Tennis Birthdays – Feb. 9, 2016

A Brit, and a curious namesake.

James Ward (GBR), 29

James WardAs he turned 28, the Brit was playing the best tennis of his life. At 29, a bit of reality has set in.

After never really sniffing it before, he reached his career high of No. 89 last July after reaching the third round at Wimbledon, where he lost to Canadian Vasek Pospisil in a pretty terrific match. Mostly, he’s that fellow, that one who isn’t Andy Murray, whom British tennis fans hope can develop into a credible No. 2 singles player for Davis Cup purposes.

His summer tour of North American ATP events resulted in five first-round losses, so Ward went back on the Challenger circuit to win a few matches to close out the season. He lost in the second round of qualifying in Chennai and at the Australian Open to start the season, and hasn’t played since, healing up an injury.

It was a tough 2015; he had to deal with the illness of his Australian coach, Darren Tandy, who died in early January.

A lot has been made of the fact that his father is a taxi driver. Interesting that for all the upper-class kids for whom tennis is the genteel sport, the two best players in the U.K. are the son of a cab driver and a Scot of modest means. He spent four years at the Ferrer academy in Valencia, so it follows that clay is his favorite surface. For a player without flash, it’s probably the wisest choice. Ward, in the end, is a grinder.

Ward qualified for five ATP Tour-level events in 2014, including the French Open. His big moment came in San Diego, where he rallied from a two-sets-to-one deficit to defeat Sam Querrey in five, in Davis Cup vs. the U.S.

James Ward-socks

And he wears awesome socks, thanks to Ted Baker.

Hans Gildemeister (CHI), 60

A rare player from Peru to reach the top levels, and a rare male player two-handed on both sides (especially rare for a HansGildemeisterclay-court player), Gildemeister reached No. 12 in the singles rankings in 1980, and won four titles. He did even better in doubles, reaching a career-best No. 5 and winning 23 titles. Before that, he was a star in U.S. college tennis at USC.

He also had two tennis playing brothers, Heinz and Fritz.

He and Andres Gomez of Ecuador formed a powerful combination in the mid-80s;

According to his ATP Tour bio, he may  have been the innovator in on-tour appendicitis. This happened in 1984, right when he was coming back from five months off because of a back injury. And, most famously, he got typhus. He and Gomez qualified for the Tour doubles finals in 1980 after winning five titles that year, and they had to pull out because of that. They made it again in 1986 and won “Doubles Team of the Year”.

Every single one of his titles in both singles and doubles, and his finals, came on clay or Har-Tru. Of course, there was a whole lot more of that going around in those days.

Gildemeister was the captain of the Chilean Davis Cup team until he was replaced by Nicolas Massu.  He also has a tennis academy in Tampa, Florida.


Johan Kriek Guba (PHI), 33

JohanKriekGuba KriekGuba never actually had an ATP Tour ranking. But his name is so unexpected, so random that he’s worth a mention. Pretty clear that back in 1983, his parents liked tennis. He probably had little choice but to become a tennis player.

At the time of his birth, the South African Kriek was a top-20 player.

Guba became the best junior in the Philippines at the upper levels, which didn’t translate into international success. He played junior Davis Cup, and he played the Grade 2 ITF tournament held in his home country four straight years, but ended up getting routed by stronger players.

He played qualifying in a couple of Futures events in his country, won first-round matches against countrymen, and was quickly dispatched by foreign players. And that was it for his pro career, as he turned to coaching.

As a coach, he’s worked at home, in Malaysia, in Beijing, and currently in Singapore. And now you are up to date.

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