Ever tried returning a tennis ball speeding at 100 mph. Rest assured, it’s not as easy as pros like James Blake make it look. Recently, we sat down with James to learn his favorite TRX exercises and find out how the TRX not only helped him rehab a serious injury, but return to the pro ranks stronger.
Former top five player Blake, 30, has been a fan favorite over the years, with career highlights that include reaching the final of the 2006 Tennis Masters Cup, the semifinals of the Beijing Olympics and the quarterfinals of the Australian Open (2008) and US Open (2005, 2006). Known for his speed and powerful, flat forehand (see video below), his go-for-broke style makes him one of the most entertaining players on the tour.
But a range of injuries over the past 18 months, including nagging soreness to his knee, shoulder and hamstring, have dealt Blake a serious setback, which prompted talk of retirement early this year. But Blake has battled on. Earlier this month, Blake told the LA Times that retirement was "no longer a thought," and despite his injuries, he continues to prepare for a strong performance at next week’s US Open, thanks in part to the training he’s done on the TRX.
“I have been working on the TRX for awhile now” says Blake. “I’ve been doing a variety of exercises like the TRX Pendulum and TRX Crunches. Also, I like exercises where your heels are in the TRX and you’re lying on the ground, like the TRX Hip Press. These are also great for building the core, which is so important for the game of tennis.”
Like Andre Agassi, Blake has excellent reactivity and acceleration, which makes him a formidable service returner. To maintain this reputation, Blake’s workouts focus heavily on upper body work. “Sports like tennis that involve serving or throwing really rely upon shoulder strength, so I like to perform the TRX Shoulder Series (TRX Y, I and T Deltoid Fly). And the TRX Plank and TRX Pike are also great again for increasing core strength and serving performance.”
As for those injuries? Blake’s trainer and physical therapist Rory Cordial has been integrating the TRX into their daily workouts to help strengthen his knee and shoulder. “The TRX is ideal for both rehabbing and increasing tennis performance,” says Cordial. “It has quickly become my 'go to' training tool for James.”
"My knee feels much better,” says Blake. “Before, I couldn't deal with the pain all the time, not being able to train and not being 100% on the court. Now, my knee is better.”
"Obviously, I'm always thinking about the future. I'm aware my career is finite. Right now, my main focus is being a better tennis player."
Blake’s new coach Kelly Jones loves what he has seen of the TRX so far and plans to make it the foundation of Blake’s training. He thinks it just may be the answer to Blake’s quest to improve his game.
Blake is set to take on compatriot Taylor Dent for a spot in the second round of the US Open.
To see what other tennis pros are using the TRX in their training, click here. And be sure to check out our TRX Performance: Tennis DVD for more great exercise ideas like the ones Blake mentions above.