Tennis Birthdays – July 15, 2015

A plucky survivor is missing in action.

Alisa Kleybanova (RUS), 26

Where is the likeable Russian? She’s not been seen since last year’s Wimbledon. Her life the last few years (at least professionally) has been a struggle.

Four years ago on her 22nd birthday, the news broke that Kleybanova was being treated for Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Italy.

That explained why Kleybanova had been out for so long, with no particular explanation given.

She was treated, and the doctors said she had completely recovered. And in the spring of 2012, she came back after receiving a wild card into the Miami event. She lost in the second round to Maria Kirilenko.

Then there was radio silence; she probably did come back too soon. The issue was recovery, which wasn’t happening as it did before she was hit with the Hodgkin’s.

She didn’t return for more than a year – until May 2013 when, playing one tournament in May, another in June and another in July, she went on a tear on the minor-league circuit. She won a pair of $10,000 tournaments in the U.S., then went to a $50,000 event in Sacramento, won three qualifying matches, and made the quarterfinals.

Kleybanova during a practice with Jelena Dokic at the 2010 French Open

Kleybanova during a practice with Jelena Dokic at the 2010 French Open

She used her protected ranking to play Toronto and Cincinnati (she lost to Genie Bouchard 63 61 in Toronto), then beat Monica Puig at the U.S. Open before losing to Jelena Jankovic. After another break, she played one more tournament, then actually played in the Fed Cup final for Russia against Italy (which tells you the state of the Russian team at that time).

Kleybanova was back in the top 200 at No. 188 when she spent the off-season training at her new home in Boynton Beach, Fla., where coach and “brother” Julian Vespan has set up an academy.

We caught up with her there, impressed with her positive attitude and her confidence that she will eventually get back to where she was (pardon the typo in the title).

The beginning of the 2014 season didn’t quite go as well as planned. She lost in the first round of qualifying at the Australian Open and in Pattaya City, but did reach the fourth round at Indian Wells in March, easily defeating up-and-comer Garbiñe Muguruza along the way. She also beat Petra Kvitova in Stuttgart. But the tournaments after that were a struggle; first-round losses in Oeiras, Madrid, the French Open and Wimbledon (to Bouchard in Oeiras and Simona Halep in Paris, so not much to do there).

But 6-1, 6-2 to Lauren Davis at Wimbledon gave you pause. She was at No. 82 in singles, No. 78 in doubles – and she hasn’t played since. So that’s a full year; she doesn’t have a ranking.

Kleybvanova reached a career high of No. 20 right after Dubai in February of 2011 and got to No. 10 in doubles in February, 2010. Maybe those numbers are unrealistic to reach again, but she has plenty of time if she at least gets back playing.

Pavel Vizner (CZE), 45

The 2007 Rogers Cup doubles champ in Montreal had a long, successful career, playing with more than 60 different partners.

He told Open Court at that time (in 2007) that he didn’t know how long he’d keep going but that when he stopped, he’d stay home with the kids while his wife pursued her own career. We really liked that team attitude. He married his former doubles partner’s sister (Petr Pala, wife is Monika).

Vizner’s career high ranking in doubles, No. 5, came in 2007. In 2009, he played his last match, in Gstaad with Pala, with whom he hadn’t played in a long time.

He has 16 doubles titles and reached 20 other finals in his career, reaching the finals at the French Open and the U.S. Open in 2007 with Lukas Dlouhy (he was also coaching Dlouhy at the time). He also reached the French Open final in 2001 with his brother-in-law.

Also today, Sharon Fichman’s brother Thomas turns 28. Hey, why not?

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2 thoughts on “Tennis Birthdays – July 15, 2015

  1. Another MIA player is Maria Kirilenko. Injured?

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