Tennis Birthdays: Feb. 22, 2016

Some fabulous people (including Open Court’s Dad).

Michael Chang (USA), 44

The American banked nearly $20 million in his career, and got to No. 2 in the world. He won the French Open at age 17 in a shocker.

The biggest standout moment came when he served underhand to a flummoxed Ivan Lendl – and then moved way up and crowded the service box, baiting Lendl into a double-fault on match point.

After retiring, he played some exhibitions, some senior tennis, got  married (to former player Amber Liu) and became a father several times over.

Of major note, he became a coaching consultant to top Japanese player Kei Nishikori just over two years ago, on hand when the Japanese star reached the U.S. Open final in 2014.

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Ross Hutchins (GBR), 31

The handsome Brit reached No. 26 in doubles in the summer of 2012 – then, a tough blow. Hutching was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma late in 2012. He had treatment, and came back for awhile.

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Abruptly, it would seem from the outside, he basically retired last summer and immediately became the tournament director for the event at Queen’s Club, just before Wimbledon.

That he had no experience of any kind never seems to work against former players with these types of jobs (just like Kim Clijsters in Antwerp, to name just one of many). He’s mostly responsible for the player relations side (more or less, making sure Andy Murray keeps attending), and will pick up the rest from there.

Gigi Fernandez (USA), 52

Fernandez was one of the better doubles players to come along in the women’s game.

Never quite calm enough, or quite fit enough, or quite consistent enough to really do major damage in singles (to be fair, in the Evert-Navratilova era, there wasn’t much left for anyone else), she teamed notably with Natasha Zvereva to dominate the doubles court for a number of years.

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Fernandez won two singles and … whoa, 69 doubles titles in her career. She got to No. 1 in doubles, obviously, and a very credible No. 17 in singles. She also won the gold medal in doubles with Mary Joe Fernandez in Atlanta in 1996.

Seventeen of those majors were Grand Slams. Twice in 1993 and 1994, she and Zvereva won the first three legs of the Grand Slam, only to have their hearts broken at the U.S. Open when trying to complete it. In 1993, they lost in the semis to Sanchez Vicario and Sukova; in 1994, it was Katerina Maleeva and Robin White in a rather major upset.

Since then, she’s had a family (twins Karson Xavier and Madison Jane) with her partner, former golfer Jane Geddes, has gotten involved in business, and is now the director of tennis at the Chelsea Piers Club.

Olga Morozova (RUS), 67

The Russian who lives in the U.K (she moved there more than 20 years ago to work as a national coach), was a trailblazer from her country back in the early pro days of women’s tennis.

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Morozova got to the French Open and Wimbledon finals in 1974 (she won junior Wimbledon nine years prior), but never won a Grand Slam in singles. She did team up with Chris Evert to win the doubles in Paris that year, the first major title for a Russian. But she did win eight tournaments and got to No. 7 in the world.

Her career ended at age 28; according to Wikipedia, the Soviet Union’s policy against its players competing against South Africans was a big factor.

A few years ago, she coached Svetlana Kuznetsova. One in a very long line.

Tom Okker (NED), 72

Tom Okker All the Dutch players who came after him had an awful lot to live up to, as Okker, who was 24 when the Open era began in 1968, won 26 titles (and reached 23 other finals) and reached No. 3 in the world.

He got to the first U.S. Open (truly Open) final in 1968, losing a tough five-setter to American Arthur Ashe.

But in addition to those 26 singles titles, he won 68 doubles titles and got to No. 1 in the world. Surprisingly, not many of those were Grand Slams; Okker and John Newcombe won the French Open in 1973 and the 1976 U.S. Open (on Har-Tru) with Marty Riessen in 1976.

Okker was a friend of Canada, too. He won the Canadian Open in 1973 and reached the 1971 final. He also won a WCT event in Quebec City and reached a final in Vancouver.

He played until he was 37, and was the Dutch Davis Cup captain for two years. He now owns an art gallery.

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2 thoughts on “Tennis Birthdays: Feb. 22, 2016

  1. You don’t say how the Soviet Union’s policy against South Africa affected Olga Morozova.

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