Tennis Birthdays – Feb. 11, 2016

As she turns 31, an Aussie is on the comeback from a concussion.

Casey Dellacqua (AUS), 31

Dellacqua first came into public consciousness at the 2008 Australian Open when, after five wild cards meant five first-round losses, she got to the fourth round, beating top-20 players Patty Schnyder and Amélie Mauresmo along the way.

The girl from Perth, the daughter of a mechanic and a receptionist who bought her tennis clothes at Target, with her Dellacqua-Bartyenthousiastic “Nan” in the stands cheering her on, was an easy story to get behind.

After that, injuries hit; she had shoulder surgery, a foot injury. and it took her a few years to make it back – actually, to be even better than she was before. Dellacqua hit a career best singles ranking of No. 26 in Sept. 2014.

In the meantime, she had great success in doubles, particularly with young countrywoman Ashleigh Barty (who took a long hiatus from tennis and is only now making her way back, baby steps, after 18 months).

The pair reached the finals of the Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 2013, only to be denied. But Dellacqua had already been a top-10 player in dubs, reaching No. 9 in 2009. She was a French Open doubles finalist with Francesca Schiavone in 2008.

Along the way, the likeable Aussie was able to come out, when partner Amanda Judd had their son Blake 2 1/2 years ago, and be none the worse for it. It might not have been as big a deal as if a top, top player did it, but she was very well known in her sometimes-macho country nonetheless, and it just never was a thing. Or, at least, it didn’t seem that way; it was just one of those things that people in the game basically knew. And now everyone knows. (Sadly, there’s no mention of her being a mom in her WTA Tour bio).

Dellacqua-Judd

But just when things were going well, an unlikely and unfortunate situation hit – Dellacqua was struck in the head with a ball while playing doubles last fall in Asia. And the aftermath was such a struggle that she had to skip the entire Australian summer season to continue to deal with the effects.

She returned last weekend in Fed Cup against Slovakia, and won the decisive doubles rubber in three sets with Samantha Stosur to give Australia a shot at World Group I for next season.

Dellacqua is still at No. 3 in doubles (and currently No. 128 in singles). That’s a career high; she has four WTA Tour titles (seems like more) and a total of 45 on the ITF circuit, about evenly split between singles and doubles.

 

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Arnaud Di Pasquale (FRA), 37

DiPasqualeBorn in Casablanca, where he lived until age 12, Di Pasquale was 20 when he relocated to Switzerland.

Yup, he’s very French.

He also was the No. 1 junior in the world in 1997, when he won the junior U.S. Open. But that junior success, as is so often the case on the boys’ side, didn’t translate into super success. Di Pasquale reached No. 39 in singles and won one title.

But he did have a shining moment: the bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He beat some scrub in that third-place match. Guy by the name of Federer.

After retiring, Di Pasquale became the head of men’s high performance for the French Tennis Federation in 2010. In July, 2013, he was given the technical director’s job, the top job. Eight people have held that job since 1963; di Pasquale is, of course, the eighth man.

He does, as many French do, have most excellent hair

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Patrik Kuhnen (GER), 50

KuhnenThe big, burly German had a decent pro career, reaching No. 49 in the world.

His big moment came at Wimbledon in 1988, when he defeated Jimmy Connors in the round of 16. He lost to Stefan Edberg in the quarterfinals.

Kuhnen retired in 1996. He was the longtime Davis Cup captain – from 2003 to 2012 – until running into some issues with some his players.

Mostly, it was Philipp Kohlschreiber, who we had pegged as a quiet, get-along sort of guy. But the two really scrapped it out, and eventually Kohlschreiber said it’s “me or him” at an exhibition team event in Dusseldorf before the French Open a few years ago. Tommy Haas also had his issues with him, and Kuhnen was out. Since then, they’ve gone through a few.

Boris Becker? What do you think? LOL. He said he’s not interested. At last word, it’s Michael Kohlmann.

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