Tennis Birthdays – Oct. 27, 2015

An accomplished Canadian player celebrates.

Jill Hetherington (CAN), 51

An underrated player in her day, Hetherington went the college route at the University of Florida and set out on tour, eventually forging a credible singles career but making her big mark in doubles.

(TennisExpress)

(TennisExpress)

Hetherington hit No. 64 in singles in 1988 (with one career title) very early on, but she got to No. 6 in doubles about a year later, and won 13 WTA Tour doubles events – many of them with American Patty Fendick and more with another American, Kathy Rinaldi.

She got to two Australian Open semis in doubles, and made the final in 1989. She also reached the US Open final in 1988, but never was able to take that final step to Slamdom.

The Canadian didn’t play much at the Grand Slam level as a junior; just two majors on her resumé – the 1981 US Open and the 1982 French Open. She defeated countrywoman Carling Bassett-Seguso in the first round of that US Open juniors event (it was only a 32 draw back then).

She hit her stride in college, though – named all-American all four years she was there. And took that experience out on Tour.

Hetherington and South African John-Laffnie de Jager reached the 1995 French Open mixed final, losing to Mark Woodforde and Larissa Neiland. She also competed in three Olympics.

(NCAA)

(NCAA)

Open Court was on site e to see the penultimate match of Hetherington’s career on Tour, a first-round doubles match at the US Open in 1997 with Rinaldi. They faced these two cocky newcomers – a couple of sisters named Venus and Serena Williams. It’s like it was yesterday.

It was the first year of Arthur Ashe Stadium, and it had been raining most of the day. So a lot of matches were cancelled or moved around. At the end of the afternoon, the match was moved into nearly-empty Ashe. It was Serena’s first ever match at a Slam; she was still just 15; they had gotten the wild card basically on the strength of the older Venus’s – she’d just turned 17 – rise in the rankings.

Serena had played just a few pro matches – a first-round qualies loss at the Quebec City event to Anne Miller in 1995, at age 14, then a few qualifying singles matches at some American events and a few doubles matches with her sister – when the pair got to Flushing Meadow.

It was a train wreck of a thing – Serena’s strategy in this match was basically to aim every ball at the heads of her much-older opponents. It didn’t work; they just ducked and let the balls go out; multiple sportsmanship award-winning Hetherington just rose above the whole thing and didn’t try to respond in kind. So Serena tried to hit it even harder – and that didn’t work either. It was pretty hilarious; Hetherington and Rinaldi won, 6-4, 7-5; they lost 6-3 in the third set to the powerhouse team of Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs in the second round.

Hetherington-MylesThere’s more to that story, but it’s Hetherington’s day 🙂

Back in those days, your Open Court servant was mistaken for Hetherington all the time, which did come in handy sometimes during Rogers Cup week in Montreal – especially at the downtown legal beverage establishments. (We don’t see it, but it happened too often to be just accidental).

These days; Hetherington is Jill Hultquist, and for years was the head coach of the University of Washington women’s tennis team. That’s Washington state in the American Northwest. She started off an an assistant coach to her friend and former doubles partner Patty Fendick, then got the big job when Fendick left for another job in Texas. The two were roomies at Bollettieri’s back when they were teenagers, and won a lot of doubles titles together.

She resigned last year, and was replaced by another Canadian, Kitchener, Ont’s Robin Anderson, 32, who starred for four years at the University of Alabama and played a bit as a pro while she was a volunteer assistant with the Georgia Tech program. She’s the former Robin Stephenson.

Hultquist is married with two kids, now 13 and 11. We saw her occasionally, especially at Wimbledon, doing some recruiting among the junior ranks – and sometimes cheering on former partner Rinaldi in the legends’ event.

(Many thanks to BJ Kwan for the updates)

 

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