Tennis Birthdays – Feb. 16, 2016

The super-brat really hasn’t mellowed too much.

John McEnroe (USA), 57

johnnymac_opt

It’s hard to fathom. That said, here’s a photo (right) from the London Daily Mail, taken when Johnny Mac was 49.

He’s certainly taking much better care of himself these days than he did back in his Studio 54 days with Vitas Gerulaitis. Six kids and a body that doesn’t match the chronological age will probably do that to you.

Johnny Mac is still doing his thing. He does television commentary, and we’re happy to report that his attitude about women’s tennis has evolved quite a bit from his early days.

He has done, and not been successful at, his own talk show a decade ago. Why anyone thought this would work is beyond Open Court’s ken. The man is an introvert, and clinically incapable of looking you in the eye when he’s talking to you. Also, pretty much wrapped up in himself as so many champions are. Not exactly a winning talk-show host combination.

There was a report out this time a couple of years ago that he was close to signing a deal to work on the ESPN radio affiliate in New York, which is in heavy competition with sports radio icon WFAN. Brother Patrick already worked for them (after all those years of little brother following in his footsteps, turnabout is fair play). From the McEnroe quotes in there, it sounds as though he was going to be spreading his wings a little more, knowing that he certainly can’t play seniors’ tennis forever when the new young seniors coming into that game are just more than half his age. That didn’t seem to have actually happened.

That said, he can still play. Seriously.

But it doesn’t appear that this has happened, at least not yet.

On his birthday last year, this was on Sirius radio on a drive home from a tournament in Toronto. He got to pick McEnroe-Siriushis all-time top-10 favorite Bruce songs and, not surprisingly, they were pretty much all from Born to Run, with a couple from Darkness.

Mac also told a story of having the same trainer as the Boss around the “Born in the USA” Tour and feeling shame that Springsteen had WAY bigger muscles than he, the professional athlete.

Oh, and a story about how he had a chance to see Springsteen in an early, obscure performance before he became a big deal but blew it off. So, in short, good radio.

Robert Steckley (CAN), 36

Steckley was numerous times a Davis Cupper for Canada. His last matches were two first-round losses in low-level futures events in Sweden in April, 2007.  But still played for a bit; in the summer of 2008, he won a $15,000 Open tournament in Manitoba.

As a pro, he didn’t break through. He reached just No. 464 in singles and No. 610 in doubles. Despite that, he is carving out a nice career for himself as a coach, more specifically on the WTA side of things.

Steckley Safarova Zvonareva

It started with Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, a gig he sort of lucked into a little when Wozniak was looking for a traveling coach (Tennis Canada footed the bill for this) and he was available.

It went really well, for awhile; she won in Stanford when he was on board.  Steckley was a hitting partner for another Canadian, Heidi El Tabakh, briefly, around the time of the French Open in 2010. But that didn’t work out too well, either.

And then, in Vancouver in the summer of 2010, he hooked up with Sania Mirza of India, when she was still playing singles. That did seem to click; they lasted through 2011.

After that, he coached Romanian Edina Gallovits-Hall, an Atlanta-based player who ended up having Tommy John surgery on her shoulder and is just now coming back.

In the summer of 2012, he spent some time with top Czech player Lucie Safarova, who was in need of someone for the summer U.S. swing as her coach Biljana Veselinovic was tending to some matters at home. He said he was a perfect choice because he wasn’t a threat; he was going to become a father that January, and wasn’t looking for anything full-time. But obviously a seed was planted.

Well, low and behold, the kid is a year old now. And look who was coaching Safarova at the Australian Open in 2014. Yup, Mr. Steckley.

Tennis Canada certainly did identify Steckley’s ability to connect with the female players early on; he’s quick to give them credit for that. But he’s just another example of a Canadian coach who slipped through their system, but is coaching a very good player on the WTA (Jesse Levine and Yves Boulais are other Canucks doing the same).

Last year, he became a Grand Slam champion coach as Safaraova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands won the women’s doubles. They also won the French Open together. She got to career highs in singles (No. 5) and doubles (No. 4) after last year’s US Open, and reached the French Open singles final.

Steckley

Unfortunately for Steckley (and Safarova), a bacterial infection the Czech lefty suffered in the fall has basically kept her off the courts since then. She was due to return on this Dubai-Doha Middle East swing, and indeed they did travel there. But she hasn’t yet gotten back into it.

Sofia Arvidsson (SWE), 32

SofiaArvidssonArvidsson is a very hard hitter who never really quite broke through to the level of that ability. She ended up a very solid, if more or less journeywoman pro on the WTA Tour. A legitimate pro, but not a star.

Her career high of No. 29 came almost 10 years ago, but it was a brief flickering of the flame. This time four years ago, she was ranked No. 74. Two years ago, she was at No. 123. A year ago, she was at No. 305 and had played just a few Florida Har-Tru ITF this year.

At the end of the year, she was done, officially retired.

And yes, there are brunettes in Sweden.

She’s also an excellent Tweeter. Very, very funny and self-deprecating. It appears she is doing some television commentary back home already.

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