Tennis Birthdays – Oct. 31, 2015

Two retireds, including a newlywed québécoise.

Stéphanie Dubois (CAN), 29

OliverSheathIn the grand scheme of things, the Québécoise probably got as much out of her career as she could – getting into the top 100 early in 2012. She ended up with 10 singles and eight doubles titles on the ITF circuit.

Dubois was feisty in the sense that competed hard. She didn’t have the big weapons, other than terrific wheels, that would bring her into the top 50, although she never gave up trying.

You never got the sense that she loved the life, more that she’d rather be home in comfortable surroundings, living her life. But that’s the profession she chose; as her career went along, she appeared to get more and more comfortable with it.

In the end, some persistent back woes, and her desire to eventually have her own family, combined to made the decision to stop at what was probably the right time.

When you’re competing at the level she was, ranking-wise, without a lot of financial support and without the wherewithal to have a coach around all the time and keep improving, the writing can appear on the wall.

Dubois married Oliver Sheath – a Brit, a splendid fellow – in July in the Laurentians.

Martin Verkerk (NED), 37

Verkerk was a tall Dutchman (redundant, we know), a little slow, a little stiff, but still a very good player.

But he was an unlikely candidate to be a French Open finalist. His career singles record on the ATP Tour is 59-70.

Yet that’s exactly what he did in 2003, with an ATP Tour ranking of No. 46. It was legit, too.

Verkerk-RG

VERKERK CORIATroubled by a shoulder for a big chunk of the 2004 season, Verkerk had surgery in later that year to repair a torn labrum. His career trajectory after that is one of those cautionary tales, a case study that tells you why so many players (Maria Sharapova and Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak) were so keen to exhaust other possibilities before going under the knife for a shoulder injury.

It took a year a half before Verkerk got back on Tour. He played one match, retired after the second set, and missed another six months, played one match, and missed another five months. In there somewhere was a second shoulder surgery.

Verkerk returned on a protected ranking at the ATP level, and lost 12 straight first-round matches.

Five more long months later, and he came back to give it one last shot. By this time, his protected ranking gone, he was down to the lowly Futures level. And his second event, as it happened, was a tournament at Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium in March, 2008. And Open Court was there.

Here’s the story we wrote about him for the Montreal Gazette when he reached the final.

Admittedly, we were playing more attention to Verkerk, because of his resumé, than the two 17-year-old kids he beat along the way. Nobody was giving these kids all that much thought at the time; they weren’t even ripping up the juniors.

Check this out:

Futures-Montreal

The fellow he beat, Mergea, has turned out to have a pretty good career as a doubles guy, after a great junior career. But back then he was just slogging around the Futures circuit.

It was a pretty insane match; Verkerk saved three match points. Mergea, Verkerk2much smaller, was hitting the Dutchman off the court, but Verkerk’s 31 aces helped him.

Verkerk looked like the kind of guy who would be pretty high on himself. But he turned out to be a pretty pleasant fellow, truly happy to win the tournament and just wanting to make sure he crossed every “i” and dotted all “t”s before calling it a career.

The next week at a similar event in Sherbrooke, Que., he lost in the second round to No. 924-ranked Rylan Rizza.  He regrouped once he got on clay, winning a Challenger and making another semi, and winning another Futures event.

He played his last match that September and officially retired in December 2008.

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