probably fielded the question “Who’s the better tennis player?” over a million times. Though he wouldn’t admit it, his answer bordered on the rehearsed/politically correct side of the spectrum. “I’m just not gonna give you an answer,” he says with a laugh. “My wife and I have had this same conversation. It would be hard to say who’s better. It’ll be a real interesting match if and when they play.” Unofficially, the brothers have gone toe-to-toe more times than they can count. And while 18-year-old James has shown the most improvement in a short stretch of time, big brother Tom has some idea about who’s ahead. “If you look at the rankings, James is ahead of me right now so I don’t know if I can justify saying I’m better than him,” says Tom, 21, who just earned his economics degree in June. “But I still beat h
im all the time if that means anything.”
Sibling rivalries aside, the brothers Blake are quite an interesting tandem on the tennis court, much like the ballyhooed Williams sisters. Tom, the Crimson Tide co-captain prior to graduation, was ranked No. 19 in singles competition in the nation with a 27-11 record. James, a freshman, is the No. 3 ranked collegiate player in the country with an impressive 27-3 singles record, the highest ranking for a Harvard singles player since 1983, when Howard Sands was ranked No. 2. As a pair, the brothers were the No. 1 Harvard doubles team.
But all of those great numbers could come crashing down on the No. 11-ranked (doubles) Crimson Tide; Tom is on his way to the pro ranks and James, (yes, the freshman) might be even further ahead of him. Not good news if you’re Harvard coach David Fish. “There are many people out there with talent and these guys are two of them,” Fish says. “As far as the pro ranks, Tom still has some weaknesses in his game that he’s working on shoring up and he’s got some strengths that haven’t quite fully developed, but he continues to get better,” the coach says. “And James has many different strengths; he’s still got a young body…so as he develops, we’re hoping he can put some force behind it.”
All of this hoopla over their boys must be somewhat overwhelming for Tom St. and Betty Blake, who say their only motive behind bringing their boys to the courts with them years ago was “so we could be together.” Both avid tennis players, Tom Sr., a 3M salesman, and Betty would bring their boys to the courts when they lived in Yonkers, New York, in the early ’80s. Tom, then fresh out of the service, had just picked up the game himself and the Blakes often brought the boys to the Armory, a predominantly black indoor tennis club in Harlem. “It was just a family thing and we wanted them to be involved,” says Betty, a part-time receptionist at the Tennis Club of Trumbull in Connecticut. “That’s all it