Tennis Birthdays: Feb. 21, 2016

Uncle Toni!!!!

Andreas Seppi (ITA), 32

Seppi is one of those hard-working players who can be really good on a good day, but can also look really bad the next. And it’s hard to tell how it’s going, because he’s pretty deadpan most of the time.

It never seems to look as easy for him as it does for some of his more talented brethren but despite that, he’s having a pretty good career. He’s “that guy”, the who wins the matches he’s supposed to win, and loses when he’s supposed to lose, pretty much.

But he had a big moment last year, when he defeated Roger Federer at the Australian Open in four tight sets before losing to local hero Nick Kyrgios, 8-6 in the fifth set, in the round of 16. He backed it up fairly well, reaching the final in Zagreb in his next tournament.

Seppi used to date countrywoman Karin Knapp, who disappeared for awhile after heart surgery, returned, but is out injured again.

In recent years, Seppi dated a girl who looks a lot like Knapp – except a miniature version. Barely five feet tall, a foot shorter than Knapp (seriously now, where else but Open Court can you get this kind of priceless information?)


Seppi looked mired in the 30-40 range in the rankings. But then he got up there into the top 20, at No. 18, back in 2011 right after the Australian Open. At the moment, he’s No. 37. A year ago on his birthday, he was ranked No. 36. So that’s basically him.

Uncle Toni (ESP), 55

The man is like Cher, or Elvis. He doesn’t even need the last name made famous by his charge and nephew– at least in tennis circles.

Uncle Toni is, well, he’s Uncle Toni. He doesn’t seem to care much about the no-coaching rules. He drove his young nephew hard and helped him become the No. 1 player in the world. And he’s, well, a fairly confident fellow given it appears from what was written in Nadal’s autobiography that he’s the black sheep, in a family where his brothers are high achievers in the sporting and business world.

And with all the camera time he gets from the coaching …er, players’ box, he’s got his own endorsement deal with the resort company Iberostar.


He’s .. Uncle Toni. And you’ll find the occasional Uncle Toni fan club at tournaments around the world. They’re not the young lovelies who might covet his nephew, but women of a more … seasoned age who have a crush. There were even signs wishing him a happy birthday at Nadal’s match against Joao Sousa a few years ago in Rio.

This birthday, however, is probably not the happiest he’s ever spent in Rio. Tio Toni had to sit and watch as his charge had another tough week at the office, on his beloved red clay.

Nathalie Dechy (FRA), 37

The Guadeloupe-born almost-Canadian (her mother Françoise hails from the Eastern Townships) won the U.S. Open doubles in 2007 (with Dinara Safina), and remained a viable player in both singles and doubles until she suddenly up and retired on July 21, 2009 – and promptly announced she and husband Antoine Maître-Devallon were expecting a child.

dechy 524 Tennis birthdays Feb. 21, 2012She gave birth to son Lucas Jan. 25, 2009, and picked up her studies in marketing management at ESSEC. She and Guy Forget, were named “player ambassadors” for the French Open a few years ago.

Dechy had some great moments during a career in which she reached No. 11 in singles and No. 8 in doubles, even though when you watched her play, you couldn’t figure out how the heck that could happen.

Hard work, stubbornness, and a game that was an aggravating anachronism to the modern heavy-hitters when she was firing on all cylinders.

From 1996 until her retirement, Dechy played in 54 consecutive Grand Slam events.

She also won the U.S. Open doubles in 2006 (with Vera Zvonareva) and the 2007 French Open mixed title with Andy Ram. She reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in singles in 2005, just two points away from beating Lindsay Davenport before she finally succumbed.

As recently as Wimbledon in 2008, she had match points against then freshly-crowned French Open champ and world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, before losing 6-7, 7-6, 10-8.

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3 thoughts on “Tennis Birthdays: Feb. 21, 2016

    • Lot of mistakes and omissions in that one 🙂
      Knapp has a knee injury. Originally she was supposed to be back for Australia but she’s had setbacks and basically has pulled out of everything through Miami.

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