Tennis Birthdays – Jan. 3, 2016

Swedes and a pair of Wimby Brits to mark the day.

The Renshaw brothers

(William Renshaw born 1861, d. Aug. 12 1904)
Ernest Renshaw (born 1861, d. Sept. 2, 1899)

The Renshaws were a family Wimbledon dynasty.

Willie won 14 Wimbledon titles in the 1880s – seven of them in singles (tying him with Pete Sampras, even though you really can’t compare eras in this case. In Renshaw’s day they had the challenge system; the reigning champion had a bye right to the final).

In three of those finals, he beat twin brother Ernest. The twins won the doubles seven times; Ernest won the singles himself in 1888.

The ‘staches, back in the day, were a required part of the dress code. How they could even get the ball over the net with those racquets is a mystery to the modern player.

Both Renshaws, unfortunately, died quite young.

(Pics from Wikipedia)

Hyung-Taik Lee (KOR), 40

Lee was ranked No. 36 midway through 2007, but quickly fell off the map due to age and injuries.

He had been in the top 100 every year since 2002. His one ATP Tour singles title came in Sydney in 2008, around this time of year.

He represented his country in Davis Cup just about every year from 1995 to 2009, posting a 51-23 record – 41-9 in singles.

Lee’s last match came in Oct. 2009, in a Challenger at home in Korea. He had to retire against countryman Soong-Jae Cho.

Or so everyone thought; turned out it wasn’t quite done. Lee was back on court by 2013 and currently has a doubles ranking of No. 644 after playing four tournaments in 2015. He also played one singles tourney in 2014 and a Challenger last April, where he qualified before losing in the first round to Australia’s Jordan Thompson.

Lee won a Futures in Korea in May teamed up with Seong-chan Hong, and reached the final of a Challenger in Seoul with Danai Udomchoke (currently the coach of Yen-Hsun Lu, but still playing) just before that. Three of the tournaments came with Hong, who was just 17 at the time and is currently the No. 4-ranked junior in the world and a finalist in the boys’ singles at the Australian Open a year ago.

That’s a great mentorship; there aren’t many players who have come out of Korea in the past, although they have a few young guys now – notably Hyeon Chung.

The smiling, crowd-pleasing Lee was one of the few Koreans to have had a viable career in the pros. So he can be proud of what he has accomplished and clearly is paying it forward.

There are a lot of foot soldiers out there in tennis, guys who may not have been big stars but put forth professional, consistent performances year after year (see Gustafsson, below, for another example). And Lee is one of them.

Federico Luzzi (ITA)

(born 1980, died Oct. 25, 2008)

Luzzi reached No. 92 in the world in the early 00s, but struggled with a shoulder issue after that, and was most notorious for receiving a 200-day suspension in 2008 (and a $50,000 fine) for betting on matches over a three-year span.

The ATP didn’t determine that he had attempted to influence the result of matches – indeed, he once bet on himself to win. But he got docked anyway (in that way that the ITF has of only catching the small fish). And it pretty much ended his career. Many more came after him, but Luzzi was among the first.

Luzzi was playing a club match in Sardinia when he had to retire because of a fever in Oct. 2008. Less than two weeks later, he was dead of leukemia at age 28.

A lawsuit was filed on his behalf in July, 2009 (and included other Italian players nailed for the same transgressions) against the ATP, basically saying the Tour had used them as scapegoats to get people off their back about bigger fish.

ESPN tried, unsuccessfully, to have the documents filed with the suit allegedly proving this unsealed. The suspensions were upheld, and the players lost on appeal as well.

Magnus Gustafsson (SWE), 49

Magnus GustafssonGustafsson was in the top 100 for 16 straight years through 2002, and reached No. 10 in the world in 1991.

He won an ATP title every year from 1991 through 2000, except in 1995.

That is a serious burst of longevity.

The Swede won 14 titles and more than $4.5 million in his career.

(Pic from the ATP Tour website)

Kent Carlsson (SWE), 48

EPSON scanner Image

EPSON scanner Image

Carlsson’s career was shorter, but he scaled higher peaks – to no. 6 in 1988.

Knee issues came into play as early as 1987, when he was just 19. Three years before that, Carlsson had won the junior French Open.

He won nine titles – five of them in 1988, including Hamburg, Madrid and Barcelona, after coming back from major knee surgery in the summer of 1987 –  and just under $1 million in prize money. He went 50-6 that season, all of the matches on clay.

The surface choice is probably why he’s not remembered as well as he might be, given he was a top-10 player. In his career, he played just 13 matches on the hard courts. He really didn’t have much of a choice, because of the knee.

The Swede had more knee surgery in 1989, and that was pretty much it for him. He officially retired in May, 1990, and returned from his official home in Monte Carlo back to Sweden, where he trains horses (trotters).

A tough, tough customer on the dirt. And really, really blonde.

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