Extended 'GMA' Interview With James Blake

The following is taken from the transcript of an on-camera interview tennis pro James Blake, 28, gave to Eric Horng, "Good Morning America" correspondent, on July 14, 2008.

Horng: James, thanks for sitting down with us. Before we ask you about the cancer fund named after your father, tell us about him. What was he like?

Blake: It's tough to put it in a few words. My dad really meant so much to me, and he taught me about being a man. He was the epitome of someone that practiced what he preached. He worked hard and he preached to me hard work and work ethic and just trying to make sure you're doing something to improve yourself everyday.

Horng: Some kids -- when they're growing up -- if they're around baseball they have a catch with their dad. Did you grow up playing tennis with your father?

Blake: Yeah, I did. It was almost every weekend where it would be me and my brother and mom and my dad, and we would play some form of doubles.

Horng: How did your father react when you were in college and you said you wanted to go pro?

Blake: Initially his reaction was not positive. When he heard that, he thought it was a bad idea. But as soon as he realized this is my dream and I'm going to work hard to make a success out of myself, he was on board 100 percent, and I can't think of too many people who are willing to admit that or change their mind that quickly and just throw their support behind you without any thought otherwise. And he did that so readily, and he was my biggest supporter as soon as I decided that's what I wanted to do, and that it's going to happen. He was my biggest supporter.

Horng: Was there a moment where he said, "If you're going to go for this, you better really go for it."

Blake: Yeah and that's something that he said a lot. "You're going to work hard at doing this, right?" At that point, you're 19 years old and you feel like you've stopped listening to your dad and you've learned all you can. But I definitely still listened to him, and I remember all the times he said that to me about work ethic and about working hard. He said, "You have to go about this the right way. You don't have to focus on immediate results. You don't need to think you're going to win a grand slam your first year, you need to go out and get better. And see how you match up with these pros, and how they train, and you need to incorporate that into your training and then even more so. You need to train harder than these guys."

Horng: So then it was late in 2003, I believe, when he got sick.

Blake: Yeah. We found out in 2003 at Wimbledon.

Horng: How did he handle the illness?

Blake: Same as I would have expected. I never ... it's so hard to believe that he would do it so gallantly and so bravely but he didn't complain once. He didn't ask for help, he didn't say, "Why me," he didn't say, "This is such bad luck, everyone needs to pity me." He just said, "You guys go out and do your thing. I'm going to be here. I'm going to beat this, I'm going to be fine. You guys go out and do everything you need to do." It was amazing. I'll still remember that he said, "Cancer supposedly touches one in four people," and if he had to pick one out of us four, it was going to be him. And that to me just shows what kind of a man he is.

Horng: And he knows ... he knew how you felt at the end.

Blake: Yeah. It makes me feel lucky to have had him for the 24 years that he was around in my life. That took a long time to say because it took years to realize that I was lucky that I had him for so long as opposed to feeling sorry that I lost him so early. I think the more time that goes by the more you focus on the positive things and you try and forget the painful things.

Horng: So tell me about his fund. It's named after your father. What are you hoping to accomplish.

Blake: And now we're trying to raise a million dollars. And for it to be named after my father and to know that my father made a million-dollar difference in helping hopefully another family be able to detect cancer early, and let another family be together for many years to come instead of being torn apart, I think he'd be so proud.

Horng: Early detection, that seems to be what you guys are really trying to accomplish with this.

Blake: Yeah, I feel like there's a lot of attention given to the research and finding a cure, which is ideal and that's great, but for us I feel like early detection is so important. There are few doctors that said, "If we had caught this earlier there might have been a chance for him," and that's what I want to give families is that chance, because my dad prided himself in working hard and doing everything he could to beat the disease, and I want to give people a fighting chance that are willing to work that hard.

Horng: Do you want to be a father one of these days?

Blake: I definitely want to be a father. I know right now isn't the right time because to be a pro athlete a lot of your time spent has to be somewhat selfish, and that's tough to do when I know having a kid is completely selfless.

Horng: What lessons will you pass on?

Blake: I'll try to pass on the same ones my dad taught to me. A lot of people think of different ways to memorialize someone ... whether it's a tattoo, or anything like that. But the best way I knew how was to teach what he taught me to future generations, whether it be my kids, whether it be others' kids, whether it be my brother's kids. Just to teach them about Thomas Blake. To teach them about what he was about and about what he taught me. That's the only way to make it last forever.

If you are interested in learning more about James Blake, or if you'd like to make a donation to the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Research Fund, go to jamesblaketennis.com