Tennis Birthdays – July 14, 2015

We’re back after a bit of a Wimbledon hiatus, with a good-lookin’ crew.

Igor Andreev (RUS), 32

Andreev was envied for his longtime relationship with WTA Tour cutie Maria Kirilenko, with whom he reached the semi-finals of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2008.

Andreev-Kirilenko

Alas, like many tennis relationships, it wasn’t to be. Andreev and Kirilenko went the way of Berdych and Safarova; and Kirilenko got engaged to hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin – which caused a few ripples in the tennis world (and a lot of brave Internet cowboys spewing filth in our direction)  when the first incarnation of Open Court broke the news in November, 2011.

Purely coincidental, but Andreev’s career went quickly downhill. (Kirilenko moved on from Ovie, disappeared off the face of the earth and at last word, had just had a baby).

Andreev retired at the end of 2013 after playing seven tournaments that year (all in qualifying except Wimbledon, his last event), and losing in the first round of all of them but one. And even that one was two qualifying wins at a Challenger in Prague against guys ranked 1,809 and 580. It was just one many injuries that plagued him – especially in the last few years of his career.

In Nov. 2008, the Russian reached his career high of No. 18. From 2010-12 he was sort of languishing in the 70s and 80s, which seems far lower than he should be.  Turns out there was a serious shoulder issue; that’s what ultimately ended it.

Potito Starace (ITA), 34

Starace’s career has tended to go in waves. although he seemed to have settled into the No. 50-60 range, after being as high as No. 27 in Oct. 2007, a couple of years ago. Then he dropped. He was down at No. 413 in April, 2013, at No. 168 a year ago on his birthday and now, sits at No. 246 after not playing for six months following his suspected involvement in match-fixing, part of a big scandal/sting in his native Italy.

Potito Starace

Starace’s name most often comes up in connection with the “match-fixing” issue, as he was one of the early casualties. He made five bets totalling $130 in 2006 – and not even on his own matches, and as a scapegoat was suspended for six weeks.

But last year, it got big. Starace has maintained his innocence. In terms of actual suspension, he and occasional doubles partner Daniele Bracciali got 40 days in February. He returned in April, but now must make another climb back.  He made a brief appearance in the French Open qualifying, losing in three sets to Victor Hanescu of Romania in the first round.

Karsten Braasch (GER), 48

BraaschBraasch, a bon-vivant who was a top-40 player in both singles and doubles, was known for a few things. He was almost a pack-a-day smoker, really liked beer, had this service motion where he’d take a little head start and launch himself in the air (and that’s not even getting into the goofy specs).

He once easily beat the Williams sisters, back-to-back, on a court at the Australian Open in 1998 after the sisters had been doing some trash talking about being able to beat a No. 200 guy on the ATP Tour.

Braasch, at the time, was No. 201 and in his 30s. The Williams were still teenagers.

He beat Serena 6-1 (after playing a round of golf and having a few post-round shandies), then beat Venus 6-2.

Braasch played a long time, from 1987 until a few minor events in singles in 2005, and even a couple of doubles appearances in 2007. He occasionally plays ITF seniors events as well.

Here’s some video of that serve:

 

Ryan Sweeting (USA), 28

Sweeting and pal Andy Roddick at the Oz Open in 2012.

Sweeting and pal Andy Roddick at the Oz Open in 2012.

Born in the Bahamas, Sweeting has been American, and Bahamanian and now seems settled in as a Yank.

We figured he was a bit of a late bloomer (probably because of the lack of a huge serve despite his 6-foot-5 frame). But maybe, in the end, he just didn’t have the package. Sweeting did get to No. 64 in the world nearly four years ago. And that’s probably topped out for him.

Sweeting won the junior U.S. Open in 2005, and became a U.S. citizen the next year even though he had been living in South Florida since the age of 12. He went to the University of Florida, and only turned pro in 2007.

His big moment came in 2011, at the U.S. Clay Court event in Houston Texas. Sweeting, then ranked No. 93, ran through the field, defeating Sam Querrey and Ivo Karlovic on the way to the final, where he defeated Kei Nishikori.

At the moment, though, he has no ranking and less than $2,000 in earnings this season. He played a few events in 2015 after being MIA for nearly a year (Dallas, that Houston event and Sarasota, where he lost in the first round of qualifying to a minor-league doubles specialist named Greg Ouellette).

Lately, he’s far more well-known for his whirlwind romance (three months), engagement (three months) and subsequent marriage to Kaley Cuoco (now Cuoco-Sweeting; not much of a ring to that), who is an actress on the Big Bang Theory sitcom. She played tennis as a kid, so they’ve got that in common. He’s become a tabloid staple.

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