Tennis Birthdays – Dec. 6, 2014

Two players for whom the best might still be to come.

Coco Vandeweghe (USA), 23

One of the few women on the WTA Tour who actually has a serve (the fact that they remain so rare is an entirely different conversation), it seemed Vandeweghe, with her sterling NBA stock, was going to be big, very young.

It hasn’t happened quite yet. But we remain convinced it’s coming. Slowly but surely, Vandeweghe is putting together the other pieces of her game, beyond the talent, that are so vital to getting to the top 20, the top 10 – and staying there.

The everpresent stage mom, Tauna, seems to have stepped into the background a little. And it’s probably no coincidence that Vandeweghe had her best year on Tour so far in 2014.

Vandeweghe ends the season ranked No. 39, just one off a career best reached in August after an impressive performance at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Vandeweghe qualified, then defeated Ana Ivanovic (6-7 (7) 7-6 (7) 6-4) and, the next day, backed that up with a 7-6 (8) 2-6 7-5  victory over Ivanovic’s compatriot, Jelena Jankovic in one of the most enjoyable matches of the tournament. She lost in three sets to Ekaterina Makarova the day after that, out of gas.

She also won her first career title, coming through the qualifying to take the grass event in s’-Herogenbosch right before Wimbledon.

She has lots of time. Five years from now, we fully expect she’ll be part of a big-babe brigade of women with serves (Muguruza, Garcia, Keys, maybe Tomlljanovic) who will reign at the top of the game.

Best of all? Vandeweghe is not averse to serving and volleying in singles. She has a full package, and the full package often takes a little more time to come to maturity. Also, she’s fun.

Richard Krajicek (NED), 43

Krajicek can still bring the big serve - clocked at 207 kph at the French Open legends.

Krajicek can still bring the big serve – clocked at 207 kph at the French Open legends.

Very tall, a little stiff but an accomplished serve-volleyer as he backed up a huge serve, Krajicek’s big career moment was winning Wimbledon in 1996. Ranked No. 13, he beat Pete Sampras in straight-sets in the quarter-finals, the only top-10 player he faced, and Mal Washington in the final (that was the year of the streaker).

He lost to Stefan Edberg in straight sets in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Krajicek was Sampras-like in the sense that he started with a two-handed backhand, but changed to a one-hander at at a young age (12). It worked for him, to say the least, he got to a career-high No. 4. He won at least one tournament every season from 1991 to 1999, 17 in all. The year he won Wimbledon, that was the only tournament he won all season. He also won three ATP Tour doubles titles with countryman Jan Siemerink.

His last match came in the summer of 2003 at s’Hertogenbosch. He’s been the tournament director at the Rotterdam tournament since 2004. His half-sister Michaella plays on the women’s tour.

Tamira Paszek (AUT), 24

Paszek was sort of the opposite of Vandeweghe; rather than being a late bloomer, she peaked early, then had a later resurgence in Feb. 2013 when she reached her career best of No. 26.

But she’s currently ranked No. 133. Injuries, a lack of confidence, all sorts of things have gotten in the way.  She had a neck injury, an upper respiratory infection and a hamstring injury, and that was just in 2013. She began 2014 with a win and a final in $25,000 tournaments in the U.S. But she spent the majority of her time at the WTA Tour level, and that meant qualifying. And she failed to get out of the qualifying more often than not. Her current ranking is No. 133.

Her serve motion funkiness comes and goes; she seems to be trying to straighten it out, but that’s tough to do in the heat of match play. But she hits the ball as well as anyone.

Paszek did make it through the Wimbledon qualies this year, though. And she was pretty overcome by it after defeating Ons Jabeur 7-5 in the third set.

Tamira Paszek-Wimbledon_new

Paszek was a finalist at the Wimbledon juniors all the way back in 2005 – she’ll mark the 10th anniversary of that effort this year. She was just 14 at the time; that doesn’t happen often in the juniors (Laura Robson winning it at 14 was a notable exception and she, too, has struggled with injury in recent years).

A year later, at 15, Paszek won her first WTA Tour title in Portoroz (ranked No. 259 at the time). She also won Quebec City in 2010 and Eastbourne in 2012.

She’s a not-atypical tennis mutt: her father was born in Tanzania, raised in Kenya and even lived in Canada for many years and has Canadian citizenship (it was technically possible, for awhile, for Paszek to play Fed Cup for Canada, and she told Open Court she was open to the idea if they approached her. But they never did). Her mother is Chilean, raised in Austria.


It certainly appears that she’s dating former Romanian player Andre Pavel (a former Rogers Cup winner, too). He’s a little older, but hey, cute couple.

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