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

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James Blake's life was getting better every day. A rising tennis star and People magazine's Sexiest Male Athlete of 2002, he was leading a charmed life and loving every minute of it. But all that ended in May 2004, when Blake fractured his neck in an on-court freak accident. As he recovered, his father—who had been the inspiration for his tennis career—lost his battle with stomach cancer. Shortly after his father's death, Blake was dealt a third blow when he contracted zoster, a rare virus that paralyzed half of his face and threatened to end his already jeopardized career.

In Breaking Back, Blake provides a remarkable account of how he came back from this terrible heartbreak and self-doubt to become one of the top tennis players in the world. A story of strength, passion, courage, and the unbreakable bonds between a father and son, Breaking Back is a celebration of one extraordinary athlete's indomitable spirit and his inspiring ability to find hope in the bleakest of times.

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About the author

James Blake has been a professional tennis player since 1999, when he left Harvard to join the professional tennis circuit. He grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut, and currently resides in Tampa, Florida.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Mar 17, 2009
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780061739651
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Sports
Sports & Recreation / Tennis
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Pete Sampras is arguably the greatest tennis player ever, a man whose hard-nosed work ethic led to an unprecedented number one world ranking for 286 weeks, and whose prodigious talent made possible a record-setting fourteen Grand Slam titles. While his more vocal rivals sometimes grabbed the headlines, Pete always preferred to let his racket do the talking.

Until now.

In A Champion’s Mind, the tennis great who so often exhibited visible discomfort with letting people “inside his head” finally opens up. An athletic prodigy, Pete resolved from his earliest playing days never to let anything get in the way of his love for the game. But while this single-minded determination led to tennis domination, success didn’t come without a price. The constant pressure of competing on the world’s biggest stage—in the unblinking eye of a media machine hungry for more than mere athletic greatness—took its toll.

Here for the first time Pete speaks freely about what it was like to possess what he calls “the Gift.” He writes about the personal trials he faced—including the death of a longtime coach and confidant—and the struggles he gutted his way through while being seemingly on top of the world. Among the book’s most riveting scenes are an early devastating loss to Stefan Edberg that led Pete to make a monastic commitment to delivering on his natural talent; a grueling, four-hour-plus match against Alex Corretja during which Pete became seriously ill; fierce on-court battles with rival and friend Andre Agassi; and the triumphant last match of Pete’s career at the finals of the 2002 U.S. Open.

In A Champion’s Mind, one of the most revered, successful, and intensely private players in the history of tennis offers an intimate look at the life of an elite athlete.
Before Federer versus Nadal, before Borg versus McEnroe, the greatest tennis match ever played pitted the dominant Don Budge against the seductively handsome Baron Gottfried von Cramm. This deciding 1937 Davis Cup match, played on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, was a battle of titans: the world's number one tennis player against the number two; America against Germany; democracy against fascism. For five superhuman sets, the duo’s brilliant shotmaking kept the Centre Court crowd–and the world–spellbound.

But the match’s significance extended well beyond the immaculate grass courts of Wimbledon. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the brink of World War II, one man played for the pride of his country while the other played for his life. Budge, the humble hard-working American who would soon become the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same year, vied to keep the Davis Cup out of the hands of the Nazi regime. On the other side of the net, the immensely popular and elegant von Cramm fought Budge point for point knowing that a loss might precipitate his descent into the living hell being constructed behind barbed wire back home.

Born into an aristocratic family, von Cramm was admired for his devastating good looks as well as his unparalleled sportsmanship. But he harbored a dark secret, one that put him under increasing Gestapo surveillance. And his situation was made even more perilous by his refusal to join the Nazi Party or defend Hitler. Desperately relying on his athletic achievements and the global spotlight to keep him out of the Gestapo’s clutches, his strategy was to keep traveling and keep winning. A Davis Cup victory would make him the toast of Germany. A loss might be catastrophic.

Watching the mesmerizingly intense match from the stands was von Cramm’s mentor and all-time tennis superstar Bill Tilden–a consummate showman whose double life would run in ironic counterpoint to that of his German pupil.

Set at a time when sports and politics were inextricably linked, A Terrible Splendor gives readers a courtside seat on that fateful day, moving gracefully between the tennis match for the ages and the dramatic events leading Germany, Britain, and America into global war. A book like no other in its weaving of social significance and athletic spectacle, this soul-stirring account is ultimately a tribute to the strength of the human spirit.
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