tennis, but he is also a smart man. After the second year at Harvard, he decided to leave college to go pro at tennis.
He then climbed his way up the pro ranks in
"I was never supposed to be a jock."

It's quite possibly that James Blake isn't even supposed to be walking still. But he is -- and he's writing -- and we're all the richer for it.

Now here is an unusual sports autobiography. Precious little attention is given to the sport on the court and in his head. Life and adversity take center stage instead.

And there's no shortage of those things herein: During his 2004 pro tennis season, Blake suffered a broken neck in a freak on-court accident, recovered f
I love me some JB, so it pains me to rate this book as simply OK. There were moments of eloquence. However, much of the text read like a play-by-play. While interesting in the context, I would have liked to see more self-reflection. The lessons distributed were repetitive to the point where they became less effective. I felt JB didn't take those lessons to heart b/c he still beat himself up about matches. Watching him play after the book came out, I can still see the man who gets down on himself ...more
How can you not like James Blake? Besides being a great sport, he is super-sincere, and given to yelling 'gosh darn it' on the tennis court.
This book is surprisingly thoughtful and introspective, as he covers The Worst Year of His life. First his beloved dad died, then james' face becomes paralised by shingles, then he falls on a tennis court and in a freak accident hits the net, breaking his back and putting his future tennis career in jepoardy. Instead of being your typical 'triumph over adve
I think my actual rating for this book would be a 2.5. I like James Blake too much as a person and player to only give his book a two, but for some reason I think three is a bit high.

Unfortunately for James, ever since his return to the tour, commentators talk about his amazing story. That left me knowing most of the major details of this book so much of it was not a surprise. It was good however to hear additional information and reflection.

James Blake is definitely one tennis player I do enjo
Melissa Norton
A brief memoir by ATP tennis player James Blake, concentrating on his recovery from a freak neck injury and stress-induced zoster, which left his face partially paralyzed and his balance shot. James' own health issues occurred at the same time as his father's death from cancer. Blake writes of his family and friends as much as he does of tennis, and this is a thoughful account of a tumultuous period in a world-class athlete's life. Blake emerges as a class act both on and off the court, battling ...more
Tiffany Wilbourn
Great, fast book! I became obsessed with tennis in high school. Its such a psychological game coupled with strength and endurance. I was able to attend Wimbledon in 2004 and sit atop Henman Hill to watch the final game. The next year, James Blake sets everyone afire with his story. He is such an intelligent guy and I respect him more after reading his book. He overcame so many obstacles in order to persevere and make a comeback in tennis and his lessons learned can be applied to anyone that has ...more
Count me among the few who did not know James Blake's backstory. After being a tennis fanatic from the mid-'90s through the early part of this decade, my fandom faded, even though I attended some US Open matches in 2004 and 2006.

This was a very breezy, compelling story and it only took me a few hours to get through. Blake's story is surely inspiring, a story about perseverance and staying positive. The buildup to and including his father's death were very difficult to read because of how close I
Jan 10, 2009 Amanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: tennis fans
This book was given to me as a gift; I hadn't heard of it and didn't know James Blakes' backstory, but once I started reading it I flew through it. It is a good story about a very challenging time in his life, but I thought it could have been better written. He mentions a lot of people but doesn't expand too much on anybody in his life besides his father and his coach, so it's hard to get a full picture of who these people are. Overall though it's an uplifting story and I will definitely remembe ...more
Sarah Musick
Dec 04, 2007 Sarah Musick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: aspiring athletes in any sport

This book was recommended to me as an aspiring pro athlete...I was doubtful of the crossover between mtn biking and tennis, but I trusted the recommendation and went with it. By the final thee chapters I couldn't put it down. I understood the mental battle he dealt with, the feeling of getting down in a match and self-sabatoging rather than keeping your chin up for a come back. I found new motivation for my own athletic endevors having read this book. For that reason I found it to be a great rea
Denise Lombardi
Love me some James Blake.
Interesting read.
Okay, I'm a tennis fan. Anyone who knows me knows that. But I don't think you have to be a tennis fan to love this book. James's story is incredibly touching, and unlike many other "inspirational" books, it's not preachy in any way. Instead, it's just James, writing about a time in his life that would have even the best of us feeling sorry for ourselves. Again, I was a fan of James as a tennis player before I read this book, but I have a whole new appreciation for him as a person now. Loved this ...more
Sep 29, 2007 Wanda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in tennis or in inspirational stories of personal triumph
I don't closely follow tennis, but I was very impressed with James Blake's accomplishments after reading his memoir. I borrowed it from the library on a whim and ended up being inspired by the way he worked on himself, both on and off the court. He talks about his weaknesses as a player and as a person and what he did/does to improve. I could relate to some of his personal weaknesses and have adopted his "getting better" outlook on life. It turned out to be one of my better reads this year.
Lauren Beurlot
Ok, yeah this is a book about a professional tennis player - James Blake. It is a really good book, but it can really apply to several things other than tennis. When you read this book, you see the stuff that this man went through and how he overcame almost impossible odds. It really makes you think "If he could do that and had to deal with all that, what am I complaining about?" I recommend this book to everyone who thinks they're having a tough time & anyone who likes to read.
I'm a huge tennis fan, and I've followed James Blake's career pretty closely. It's one thing to hear about his story, breaking his neck, losing his father, his battle with shingles, but it's another to read about the situation from his point of view. James is an inspiration, and after reading his book, I honestly admire him more as a man than as an athlete. He is a remarkable man, and his story is one of the best "real life" stories of redemption that I've read.
I really enjoyed this book. Jame's great secret that he reiterates over and over again is that you have to just keep trying to improve in whatever you do and the results will take care of themselves. I was also touched by how much he loves his family and friends. You may not know it but James has been through some great challenges and he recognizes how blessed he is to be where he's at in tennis as one of the top players in the world.
I just started this book because I love tennis and I love James Blake. I'd heard briefly about the sadness in his past and wanted to know more. It's nice to hear him mention places that I know from around the area, considering that he grew up in Fairfield, CT. My dad even used to see him at the Trumbull Raquet Club. The book itself is not a literary masterpiece, but it's told with and earnestness that I'm enjoying thus far.
James Blake's memoir is inspiring, heartfelt, and touching. He's been through so much physically and mentally to get to where he is today in the tennis world. I enjoyed the more personal chapters when he talks about his father and also when he talks about his close knit group of friends: the "J-Block." The book is very simply written and it's a bit disorganized at times, but any tennis fan will be moved by his story.
The greatest thing about this book was that I bought it for .64p at a used bookstore, took it home, opened it, and found that it had been autographed by the man himself! As a tennis fanatic, I wanted to know about Blake's back story. Pretty inspiring, especially considering that he's now 32 and still making it to the 4th round of the USO. Gotta love a guy who plays because he simply just loves the game.
Chris Ross
This was the first book I read on a Sony Reader and I enjoyed it. As a former college tennis player I could not put it down. James Blake has made a remarkable comeback from a fractured neck and a serious infection that nearly killed him and that is truly amazing. What is even better is that he is a grounded, down to earth person that will carry him far after he finishes his tennis career.
I usually automatically disdain anyone who writes an autobiography before the age of 30, but there are some people who earn the right, and I think James Blake is one. Even if you aren't a tennis fan -- or sports fan -- Blake's to-this-point life story is pretty awe-inspiring. And, him being 28 and all, it's a pretty quick read!
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