Tennis Birthdays – Feb. 8, 2016

A host of birthdays – include a Russian Kiwi who had an especially good day.

Petra Cetkovska (CZE), 31

The Czech beauty had a good run a couple of years ago, getting to No. 25 in singles in 2012. She has two career WTA Tour doubles titles, and a total of 48 in singles and doubles on the ITF circuit.

She’s another of the Czech players who is just fundamentally sound, has all the shots. She seems to get struck down with her fair share of injuries, though. Not even kidding. In 2012 it was an adductor, a quad and a knee early on and after retiring at the Olympics, she missed the rest of the season with a right ankle injury. She missed the first half of 2013 with a left foot injury. After losing to Petra Kvitova in the second round of the U.S. Open in 2014, reportedly because of a hip injury, she played one match in Miami the following March, and then not until the French Open. She played through the grass season until shortly after the US Open, then shut it down until she returned at the Australian Open under a protected ranking.

Cetkovska had been entered in at least one tournament before that one, but she pulled out. Her current actual ranking is No. 132.

She has a French coach, is based in Paris and speaks the language beautifully.

Jimmy Wang (TPE), 31

Wang was actually born in Saudi Arabia, but that Middle Eastern country hasn’t, to our knowledge, tried to repatriate him for the glory of the flag.

Jimmy Wang_new

At 31, he’d probably fit that variable definition of journeyman. His career best was No. 85, and that was all the way back in in 2006. And yet, you talk to players who have been beaten by him, he can crank up his game to be top class – on any given day.

It seems, in the end, that he just can’t string enough of those “any given days” together to make deep runs.

A year ago, he was ranked No. 120, and his ranking was about as good as it was a decade ago. He qualified at the Australian Open and lost to John Isner in the first round. On this birthday, he’s down to No. 437 and forced to play Challenger qualifying.

Wang was a terrific junior in a good era, one of those kids who benefited from the ITF’s Grand Slam development fund to help his training. He got to a career best No. 3 in 2001, when he had just turned 16, which is a good effort. He reached the junior Oz final, losing to Janko Tipsarevic as well as the junior U.S. Open final, losing to Gilles Muller.  He and Robin Soderling had a pretty good rivalry, back in the day.



Heinz Gunthardt (SUI), 57

Gunthardt was a very good player – especially in doubles, where he reached a ranking of No. 3 and won 30 titles. He also peaked at No. 22 in singles.

heinz Gunthardt_new

He and Balacs Taroczy won eight titles together in 1981, including the French Open. They also won Wimbledon together in 1985.

Later, he made an even bigger name for himself as the longtime coach of Steffi Graf. He also coached Ana Ivanovic, but that one didn’t seem to go as well.

He’s the captain of the Swiss Fed Cup team. He also played 15 years for the Swiss Davis Cup team.

Alex Antonitsch (AUT), 50

Alex AntonitschThe best story about this Austrian, who started playing tennis at the relatively late age of 10, is that he’s a natural lefty who broke his arm, wanted to keep playing tennis, started playing right-handed and ended up reaching a career best of No. 40 in singles, with one ATP Tour title. He also won four doubles titles, and represented Austria in Davis Cup for 13 years.

He’s currently the tournament director of the ATP Tour event in Kitzbuhel. His daughter Mira played in the juniors at the Australian Open; time flies

(Pic from the Kitzbuhel tourney’s Facebook page)


Artem Sitak (NZL), 30

The Kiwi, born in Russia, reached a career high of No. 39 in doubles just before Wimbledon last year. He currently sits at No. 62.

On his birthday a year ago he played in the final of the ATP Tour event in Montpellier, facing the top seeds, Inglot and Mergea, with countryman Marcus Daniell.

Up 5-2 and serving in the match tiebreak, they lost both points on serve. Then it became a barnburner. They saved three match points, finally earned one on their own serve at 14-13, were denied, and won it 16-14.


Sitak was probably sitting in the locker room drinking fine French champagne to celebrate both the big title and the big day, when Jerzy Janowicz pulled the plug on his singles final against Richard Gasquet after just three games.

Sitak nicely came out to have a hit with Gasquet, to fill in and give the customers (many of whom likely skipped the earlier doubles) a little bit for their money. Add a little to the cheque for the week, too.

He came out, and asked the tournament director if it was okay to play in his Solinco T-shirt. Yes, it was okay. 🙂

Artem Sitak_new

Stak’s first career title came on clay in Stuttgart in 2014, with Mateusz Kowalczyk.  He played quite a bit with Daniell at the Challenger level after that; they won in Granby, and reached the final in Vancouver together, so Canada’s been very good to them. And then, in Montpellier, they won their second title.

He celebrates No. 30 with Daniel in Memphis, where they won their first-round match and face the wild-card pair of Fritz and Harrison in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

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