Tennis Birthdays – Jan. 8, 2016

Two players born on exactly the same date, but with radically different lives.

Pierre-Ludovic Duclos (CAN), 30

The Quebec City native is spending this birthday, and likely a few more after that, in a jail in Florida after pleading guilty in a nasty case involving solicitation of a girl, who turned out to be just 13 at the time.

The incident happened nearly three years ago, and Duclos reportedly sent the girl text messages of a sexual nature, and was on her way to meet her when, tipped off, the police arrested him.

In May, 2014, he was sentenced to six years in jail and four years’ probation, and he was added to the Florida state sex-offender registry.

There was nothing in our dealings with him over the years, as he aspired to climb the tennis ranks, that indicated anything of that nature. If he seemed a little immature for his age, that’s not rare with tennis players. His girlfriends always seemed to be age-appropriate. It just goes to show you how futile it is to draw conclusions about people on the basis of just a few (professional) dealings. But it’s likely that people who do know him well also were shocked by the turn of events. It was, in the end, given no actual physical harm came to the young girl, a huge, life-altering mistake.

PL Duclos2

There was a piece written about this – a highly sympathetic piece from an author who only met him once, randomly and seems convinced he was railroaded and that a massive injustice was done to him. Some (many) of the comments are rather offensive, so don’t skip down there unless you really want to. A couple of people who claim they were in court for some of the testimony weigh in, and do a good job trying to trash the 13-year-old girl involved.

Poor guy; his career wasn’t really going anywhere, even though he certainly had talent. He was always sort of outside the Tennis Canada system, for whatever reason – perhaps because he didn’t do that much as a junior unlike, say, Peter Polansky, who is no more talented than Duclos. His singles ranking peaked at No. 229 in early 2012, but he was outside the top 600 when all this went down less than a year later.

Duclos was scrounging to give tennis lessons on public courts down in Florida at the time, which appears to be how he met the young girl. But he dug his own grave here; thinking he was a nice guy doesn’t changing anything about the sad, ugly situation.

Duclos ended up marrying an American woman early on in the process (not the Florida woman, who was about his age, that he had been seeing before all this went down), which might have helped a little given he was down there without any work status.  The case is reportedly being appealed.

Shuai Peng (CHN), 30

Peng Shuai2

A year ago, Peng was ranked No. 22 in singles and No. 3 in doubles, one of the rare players on the WTA Tour to do well in both disciplines these days. She has been as high as No. 14 in singles and less than two years ago, she became the No. 1 doubles player in the world.

She was always in the shadow of Li Na in China, mostly because she wasn’t as successful, but also because she didn’t have the same type of public personality that endeared Li to fans around the world.

She has yet to win a singles title, but she has 17 doubles crowns at the WTA level, including Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open last year with Hsieh Su-Wei. In the last couple of years, she worked incredibly hard on her fitness, got into much better shape, and it really showed in her results.

Shuai Peng1

The two split up just before the WTA Tour finals in Singapore in 2014, even though they played it.

But since then, injuries have crushed her; she’s currently ranked No. 137. After getting to the fourth round of the Australian Open last year, she missed a significant amount of time with a back injury, came back briefly, and then pulled the plug on her season.

Peng played in the doubles draw this week in Shenzhen and won a round, so perhaps she’s slowly making her way  back.

Jamie Hampton (USA), 26

Born in Frankfurt, Germany and living in the south (Auburn, Alabama), Hampton is the product of an American father whose Army career took them to Germany and a Korean mom.

Jamie Hampton

She’s a great jock – a talented player whose issues with her hip have taken her off the court for the better part of two years. Even before that, she had persistent wrist woes as a junior that slowed down her early development.

Her last tournament was Auckland, right around this time of year – three years ago. She won her first and so far only title at Eastbourne in 2013, just before Wimbledon.

Hampton had six surgeries in an 18-month period, and was signed up for a smaller event in the U.S. last November, which had people thinking she was finally coming back. But it didn’t happen – not yet, anyway. She still has time.



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