Tennis Birthdays – July 31, 2015

A player much-missed at the top of the game celebrates along with a massive crop on this day.

Victoria Azarenka (BLR), 26

The former world No. 1 “celebrates” her 26th by pulling out of next week’s WTA Tour event in Washington, D.C. event with a shoulder injury.

She appears to be practicing in Los Angeles at the moment; you hope her momentum isn’t stalling as she begins the long road back after a tough 2014 in which a foot injury pretty much scuttled her secure spot at the top of the game.

Returning outside seeded territory, Azarenka has had tough draws everywhere. And she has played it pretty tough although not close to the level she once enjoyed.

Azarenka-Sumyk

In addition to her health woes, it appears Azarenka was blindsided by the departure of longtime coach and mentor Sam Sumyk, who decided to join Camp Genie Bouchard in February. Azarenka and Sumyk, whom she considered a life mentor and almost a father figure, were still working together at the Australian Open. Few had an inkling of what would happen a few weeks later. She also broke up (or was dumped by) boyfriend Red Foo, who was somewhat of a comical figure but who seemed, for a time, to be quite devoted. She certainly seemed happy.

Azarenka’s a tough one, though. In short order, she managed to put together a nice little team with coach Wim Fissette and new hitting partner Sascha Bajin, who long performed the dual role of sparring partner and big brother to Azarenka’s friend Serena Williams. And she started the long climb back.

The Belarussian dominated in the juniors and carried that through to the big leagues. She has two Grand Slam titles (both in Australia) and was world No. 1 for 51 weeks.

 

Nicholas James Bollettieri (USA), 84

BollettieriNo one was ever sure exactly how much Bollettieri knew about tennis.

But one thing was for sure, he was a master motivator, and a master self-promoter who had a huge hand in an entire generation of tennis players.

A few names: Jimmy Arias (the first big forehand guy), Carling Bassett, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Mary Pierce, Maria Sharapova, the list goes on and on as his eponymous tennis academy (now owned by IMG), kept churning out champions.

Bollettieri probably wasn’t a master at making money, which is likely why he sold although the tennis academy itself, part of a bigger sports academy, still bears his name.

He has a bunch of ex-wives and a lot of kids (seven, as far as he knows) and also a kick-ass suntan to keep up. There were books and videos and a whole industry.

Now, in his dotage, Bollettieri is the sage voice that the media often goes to for a good quote. He’s hanging in there very well even if he does ramble on at times.

He was finally inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. It seemed, for whatever reason, to be somewhat of a controversial selection; clearly there were people who really didn’t want him in there. Never made sense to me.

 

Evonne Goolagong Cawley (AUS), 64

Evonne GoolagongGoolagong’s melodious name and Aboriginal heritage made her unique in her time. She also, after Margaret Court, was one of the rare players back then to have a baby and come back to the tour.

What was never in doubt was her incredible talent, great racquet control, silky movement and charisma.

She won 68 singles and 11 doubles titles on the WTA Tour, including four Australian Opens, two Wimbledons and a French Open.

Goolagong lived in the Hilton Head, S.C. area for many years, but moved back to Australia about 20 years ago.

These days, she works with Aboriginal kids as part of her foundation and has had an National Development camp to help the kids for a decade. You can see her at the Australian Open every year with a whole group of them.

 

Marc Lopez (ESP), 33

Lopez-NadalHe began as a “friend of Rafa” – someone the great Nadal would help out when he could – in this case, it was pairing up with his lifelong buddy at a few doubles tournaments, when it seemed clear Lopez’s singles career wasn’t really going anywhere.

Surprisingly, Lopez did get to No. 106 in singles back when he was just 19.

Lopez is currently ranked No. 13 in doubles (he was as high as No. 3 after the Australian Open two years ago), and has won 10 titles (four with Nadal, including twice at Indian Wells, four with Marcel Granollers, and the other two with David Marrero on clay in the spring of 2010.

Lopez and Granollers also made the US Open and French Open finals in 2014, but couldn’t go all the way.

This was fun – all-Spanish singles, er, dubs in the desert last March against his buddy.

Meanwhile, he’s living the high life. It’s hilarious to watch him saunter by and take a seat when Nadal is busting his butt on the practice court, while Lopez just sits there and works on his tan – and laughs. He seems like such a good dude that you can’t even begrudge him.

Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP), 33

The Spaniard is purely a doubles specialist now, after years of doing well in singles but clearly at a cost to her knees. She was just 15 when she turned professional.

Anabel Medina Garrigues

She got to No. 16 in singles in 2009, and as high as No. 3 in doubles. Even though she never made the top 10, she pulled off 11 singles titles, to go along with 25 doubles titles.

Medina Garrigues had success with a number of partners, including countrywoman Virginia Ruano Pascual, with whom she won the French Open doubles in 2008 and 2009. She represented Spain in three Olympics.

At the moment, she is ranked No. 34 and has two doubles titles in 2015: Nürnberg with H-C Chan, and Antwerp with Arantxa Parra Santonja.

 

 

Cristian Kordasz (ARG), 37

Kordasz-Marino

The Argentine squeezed into the top 200 at No. 199, almost exactly 15 years ago. But a heart problem, ongoing, short-circuited his career. Instead, Kordasz has been around the circuit as a coach.

KordaszFor awhile, he was working with the Canadian players – twice with Aleksandra Wozniak, and then briefly with Rebecca Marino. Most of the time it didn’t work particularly well, for various reasons.

He also worked with Greece’s Eleni Daniliidou and Russian Anna Chakvetadze, now retired, for a brief period. That last one seemed to go really well; it started when Wozniak got injured, and he went to work with the Russian for a few tournaments – the first one they played, Portoroz, Chakvetadze won. Later, they made it a longer-term arrangement.

We’ve seen him around some since those days. But he has sort of faded from view.

 

Nick Lindahl (AUS), 27

LindahlIf you want to draw somewhat of a comparison, Lindahl was the original that the next Nick, Kyrgios, “improved upon”, on-court personality wise although the second Nick has kept his nose clean off the court.

Lindahl was a good junior and was considered to have huge talent – he won the Australian Open juniors in 2006, his home junior Slam – but it didn’t happen. The best he did was No. 187 in singles in 2010.

He was actually born in Sweden, to a Swedish father and an Indonesian mother.

He became “Swedish” again in 2010 but returned to play under the Australian flag again less than a year later.

It ended badly. It seems he wasn’t hanging around with the best characters, either.

Last February, he was arrested at his home and charged with “engaging in conduct that corrupts the betting outcome of an event and using corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.” More on that here; this story says Lindahl received a lifetime ban.

(Lindahl pic from Wikipedia)

 

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