Tennis Birthdays – Nov. 7, 2015

An international group today.

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR), 27

Dolgopolov is one of those maddening players, gifted with mad skills but too inconsistent from week to week to challenge at the top.

Still, the Ukrainian got as high as No. 13, nearly four years ago just before the 2012 Australian Open. He’s currently at No. 37.

At least he seems to have settled on a spelling of his name, which has gone from Oleksandr (his father, senior, spells it that way), to Aleksandr, to an Americanized version (Alexander), and back to some sort of hybrid.

Dolgopolov grew up around tennis as his coach father, a former player, worked with various players. He was that little guy who would go out and occasionally hit with them. The serve – a low, Roscoe Tanner-like toss and a violent unfurling of the body – is unorthodox but despite his relatively small stature, packs a punch.

He has two career titles; this year was a break-even year, as his final record was 25-25.

Dolgopolov-oz_new

It started off poorly; Dolgopolov’s knee looked practically encased in cement at the Australian Open, so it wasn’t a shock to see him lose to clay-courter Paolo Lorenzi in three desultory sets in the first round.

He rallied through the later portion of the winter, but a third-round loss to Milos Raonic at Indian Wells (he had defeated Raonic in the semis the previous year to make the final) meant his ranking dropped from No. 41 to about 65.

Dolgopolov took a set off Novak Djokovic in Miami (no small feat this season), defeated Rafael Nadal in the first round of Queen’s and got to the semis in Nottingham. His best effort came in Cincinnati where he qualified, upset Tomic and Berdych, and again stretched Djokovic to three sets before bowing out in the semifinals.

Unfortunately, he didn’t follow that up. Dolgopolov lost in the first round of the six tournaments he played after that, the last coming on an injury retirement in the first round of Basel with a right elbow injury.

He’ll look to get off to a better start in 2016.

 

Mark Philippoussis (AUS), 39

Philippoussis was the Bernard Tomic of his era – undeniably talented, under the overly watchful eye of his father, and seemingly seduced by the fast cars and beautiful women that the tennis success at a young age brought.

PhilipoussisHe was (and is) tall, dark and handsome, tall and charismatic. But in addition to the off-field distractions, he had knees that just weren’t built for the long haul. At this point, there probably isn’t even any cartilage in there. He’s also had plenty of off-field issues including major financial troubles, and high-profile relationships (Delta Goodrem) that imploded.  And he’s driven some pretty nice cars.

Philippoussis did win 11 titles in his career, and he got to No. 8 in singles (he also was a top-20 doubles player). The first came in 1996; the last came in 2006. In between, and after he missed a lot of time. Notably in 2007, he missed most of the year after lateral meniscus surgery to his right knee, an injury suffered just before the Australian Open that year. Long before that, in 1999, he had surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee after winning the first set and retiring to Pete Sampras in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

He had surgery to repair torn ligaments in that knee in 2001, and that basically cost him another two years. But he came back in 2003, reaching the Wimbledon final as an unseeded player before losing to Federer, and reaching the top 10. He reached the 1998 US Open final as well.

Relocated to the US, Philippoussis starred in a reality show in 2007 called “The Age of Love” – basically this contrived setup where he had to choose between comely lovelies in his age bracket and more “seasoned” women of a certain age as he tried to find love. It was pretty vomit-inducing. No word on how long his choice, 25-year-old Amanda Salinas, lasted.

Philipoussis has made noises about comebacks through the last decade, but his body couldn’t cooperate. He was’t the fastest guy as it was; the damaged knees over the years just exacerbated that.  He has played some seniors events, and last year played in the IPTL.

He also has become a father.

 

Marc Rosset (SUI), 45

Rosset reached the top 10 in 1995, on Sept. 11.

Rosset-SwissDavisCupHe won 15 singles and eight doubles titles in his career; he reached No. 8 in doubles despite a sub-.500 career record of 142-144.

He was the surprise singles gold medalist at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. At the time, at 6-foot-7, he was the tallest guy on the ATP Tour along with Alexander Popp of Germany, a standard that has since been topped by a number of players – notably John Isner, Kevin Anderson and Ivo Karlovic.

His fitness trainer, Pierre Paganini, has gone on to work with notable players of this era, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.

Rosset played Davis Cup for his country for 13 years, posting a 24-13 record in singles and 13-8 in doubles. He led the team to its 1992 finals appearance, a dry spell that was ended by Federer and Wawrinka grabbing the Cup in 2014.

At the end of his career a decade ago, he was the Davis Cup captain for three years. But he was shown the door in 2005 by an “internal team decision”, which usually means somebody didn’t like him. There were complaints that he had missed some practices before a tie that year, and that his poor relationship with some of the suits affected the team.

What casual fans might remember about him was the day the fates were kind to him. After an early exit from the US Open in 1998, Rosset had planned to take Swiss Air Flight 111 back home, before deciding the previous night to cancel his reservation. That plane crashed.

 

María Sánchez Lorenzo (ESP), 38

Feli-Sanchez LorenzoFeli-Sanchez Lorenzo2Sanchez Lorenzo was an attractive Spaniard who came along after the Martinez and Sanchez Vicario era, with a fair bit of hype because of her looks, and potential. She was two-handed on both sides, like her idol Monica Seles.

She did fairly well, getting to No. 33 back in 2004. But the early promise never quite panned out at the top level. Her best result at a major was reaching the fourth round of the 1999 Australian Open. Her coach was Alejo Mancisidor, who of late was the longtime coach of countrywoman Garbiñe Muguruza.

Sanchez Lorenzo, like many Spaniards of the era, played very little junior tennis; she was out in the trenches from the age of 16 working her way up the levels.

Notably, she dated fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez – a younger man – for many years in the early 00s; they were even engaged.

 

Edberg Espinoza (VEN), 26

We’ve never heard of this fellow, but obviously the first name is not a coincidence. Espinoza is a lefty, from Venezuela, and a baseliner, so it didn’t go much further than the name.

He gave up his dream in 2010, but he still plays at the NAIA college level, having transferred from Lindsay Wilson College to Dalton State (Georgia) where, after sitting out a required 16 weeks, he’ll play in 2016.

The roster of Lindsey Wilson, a private college in Kentucky, this year is one of those American college tennis things that always sticks out: all six players are from outside the U.S. (in this case, all Spanish-speaking).

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