Tennis Birthdays – Feb. 18, 2016

From Russia, to Italy, to Germany, to Croatia.

Roberta Vinci (ITA), 33

The Italian has been around forever; at 15 – more than half her life ago – she was already winning doubles titles on the ITF circuit – an impressive feat.

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Relatively late in her career, she has achieved her best results – none as exciting as her surprise run to the US Open singles final last fall. In the semi, she upset the heavily-favoured Serena Williams, who was going for the calendar Grand Slam. She lost to countrywoman and great pal Flavia Pennetta in the final.

And, after winning the tournament in St. Petersburg a week and a half ago (she defeated Ivanovic in the semis and Bencic in the finals, both in straight sets), she will make her top-10 debut next Monday despite losing early in Dubai.

The Italian has been close before; she reached No. 11 in singles after the 2013 French Open, and she and countrywoman Sara Errani were a force in doubles for many years.

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This well-matched pair won the Australian Open in those kits in 2014.

It was a bit of a default crown, the No. 1 in doubles. You won’t find too many people who won’t agree when you say that if the Williams sisters played regularly, they’d own it. But still, they don’t. So it’s a great opportunity. At the moment, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza are working it big time.

At this point in the season a year ago,Vinci had just creeped inside the top 40 again after falling out of it.

Errani and Vinci won the Australian Open in 2014 (they won Wimbledon, too). Vinci has 25 doubles titles in all – five of them majors, all of them at least once. The St. Petersburg title was her 10th in singles.

Vinci has superior tennis skills – a sweet, versatile backhand that she usually slices, but can also come over. She won’t outhit anyone, but she’s crafty and she’s very capable on the red dirt. That slice still gives opponents fits, which sort of sums up the womens’ game. Vinci also got very fit later in her career – maybe too fit; she was looking awfully spindly for awhile although it seems to go up and down. Television is a bit rough on her; she looks a lot younger in person.

 

Yevgeny Kafelnikov (RUS), 42

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Kafelnikov was sort of Nikolay Davydenko before Nikolay Davydenko was Nikolay Davydenko in the sense that he played week, after week, after week, touring the world in search of the maximum dollar.

He was perennially, during his peak years, the Tour leader in matches played – partly because he played so many tournaments, but also because he was so successful.

2308.kafelnikov2 Tennis birthdays Feb. 18, 2012But, unlike Davydenko, he was both a Grand Slam winner and the No. 1 player in the world. And an Olympic gold medalist (Sydney 2000).

No. 1 came in 1999. Kafelnikov won 26 singles titles including  the 1996 French Open and the 1999 Australian Open.

Kafelnikov also reached No. 4 in doubles with 27 more titles, including the 2002 French Open, the 1996 and 1997 French Opens and U.S. Open in 1997.

He won the 1995 Canadian Open doubles with Andrei Olhovskiy.

Kafelnikov piled up nearly $24 million in prize money from about 1993 to 2003. He made 20 other finals in singles and 14 in doubles.

After his career ended, he got big into professional poker. He put on a ton of weight (like 30 kgs), and when you looked at him, you were thinking “fat cat,” not former No. 1.

But in 2008 he started playing some senior events, so he upped the fitness level a bit. A bit. He has done some work with the Russian tennis federation. He also played a couple of pro golf tournaments in Russia.  He was kind of an ass when he was playing. He was there for one reason – to make bank. The rest, he had little use for. But now, he’s a sunny, friendly, cooperative guy.

That probably helps in his job with the ATP Tour Moscow event.

Kafelnikov is even on Twitter, He’s quite amusing at times.

 

Chanda Rubin (USA), 40

Rubin was a top-10 player in a relatively weak era. Also a charming, well-spoken representative for the sport – particularly in the U.S.

 39116354 rubin300x300 Tennis birthdays Feb. 18, 2012She got to No. 6 in singles in 1999, and No. 9 in doubles, and won the Australian Open in 1996 with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. She won seven singles and 10 doubles titles in all.

Unfortunately, Rubin had a chronic knee issue she was never able to get on top of, and just about every other body part failed her, too.

She turned pro young, in 1991, and got into the top 100 her first year. The  next year, she got to the fourth round at the U.S. Open.

Rubin reached the final three straight times at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, finally winning it in 2000 over the comebacking Jennifer Capriati, who had beaten her the previous year.

Late in 2000, she was hampered by a knee injury. Early in 2001, she had surgery to repair a meniscus tear. Right after that, it was an Achilles tendon injury. Late in 2001, it was the left knee, and she had surgery on it again early in 2002.

In 2004, she missed another three months early on because of that left knee.  She had surgery on it again in the fall. and played just three events in 2005.

One last gasp in 2006. But there was the left knee again, an ankle, and then a shoulder. It’s a real shame; she was a good one.

Kathrin Woerle (GER), 32

7080.woerle Tennis birthdays Feb. 18, 2012Woerle is now Woerle-Scheller, and she has kind of disappeared.

The German has mostly played on the ITF circuit and at the smaller WTA Tour events. Her career high in singles was No. 119 just about six years ago. She’s done a little better in doubles, breaking into the top 100 at No. 99.

The only Grand Slam she’s ever qualified for is the Australian Open, where she made it four times in eight attempts. Her last tournaments were last summer, a pair of $25,000 ITF events in Europe. She hasn’t played since, and just sort of faded awya.

Antonio Veic (CRO), 28

 Tennis birthdays Feb. 18, 2012We thought this guy was going to be pretty decent.

He very good junior (he got to No. 11 in 2006) who turned pro in 2006. But he hasn’t broken through yet.

Veic reached a career high of No. 119 in May, 2012 but was mostly in the 220s and 230s a year ago. Currently, he’s ranked No. 473 and has played just one tournament since last August – a Challenger in Slovakia in November.

He’s got this David Ferrer thing going with the clothes and the bandanna, but that’s sort of where the resemblance ends.

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