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Thursday, September 1, 2005
Updated: September 2, 12:11 PM ET
James Blake

By Rachel Nichols
Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: On occasion, we all need help. But where to turn? Fortunately, Rachel Nichols is here to bring us the special kind of advice that only the world's greatest athletes can dole out. Whether to take it … well, that's up to you. Today's Ill-Advised expert: pro tennis player James Blake.

RACHEL: OK, James, you've been tearing up the courts all summer. You're a New York Times cover boy. That's nice and all, but can you give good advice?

JAMES: I'm going to try. No guarantees, though.

RACHEL: Well, we'll start with the easy stuff. What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?

JAMES: The best advice I ever got was from my dad. He said to have fun and work hard at the same time.

RACHEL: He wanted you to practice naked while drinking beer?

JAMES: I don't think so -- although that's not a bad idea. I think he meant that it shouldn't be just about winning or losing, that you should enjoy the way you get better when you work hard.

RACHEL: Ah. Smart guy, your dad. But let's not write off the beer thing so quickly. I'm just saying. OK, let's get to the huddled masses, clamoring for your words of wisdom. Like Eric in Los Angeles. He writes, "I pretty much made my girlfriend move out to Los Angeles for me, and she keeps bugging me to move back to Minneapolis (her hometown). What can I do to get her to like L.A. and want to live here? Should I just buy her a lot of expensive stuff?"

JAMES: Buying girls expensive stuff is always a good idea. If you don't mind going broke, I'd say that's the way to go.

RACHEL: What's the most expensive thing you've ever bought someone?

JAMES: Well, expensive jewelry for a girlfriend, but I have bought cars, twice. But those are for people who were real close to me, my dad and my coach. Girlfriend doesn't get a car -- yet. Maybe if the girlfriend turns into wife … well, we'll see.

James Blake
Blake is off to a hot start at this year's U.S. Open -- and he's a fan favorite.
RACHEL: A bridal prize package. Classy.

JAMES: Hey, I said we'll see.

RACHEL: True. No promises. Not even for Jim Tanner in Boulder, Colo. -- Jim, you definitely don't get a car. But you can get some advice. Jim writes, "I have to travel a lot for work and get bored waiting for planes so much. My girlfriend actually taught me how to knit but I feel if I do that in public, people at the airport terminal will start laughing at me. Can you think of any way for me to save face but still get a nice ski cap or something out of all that down time?

JAMES: No, because I'd laugh at you, too.

RACHEL: Yeah, I have to agree there.

JAMES: I say, pick another hobby. I personally favor online poker. And if you do well enough at that, you can buy yourself a hat.

RACHEL: Or your own private airplane. Then you can knit to your weird little heart's content.

OK, let's move on to Rukiya Anthony, in St. Louis. She writes, "I am the biggest tomboy in my school. All the girls in my class tease me about me wearing only basketball shorts, and about how I have never had my first kiss. What should I do? Should I ditch my Jordans and trade them in for a pair of heels?"

JAMES: No way. You have to just be who you are. You can't try to fake it. People will like you for who you are.

RACHEL: That's easy for you to say. You're a professional athlete. People would still like you if you were the one wearing the heels.

JAMES: Are you kidding? I was 5 feet tall and wearing a back brace in high school. I was not the big man on campus. But fortunately, I had some friends who still wanted to hang out with me, and they are the ones who are still around today.

RACHEL: Those are the ones getting cars today.

JAMES: Exactly.

RACHEL: Bottom line, Rukiya, keep the Jordans. Just tell the other girls they'd better be nice to you if they want to be around later on when you're in the WNBA making crazy cash. Well, at least when you're in the WNBA.

OK, next up is Mike Henderson from Philadelphia. Mike writes, "My fiancÚ[e] has atrocious grammar. It doesn't bother me, but I see my mother wince every time she mangles her beloved English. Family is very important to me and I want everyone to respect each other and get along. Any suggestions on how to smooth things over?"

JAMES: That's a tough one. My mom is an English major, so she taught me proper grammar and spelling and all that, and so I have the nasty habit of always correcting people.

RACHEL: Wow, you're fun at parties.

JAMES: Yeah, people get annoyed when I do that. I also correct people's spelling on e-mails.

RACHEL: James, I hate to break this to you, but I'm no longer sure it was the back brace that was chasing people away in high school.

JAMES: Yeah, I know. It's nerdy. But I'm trying to stop. Really.

RACHEL: You know what they say: The best advice is the advice we give ourselves. Unless of course you're David Pound from California. Then the best advice could come from you -- David writes, "My coach has terrible breath. Any way I can let him know to deal with that funk before yelling at me, or should I just quit the team?"

JAMES: You just need to be generous. Every time you see him, give him some Altoids or breath mints. Or you can just go for space. I had a similar problem with a coach once, and every time he started yelling, I started backing up. There's also the towel-over-the-face trick. Cover the nose. A good motto.

RACHEL: I hear they're considering that for the state flag.

JAMES: Trust me, it works.

RACHEL: Well, what else you got? The last question we always ask is, what's your best piece of advice?

JAMES: I before E, except after C. Live by it, people.

Got an issue or a question, or otherwise need to be "Ill-Advised" in the future? Send it to Rachel Nichols right here.