Tennis Birthdays – Nov. 20, 2015

An infamous American and a Mallorcan, both lefties (but not the ones you might be thinking of).

Jeff Tarango (USA), 47

The retired American player turns 46 today. But he still will mostly be remembered for an incident that occurred 20 years ago.

He’ll never live it down.

It was pretty bad – not helped by the fact that his then-wife, a Frenchwoman named Bénédicte, got involved and even slapped umpire Bruno Rebeuh.

And you thought MirkaGate was bad? That was nothing!

Tarango was banned by the ITF for the 1996 edition of the tournament and, ironically enough, that same year, he was on the other side of the court with his doubles partner when Gentleman Tim Henman got defaulted from his “home” event for accidentally hitting a ballgirl with a ball in a brief fit of anger.

It’s unfortunate, on some levels, because for most of his life, Tarango was considered a very, very good tennis player, one who played California juniors during the time of Agassi and Sampras and was the king.

Jeff Tarango2The lefty starred for three years at Stanford before turning pro, helping the team win two NCAA titles.

On the pro side, things didn’t quite pan out the way it did for some of his junior class. He reached a high of No. 42 in singles. But Tarango did much better in doubles, peaking at No. 10, winning 14 titles and reaching the final at the 1999 French Open with Goran Ivanisevic.

Tarango played for 15 years and after retiring, did tennis commentary, was involved in various tennis committees and even went back to playing in a few events. He has also coached, and does speaking engagements. He’s also a regular participant in over-35 ITF events (your Open Court servant has run into him often. He has won a bunch of them, but not all of them).

The marriage to Bénédicte ended not too long after all the drama. Quelle surprise.

He has been married to Jessica Balgrosky for seven years and they have five kids (you’d think that might be a blended family situation but if not, way to maximize, Tarango!). Balgrosky, a L.A. business executive, does speak French.

Bartolomé Salvá-Vídal (ESP), 29

Tomeu SalvaHe’s a lefty from Mallorca. And on the ATP Tour site, his coach is listed as Francisco Roig.

Gotcha.

You probably won’t have heard of Toméu unless you are so embedded into tennis, you barely sleep. Or you’re a Rafa fan.

He was never a great player, but he’s almost related to one.

Salvá is a childhood friend of Rafael Nadal’s, growing up with him in Mallorca. To this day, he remains his bestie and he spends time on Tour and off with him.

Salvá reached No. 288 in singles on the ATP Tour, 0-6 when he had an opportunity to play on the main Tour. But as with another lifelong friend, Marc López, Nadal was great about playing doubles with Salvá to help give him a boost.

He gave up pretty early; his last singles match was in 2008 and his last doubles tournament was in Jan. 2011, a Futures event in Spain in which he reached the final – and won $165 for his efforts.

But before that, he played some big events with Nadal, including Miami in 2010 (they lost 60 63 to the Bryans). That was his final match before two last Futures in early 2011. Salvá and Nadal also reached the final of Chennai together at the beginning of 2007.

But this one, he’ll always have. Look at those wins. Shame they couldn’t pull off the win.

Salva-Nadal

Salva and Nadal played doubles together all the way back in 2002; they teamed up in Salva’s three pro tournaments in April of that year (those were three of Nadal’s first five pro events). But unlike with his friend Lopez, who has gone on to have an excellent doubles career with other partners, Nadal couldn’t make the same magic happen for Salvá.

Funniest part is that in an interview back during that period, in 2008, Salvá said Roger Federer was the best player in the world and, as well, was his idol growing up. 🙂


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