Tennis Birthdays – Aug. 22, 2014

Half a century for one of the game’s legends.

Mats Wilander (SWE), 50

Wilander was No. 1 in singles, with 33 titles, and even No. 3 in doubles with seven more titles during his illustrious career.

The Swede won the Australian Open and French Open three times, the U.S. Open once during his dream 1988 season (all the majors but Wimbledon) and the 1986 Wimbledon doubles title. He kind of lost his mojo and retired in 1991, although he did come back a couple of years later to play a little more.

Wilander won the French Open as a 17-year-old in 1982, unseeded at that, and beating the legendary Guillermo Vilas in the final. Rafael Nadal notwithstanding, there’s about a less than zero chance of that ever happening again in tennis.

Wilander  also played Davis Cup through the 1980s for Sweden.

He had his off-moments, too; he and the Czech Karel Novacek (a former top 10 player) were suspended for three months for testing positive for cocaine at the 1995 French Open. At first they said the tests were flawed, then they tried the “okay, we admit there was cocaine in our systems but we don’t know how it got there” approach now known as the “Gasquet”.

Wilander now has a traveling tennis caravan called “Wow Tennis”, and also does television commentary and writes (or has a ghostwriter write) a column in the French sports newspaper l’Équipe. He also has a buncha kids.

Patricia Hy-Boulais (CAN), 49

PATRICIA HY-BOULAISHy-Boulais, born in Cambodia, came to Canada via Hong Kong, which she represented internationally from 1981-87 before becoming a Canadian citizen in the late 1980s

She won the Wimbledon junior doubles title back in 1984 with American Patty Fendick, and reached the singles final that year before making a smart decision to attend UCLA for two years.

She got to No. 28 in singles in 1993 and No. 36 in doubles back in 1987, which were pretty terrific accomplishments at the time. She won one singles and one doubles title at the WTA Tour level and reached the 1992 U.S. Open quarter-finals in singles, as well as the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1996 and 1997.

She married Quebec Yves Boulais (they celebrate their 20th anniversary in November), and the two have been on the move working as tennis coaches and bringing up their kids (both of whom are playing tennis). In the last few years, they moved from the Atlanta area, where they ran their own academy, to Maryland and the JTCC (where American prodigy Francis Tiafoe grew up), to Toronto where Boulais briefly headed up the under-12 program, and now back to the Atlanta area.

Daughter Isabelle, 14, qualified and won the singles, and also the doubles, at a Grade 4 ITF in El Salvador in June.

Horst Skoff (AUT)
(Born 1968, died June 7, 2008)

Horst SkoffSkoff got into the top 20, at No. 18, back in 1994 and had five ATP Tour titles to his credit. If you look at his ATP bio, you’d never know that his life came to a tragic, premature end. He’s listed only as “inactive”.

He died of a heart attack when he was just 39. Since retiring, he had battled his weight, unsuccessfully for the most part.

“It’s hard to comprehend that a person so young had to die,” compatriot and Davis Cup teammate Thomas Muster said at the time. “He accompanied me, challenged me and motivated me over many years.”

 

Franco Squillari (ARG), 39

FranCo SquillariThe Argentine lefty with the very Italian name reached No. 11 in the world back in 2000, despite being a name only the most ardent tennis fan will remember.

He won three titles  – all on clay, and all in Germany – and $2.5 million in prize money.

Mischa Zverev (GER), 27

Zverev, a talented lefty born in Russia, now a German, and living in Monte Carlo, was once the most talented young tennis player in his finally.

Perhaps he still is but these days, the Zverev making news is his 17-year-old little brother Alexander (Sascha).

Zverev père played 36 Davis Cup rubbers for Russia; mother Irina also was a player; the family moved to Germany in 1991, where Mischa Zverevboth parents are tennis coaches, and young Sascha was born there.

The elder brother got to No. 45 in the world in 2009 when he had just turned 22. He got to No. 44 in doubles around the same time. At the moment, he’s No. 465 in singles. You’d think it was because of injuries, and certainly he’s had his share (thigh, hip flexor, broken wrist back in 2009). And he wasn’t always as fit as he could have been.  But if you look at his results, it seems as though h e’s played somewhere practically every single week for the last four years until he retired in four of the last five tournaments he entered this year.

Zverev hasn’t played since stopping after just two games against Kristijan Mesaros in the French Open qualies (he was No. 253 going into that tournament). At the moment, he’s cheerleader for brother Alexander, who reached the semi-finals in Hamburg last month. The 2014 Australian Open junior champ had never even won a Tour-level match before that.

The brothers played each other in the first round of the Houston ATP this spring, with the younger brother retiring at 2-3 in the third set. It had to have been difficult; perhaps it was the official passing of the torch.

 

 

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