Tennis Birthdays: May 16, 2015

These next few weeks feature a lot of sterling birthdays.

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), 24

They’re not calling him Baby Fed any more. Grigor Dimitrov has come into his own, somewhat. Maybe someday, there will be a “Baby Grigor”.

GrigorDimitrov

It wasn’t quite the birthday he had a year ago, when he won his quarter-final in Rome and prepared for his first Masters 1000 semi-final against Rafael Nadal (he beat Berdych in the third round). That win didn’t happen, but he went into the French Open at a career-best No. 12.

Currently, he’s at No. 11, at a bit of a standstill – with a win at Queen’s Club and a semi at Wimbledon to defend in the next two months. On the plus side, he lost in the first round of last year’s French Open to Ivo Karlovic, so he has some house money to play with there.

Dimitrov was always considered to be one of the next generation that was going to get to the top. For whatever reason, people were awfully impatient for this to happen. Everyone matures at their own pace – and sometimes the brilliantly gifted ones, the ones who were able to go so far on Dimitrovcakefacetalent, take longer because they have  to make a major adjustment to the fact that at the very top of the pyramid, everyone is just as talented as they are – or more so.

As things have progressed, it’s entirely possible that Dimitrov lacks the “killer” gene. He’s talented, he’s working hard. But somehow, doesn’t there just seem to be some little element missing that will take him to that next step? He still has plenty of time to develop it.

We’ve always said that the gentle qualities that might make him a terrific boyfriend (if Maria Sharapova will go out with a younger man, that younger man must have serious boyfriend chops), might hurt him as a competitor. That’s just an outside view; who knows. But he has yet to take that stop to the very top rung.

Coach Roger Rasheed wasn’t loath to give him the full treatment – on TV, no less – a year ago.

 

This year, he seems to be well taken care of (looks like there’s a private helicopter ride involved, too. 🙂

Pospisil and DimitrovDimitrov first came on the Open Court radar when he reached the doubles final at the junior U.S. Open in 2007 with Canadian Vasek Pospisil. He showed tremendous talent; he also showed off a temper that got him a warning, then a point penalty at a most inopportune time late in their match against the French team of Eysseric and Inzerillo.

After the 2008 junior U.S. Open, he was the top-ranked junior in the world. He also won junior Wimbledon that year.

Dimitrov also a fabulous-looking guy who speaks several languages and oozes charisma. His arrival is a terrific addition to a Tour that, like it or not, is going to be a fairly big black hole in a few years when the exemplary top four or five players wrap it up.

And you have to think that he’s also got courage in spades; it takes big cojones to go after someone like Sharapova – nearly five years older and way out of his league in both balance sheet and accomplishments – and not be afraid of being shot down and sent to his room. 🙂

(Cakeface pic from the ATP’s Nicolas Arzani, via Twitter).

Gabriela Sabatini (ARG), 45

gabymils Tennis birthdays   May 16, 2011

It’s hard to believe she’s in her fifth decade. And she has never looked better.

Sabatini has been retired for nearly 19 years now (quick – how old do you feel, seeing that number?) and seems to be keeping busy. We’re not sure at what, exactly, although presumably she has business interests.

You don’t hear anything about marriage with children or anything like that.

(Twitter)

(Twitter)

She shows up occasionally at tournaments.  Five years ago, she was spotted handing out the winner’s trophy in Rome, where Novak Djokovic proceeded to try to put his best moves on her. We’re thinking he got absolutely nowhere, but hey, don’t ask, don’t get.

Three years ago, she was in Miami and also at the tournament in Buenos Aires, where she received her Hall of Fame ring.

Sabatini was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006 after a very good career that included the 1990 U.S. Open title, a nervy straight-setter over Steffi Graf that had her rushing the net like a boss.

By the end of that match, she was losing her nerve, but she managed to close it out. She also win the Wimbledon doubles in 1988, and a silver medal in singles at the Olympics that year.

In the spring of 2009, she played a charity exhibition in Argentina against Martina Navratilova, looked great, and spoke really well (having interfaced with her back in the day, this is major progression).

Here’s a post of that event, with video.

Nuria Llagostera Vives (ESP), 35

Wow, she’s listed at 5 – 1 1/2. That probably means she’s barely tipping 5-feet. Llagostera Vives did, however, carve out a really nice doubles career, some of it with the foot-taller Maria José Martínez Sánchez. She has 16 WTA Tour doubles titles (and two singles titles, too)

Nuria Llagostera Vives_newShe’s from Mallorca, which has produced a few decent players ;-)

But at this point, it’s pretty much over. Llagostera Vives produced a positive doping test back in Stanford in 2013. She received a two-year suspension, ending Sept. 7, 2015. So she still has four months to go.

Llagostera Vives got to No. 35 in singles back in 2005; but by 2010, she was barely hanging in the top 200, and found herself having to make that decision – stay at the big events and do well in doubles, or go back out to the smaller events and qualify and try to get her singles ranking up. She got to No. 5 in the world in doubles in late 2009.

She persevered, and got back close to the top 100.

But she stopped playing singles at the end of the 2011 season and announced she would go forward as a doubles specialist.

She wouldn’t be the only 35-year-old out there playing doubles, so you can’t say she’s done. That’s a long absence, though.

In case you think her WTA Tour website bio might be helpful, there’s absolutely nothing in there about this. We do know that she “admires her parents for always going their best”. So there’s that.

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