Tennis Birthdays – Sept. 28, 2015

We’ll have a special Open Court salute to one special birthday lady later. But here are the rest of today’s celebrants.

Marin Cilic (CRO), 27

Cilic’s life changed completely just over a year ago, when he shocked the world and won the US Open.

A great moment for him, and fully deserved. It was also a full-circle from 12 months before that, when he was sitting out a suspension for violation of the anti-doping code, quite a contentious one in that his original suspension was much longer, and it was shortened to four months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

That it appeared to be no more than blithe neglect, sending his mother out to buy a supplement for him in a country whose language she didn’t understand, doesn’t change the fact that he was in violation and that players are responsible for everything they put into their bodies. Hopefully it served as a cautionary tale for his tennis-playing brethren to be a lot more vigilant.

But in the end, it was a blessing in disguise. Rarely during their careers are players able to take such an extended break when they’re healthy. And a break like that is needed to re-tool parts of a game; if you’re trying to do it and still trying to win tournaments at the same time, it just doesn’t work.

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So Cilic re-assessed, re-tooled and got compatriot Goran Ivanisevic on board full-time after years of treading water with Bob Brett (who had coached Ivanisevic and Boris Becker once upon a time).

The year since has featured a lot of ups and downs. Last October, he reached a career-best No. 8. At the moment, he’s No. 14.

His season didn’t even start until Indian Wells because of a shoulder issue. He lost in the first round there and didn’t play Miami. He got to the quarters at Wimbledon, losing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets, to Tomic in Montreal and to Gasquet in Cincinnati. His title defence went surprisingly well given there wasn’t much hope created during the leadup; it featured five-set wins over Mikhail Kukushkin and (in the quarters) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

But Cilic did a number on his ankle. Hobbled, he won just three games against against Djokovic in the semi-finals. He’s in Shenzen this week in his first tournament sincethen.

 

Paula Ormaechea (ARG), 23

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Female players to come out of Argentina in recent years have been fairly rare of late, so there were plenty of hopes played on Ormaechea when she began breaking through, especially when she reached her career high of No. 59 in October, 2013.

 

She was ranked No. 113 a year ago; on this birthday, she’s dropped down even further, standing at No. 262. Except for the Aussie hard-court summer swing, and a tune-up in Monterrey and the Indian Wells qualifying (she lost in the first round to Michelle Larcher de Brito), she has played exclusively on red clay and Har-Tru this season.

It doesn’t seem to be helping much, though she did win a $25,000 in Padova, Italy on clay during the second week of the French Open.

Ormaechea represented Argentina in Fed Cup at 17 against Canada at Uniprix Stadium back in 2010, losing both her matches (to Aleksandra Wozniak and Valérie Tétreault).

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She came up through the ranks with fairly loopy strokes, which work reasonably well on clay but are tougher to implement on the faster hard courts, at the pace with which the players are hitting these days.

She had a good, not incredible junior career, spending most of it on the clay courts in South America and actually doing better in doubles than singles. She and Canuck Gabriela Dabrowski combined to take the title in Repentigny in 2009 at the big warmup event for the junior U.S. Open, defeating a young Genie Bouchard and American partner Grace Min in the semifinals.

Cagla Buyukakcay (TUR), 26

One of the rare players out of Turkey, Buyukakcay came close to breaking into the top 100 last February (at No. 108), but is currently back down at No. 166. She’s ranked slightly higher in doubles (No. 137), and spends most of her time just below the top level.

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The most dramatic match we’ve seen from her was a second-round win in the French Open qualifying in 2014 over Italian veteran Alberta Brianti. The score was 6-3 5-7 10-8 – and Buyukakcay had UMPTEEN opportunities to serve out that third set after breaking Brianti. And she couldn’t do it. We’re talking four or five times she would break, and then get broken right back.

It was the craziest match we saw the entire tournament. There was girl drama in spades. After all that, she lost in the final round to Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, who was playing on a leg and a half.

Mats Merkel (GER), 31

MatsMerkelMerkel didn’t have much of a pro career; he played some Challengers and Futures in 2005-06, but he never had a singles ranking, and was No. 1453 in doubles.

He’s well-known around the circuit, though, working as a coach with the adidas high-performance program alongside people like Darren Cahill. He has travelled with the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. A splendid fellow with a tremendously positive attitude.

Here’s some information on him; he’s been with adidas since 2007. Not sure what will happen to him as adidas is reportedly dismantling its high-performance program at the end of the year. But he’s built up so much good will no doubt he’ll land on his feet.

Anne White (USA), 54

AnneWhiteThe American had a good career. But she’s most remembered for her immortal wardrobe malfunction – at least by the standards of the stodgy All-England Club. Let’s call it a spandex onesie – but hey, at least it was White (pardon the pun).

Honestly, it’s so modest. You’d think they’d have had more of an issue with the most definitely non-regulation bandanna, which is not white by any stretch of the imagination.

White got to the top 20 in both singles and doubles in the late 1980s, and won one singles and three doubles titles on the WTA Tour.

 

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