Tennis Birthdays – Oct. 19, 2015

An Aussie who’s coming into his own in his late 20s celebrates.

Samuel Groth (AUS), 28

The Aussie’s season ended a bit prematurely because of a nerve issue in his foot that required surgery (likely similar to what Milos Raonic went through). But it’s been a good season.

The hulking Groth used to be best known as the guy with the Mohawk who was married to Jarmila Gajdosova and infamously came on court for a “coaching consult” with her in Brisbane in 2011. They split up shortly afterwards.

But now, he’s a player, adding to his record-breaking serve by shoring up all parts of his game. He’s currently at No. 54 in the ATP Tour rankings, one off his best reached earlier this year.

Sam Groth _new

His match to begin the season in Brisbane against fellow rocket server Milos Raonic shaped up to be a match between serving droids. Instead, it was a highly-entertaining, all-court affair that the Canadian won in a third-set tiebreak.

A lot of quick points, yes, but a lot of jaw-dropping stuff.

His win over countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Oz Open was also a fun one. Groth didn’t do that well at a lot of the bigger events but there were good results, including a quarter-final effort in D.C. just before the Rogers Cup. He lost to Kei Nishikori there, but not before he defeated Bellucci, Troicki and Feliciano Lopez, in that order.

But it was in Davis Cup that he made his mark. In a country that has Lleyton Hewitt as well as the younger Kokkinakis, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, he carved his place this season. Groth and Hewitt gave it a major go in the first round this year in doubles before losing in five sets. In the quarter-finals against Kazakhstan, down 0-2 after the first day, Groth and Hewitt won the doubles, then Groth subbed in for No. 1 Kyrgios and won a key four-setter against Mikhail Kukushkin to set the table for Hewitt’s deciding win over Nedovyesov.

In the semis against Great Britain, Groth and Hewitt gave it another inspired go, finally losing in five sets to the inspired brother team of Jamie and Andy Murray. He showed something to a whole lot of people; certainly he was never known as a great doubles player despite his big serve-and-volley game. But he can play.

Groth and coach_new

He’s also one of the few players out there whose coach, Ben Mathias, can double as a bodyguard AND a decoy lookalike, for escaping those pesky paparazzi.

Hicham Arazi (MAR), 42

AraziArazi and countryman Younes El Aynaoui were exceptions back in their time, coming out of a country that hadn’t produced a lot of tennis players.

They were as opposite as you could be; Aynaoui was a rangy righty; Arazi a small but talented shotmaking lefthander who reached a career high of No. 22 back in 2001 and won one ATP Tour title (at home in Casablanca in 1997).

In Davis Cup, Arazi played in 19 ties from 1993 to 2004. His last match was a loss to David Nalbandian of Argentina in the first round of the World Group in 2004.

Arazi was basically done by April of 2005, after losing in the first round of six of seven tournaments. But he continued to play occasionally into the latter stages of 2007, mostly at home in Morocco (his official residence, naturally, was Monte Carlo).

Arazi is currently the tournament director of the ATP 250 event in Marrakech, Morocco in April.

Shi-Ting Wang (TPE), 42

(ITF)

(ITF)

Wang’s career ended early, in 2000, but that’s probably not a surprise since it began so early as well. A contemporary of hers, Maureen Drake, is in the final round of qualifying in the Saguenay $50K in Jonquière Monday, as Wang celebrated.

Her career-high singles ranking was No. 26 in 1993; she reached No. 38 in doubles five years later.

The WTA don’t seem to remember her too fondly; no photo, and no other information other than her birthday. Not even a country of origin. They’ve got her with six titles, but according to the ITF website some of them appear to be $50,000 events so it’s hard to determine the exact number.

She’s from Taipei, which has produced a few players lately (notably Su-Wei Hsieh and the Chan sisters, Yung-Jan and Hao-Ching). But back in those days, they were a lot rarer.

Wang got to the junior girls’ doubles final in her first US Open appearance in 1987 (she wasn’t yet 14). She won the French Open junior doubles with Aussie Nicole Pratt in 1989 (losing to Jennifer Capriati in the first round of the singles). She got to the junior doubles semis at Wimbledon in 1989 and 1990 and at the 1990 US Open, reached the semis in both singles and doubles. In 1991 at the French Open – her final junior tournament – she also reached the doubles semis. That’s five years at the junior Slam level, which not many of the girls can do, because you have to be so good, so young.

Wang’s best Slam effort as a grownup was the third round of the 1997 Australian Open.

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