Tennis Birthdays – Oct. 13, 2015

One of the WTA’s 2014 Rising Stars™ celebrates.

Shelby Rogers (USA), 23

The quiet Southerner with the angelic face has come along slowly but surely until about a year ago, when she reached a career high of No. 70.

As often happens, it’s hard to tell why she started doing well. Rogers hits the ball well, she competes pretty well, but there are players outside the top 100 who can do all of the things she does. Sometimes, it just comes down to adding some maturity and confidence, and taking advantage of your opportunities.

Rogers' knee was wrapped to the gills at Wimbledon this year.

Rogers’ knee was wrapped to the gills at Wimbledon this year.

The American showed all of that during a big occasion last summer, when she stared down shaky local heroine Genie Bouchard on her home court, before a stadium full of Genie Bouchard fans, in Montreal at the Rogers Cup. She came away with the win. And she was so cute about it that people couldn’t even be mad at her.

After Wimbledon, back on clay, she went all the way to the final at Bad Gastein (losing to Andrea Petkovic) beating Suarez Navarro, Giorgi and Errani in straight sets along the way. She also got to the semis in Quebec City, where she lost to Venus Williams.

One thing Rogers did do is get into MUCH better shape. She was a lot pudgier as a teen (no, I won’t post a pic), and she clearly has put a lot of work into getting fitter. And it has paid off in a big way.

This year has been more of a struggle. Through Miami, she played seven WTA Tour events and lost in the first round each time. A ranking that was No. 72 at the start of the season only dropped about a dozen spots, but that’s not good for the confidence. After a couple of good results, she dropped eight of her next nine events in the first round – including a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Andrea Petkovic. By then, it was clear that a knee issue was seriously hampering her – the big tell was the state of the protection on the knee.

It was so bad, and so quick, that Petkovic stayed on the court and hit with her coach for 45 minutes after that victory.

The Bad Gastein result dropped off, and Rogers was out of the top 150. She returned and got from the qualifying to the third round at the US Open, making the most of a friendly draw. She also reached the final of a $50,000 tournament in Las Vegas. But it’s a long road back; she’s currently ranked No. 148.

Rogers has fans. She won one of the two “rest of the world” spots awarded by Internet fan vote for last year’s “Rising Stars” component at the WTA Tour finals, beating out more accomplished players like her own countrywoman, Madison Keys.

 

Ann Wunderlich (USA), 45

Bassett-Seguso with Mary Pierce and Ann Grossman (Wunderlich) at a Bollettieri reunion in Nov. 2008 (Nick Bollettieri)

Bassett-Seguso with Mary Pierce and Ann Grossman (Wunderlich) at a Bollettieri reunion in Nov. 2008 (Nick Bollettieri)

Known as Ann Grossman when she played (she married former Olympic swimmer Eric Wunderlich and they have two of the blondest little boys you’ll ever see, Fletch and Ty), Wunderlich got to No. 29 in singles and No. 31 in doubles back in 1993.

Ann Wunderlich

Wunderlich’s tennis story is a happy one.

She played five more years after that before ending it at the U.S. Open in 1998.

She was a Bollettieri Academy camper; the pic at right is from a reunion a few years ago with fellow campers Carling Bassett and Mary Pierce.

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she lives there again. Living the American dream. And she still looks great.

 

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