Tennis Birthdays: April 23, 2015

Loaded tennis birthday day today, including some rather fetching ladies.

Daniela Hantuchova (SVK), 32

Seven years ago in Australia, the gorgeous Slovak was a little bad luck away from a Grand Slam final.  She hasn’t come close to that since, but she’s still out there plugging away and overall, she’s been a very consistent performer for more than a decade on the WTA Tour.

She’s been a bit up and down in the rankings without ever falling that far until this year. Five years ago, she was No. 23. Four years ago, down to No. 36. Three years ago, back into the top 20 at No. 19. A year ago, she was at No. 30 – when your ranking is a smaller number than your age (kind of like your score in golf), you’re doing okay.

As of this birthday, though, she sits right at No. 50.

DanielaHantuchova2

Martina Navratilova had Hantuchova  pegged early as a up-and-comer, but she never quite got there. She certainly had some weight issues (or lack of same) and was very hard on herself (although she looks great these days). And despite her lovely strokes, she probably didn’t have quite enough power or move quite well enough to be a Slam winner. She also may be too bright, which is not a knock on anyone else’s intelligence.

One of those high-achieving, self-pressure types. She’s also a piano player.

On small sample size, however,she may actually only know one song: Beethoven’s Für Elise. Jo dug it, though. Good enough.

Hantuchova got to No. 5 after the 2003 Australian Open, and to No. 5 in doubles in 2002. She had some nice results with the now-retired Ai Sugiyama of Japan, among others.

Hantuchova-Wozniacki Hingis Hantuchova

Surprisingly, she has only seven singles titles (three of them in Pattaya City) – and two of them are biggies: Indian Wells in 2000 and 2007. She won Birmingham two years ago, and Pattaya this February.

She has nine doubles titles and has made even more finals – including the finals of the Australian Open in 2009, the French Open in 2006, and the 2002 Australian Open (with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario)

Perhaps her greatest claim to fame is as mixed doubles partner. Hantuchova has a career Grand Slam there, with four different partners. She completed it at the 2005 French Open with the fabulous Fabrice Santoro, who probably had a kink in his neck after that fortnight.

Nicole Vaidisova (CZE), 26

Nicole Vaidisova_new

She was rumoured to have retired five years ago, although she never confirmed it. One thing’s for sure, she was no longer in the mood.

vaidisova2 Tennis birthdays   April 23, 2011And then suddenly, she was. Vaidisova began her comeback last fall at smaller events in the U.S. And although she didn’t pick up quite where she left off, it was encouraging enough that she started back in 2015.

She went from nothing at all, to a current ranking of No. 285. Now the harder part begins.

Vaidisova qualified at a $100K tournament in Midland, Mich. with a good field in February and got all the way to the semis, where she lost to Tatjana Maria. She won six matches before that. Then, she qualified at the WTA Tour event in Monterrey (beating Lucie Hradecka, among others) and gave Ana Ivanovic a good tussle in the second set before losing 61 76 in the first round. Then, with a wild card into Miami, she defeated Timea Babos before losing in three sets to Simona Halep.

Vaidisova had a couple of operations on her shoulder, and, well, generally life got in the way.

Her last match before the comeback was more than five years ago at a small event in Hammond, Louisiana, where she lost in a third-set tiebreak to young Heather Watson of Great Britain.

Vaidisova hooked up with the much older Radek Stepanek about seven years ago, and they got married in July, 2010 in Prague. During the early part of their marriage, he said she was hitting tennis balls at home in Florida. But he wasn’t making the comeback call, and usually referred all questions to her. And, of course, she wasn’t available 🙂

Here’s an earlier blog entry about Vaidisova’s career travails.

0830.stepanek2 Tennis birthdays   April 23, 2011We did spot her cheering him on courtside at Wimbledon a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, the marriage wasn’t for long; they split up, and even before that the skinny was that he’d taken up with the even younger Petra Kvitova (who since has also been consigned to the “ex” heap).

Vaidisova remains quite a bit younger than a lot of players out there who are playing their best tennis right now – and when you think about it, she was the same age Genie Bouchard is now when she last hit a tennis court before her comeback. And Bouchard is just getting started.

Vaidisova hit No. 7 in the world back then but it became fairly clear that she didn’t even like tennis that much. She was just good at it, and it was sort of the family business.

She was an Australian Open semifinalist in 2007, and reached the quarters at both the French Open and Wimbledon. She has six career Tour titles.

Before Stepanek, there was a romance with Jürgen Melzer. There was the stepfather-coach, who became a former coach, who became a coach once more.

She got very good, very young. But there seemed little joy in it. Many in her position probably would love to drop out. But few do. So kudos to her for not carrying on with something she hated, although marrying the Worm was kind of a drastic step to get her out of it. 🙂

Ironically enough, given that earlier liaison with Melzer, she’s now good pals with Melzer’s wife, Iveta Benesova.

Coming back means she won’t have to live the rest of her life without any regrets, wondering what might have been. She still has plenty of time.

Eduardo Schwank (ARG), 29

Nicknamed “Gordo” for his solid, barrel-chested physique, the Argentine never really made a major dent in singles. But for a long time, he was the best doubles player in his country, which gave him regular Davis Cup duty.

Eduardo Schwank_new

Schwank got into the top 50 in singles in Aug. 2010, checking in at No. 48. Right before Wimbledon in 2011, he was at No. 14 in doubles on the heels of a trip to the French Open final with Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia.

A year ago, he was outside the top 300 in singles and at No. 115 in doubles. But his last matches came at Gstaad last July.  He had a nasty cycling accident there, breaking his wrist, elbow, collarbone and left arm (oy, ouch). He plans to return,, but there doesn’t seem to be an exact date. He has an academy in Argentina.

Chuck Adams (USA), 44, Alex Bogomolov, Jr. (RUS), 32

harkleroad ashley photo ashley harkleroad 6232412 Tennis birthdays   April 23, 2011What do they have in common, besides the common birthday? Bogomolov used to be married to American pro Ashley Harkleroad (married at 19, split at 21). Read Charlie Bricker’s blog about the breakup.

Adams, much older, was Harkleroad’s coach and now her husband. They had a baby together five years ago. He got to No. 34 in singles during his pro career and won the 1993 Seoul title.

Harkleroad made a brief comeback at the Miami event in 2010, but hasn’t really been seen since although we did see that, randomly, she was at an exhibition in South America awhile back.

Meanwhile, Bogomolov ended up carving out a solid career later in life and returned to his Russian roots on the citizenship side. As luck would have it, he outdid Adams by ONE spot in the ATP Tour rankings, peaking at No. 33 in 2011. His last match came in U.S. Open qualifying last August, and he announced his retirement at the end of the year, no longer able to deal with a chronic back issue.

According to this ATP Tour website story, doctors in New York told him he needed to have a screw inserted into his back. Back surgery is never a sure thing, and he wasn’t willing to take the risk. According to the story, he’s part owner of a tennis complex in North Carolina.

Matthew Baccarani (CAN), 32

Matt Baccarani_newThe Canadian – a LEGIT redhead – had some success as a junior (more in doubles than in singles) and played a few Futures event in Canada in the early 00s – back in the days when some of them had crazy 128-player qualifying draws.

He played college ball at Ball State, where he majored in journalism.

His best ATP Tour ranking was No. 1326.

For awhile a few years ago, he was Sharon Fichman’s personal coach.

In 2011, he accompanied Genie Bouchard to Wimbledon for Tennis Canada. She also had consultant Nathalie Tauziat there, and the two watched Bouchard’s matches together.

He’s also into the online poker scene; not sure how much coaching he’s still doing these days.

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