James Blake, the nation's top-ranked player. TIM MORSE
After the worst start in the 101-year history of the program--winless in the ECAC with a 2-8-1 overall mark in mid-December--the icemen (8-10-1 overall; 1-4-1 Ivy) turned their season around when senior defenseman Ben Storey '99 and forward Chris Bala '01 came back from mononucleosis and a broken wrist, respectively. They proceeded to win six of their next seven games, culminating in a 3-1 upset of sixth-ranked Boston College.
The hoopsters (7-9 overall, 1-3 Ivy) won three of their first four games, then dropped three contests, including a 78-59 rout at the hands of Dartmouth. By upsetting host Santa Clara 59-54, Harvard reached the finals of the Cable Car Classic tournament in California. They lost to St. Joseph's, 87-69, but it was the first time in 23 years that Harvard had reached the finals of an in-season tournament.
In the Ivies, by midseason, the netmen had beaten only Cornell (decisively, 70-56). Their second loss to Dartmouth (69-67) was much closer than the first. Columbia also bettered the Crimson by a 72-62 score.
In their first year of Feaster famine, the women's team (6-8 overall, 3-0 Ivy) still shows signs of strength. After a difficult 2-8 start, the defending Ivy champions reeled off four straight wins, including their first three League contests; Columbia and Cornell fell easily, but the Crimson squeaked past Dartmouth by only one basket, 65-63.
As of December, James Blake '01 became the first Harvard tennis player in modern history to hold the number one national ranking in singles. He also ranked fifth in doubles with partner Kunj Majmudar '99. Blake is a standout on a strong Harvard team currently rated sixteenth in the country.
Last year, Blake became the first Harvard freshman ever named all-American. He finished his first year ranked fourteenth in the nation, after having soared as high as number three during the campaign. James and his older brother, Tom Blake '98, ended last season as the twelfth-ranked doubles team in the United States (see "Brotherhood at the Baseline," July-August 1998, page 76).
The 6-foot, 1-inch, 155-pound Blake, who got his start in the Harlem Junior Tennis Program, now has a career collegiate singles record of 50-5, and is 45-5 in doubles. "James has all the tools--speed, quickness, power, and court knowledge," says men's tennis coach Dave Fish '72. "He has terrific hands, and is incredibly quick getting to the net. Furthermore, his competitive instincts are well developed--James knows how to win."
A big step on the way to his number-one ranking came last fall in Dallas, when Blake won the singles title at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-America Championships. Teamed with Majmudar, he took the doubles title as well. In capturing his first national collegiate championships, Blake also became the first Ivy League player to win either event.
Blake strengthened his game and added to his confidence with a sojourn on the professional tennis circuit last summer. Competing as an amateur, he won two matches at the U.S. Open Qualifiers. Then, in January, he won the first professional title of his career at the USTA Futures of Seminole County in Orlando, Florida. With the 24 ATP tour ranking points from this win, added to his results from last summer, Blake now holds an ATP world singles ranking of about 500.