Tennis Birthdays – Sept. 30, 2015

Martina and Milagros: both the same day, vastly different careers.

Martina Hingis (SUI), 35

At 35 (less than a year older than Serena Williams), Hingis is already on her third tennis career. hingis-Pennetta2The first needs no elaboration.

In an era when players are coming into their own in their later 20s, what this young teenager did, without the boom-boom power of the Williams sisters, was rare and likely won’t be seen again.

The early start meant an early exit. But she wasn’t done.

To return to the game after a hiatus and get to the top-10 again is something that was done by others – Belgians, notably – but the lack of technical progression in her game, notably on serve, sort of stalled things.

Done again, but clearly a bit at sea in terms of what to do with her life, married and divorced, Hingis is back doing the thing she did perhaps better than Hingis-Pennetta_newanything else: playing doubles, after a stint in the coaching ranks.

It says a whole lot about where women’s doubles at the pro level is at these days that Hingis can come back and win a tournament like Miami with her former pupil Sabine Lisicki, who has tennis skills she doesn’t often show on the singles court but still is pretty terrible at doubles.

A year ago, she reached the US Open final with Flavia Pennetta. But with Pennetta still focused on singles, Hingis wanted and needed someone who would put in the work on the practice court. She found Sania Mirza and in their very first event a year ago at Indian Wells, you could usually find them out there twice a day. They were trying to gel FAST. They won Indian Wells. And then they won Miami.

It didn’t take long for the majors to come: the pair won Wimbledon and the US Open this year. Hingis also won the Australian, Wimbledon and US Open mixed titles with Leander Paes. Five majors in a year. Pretty good haul for an old lady.

The “Swiss Miss” turned pro 20 years ago, which is a mind-blower. She plays against players who weren’t even born when she did that.

She has 43 singles titles on her resumé and 47 doubles titles (seven of them this year) so there’s a good chance, if she keeps it up, that she’ll surpass those singles trophies.

She first reached No. 1 in doubles back in 1998; it’s not crazy to think it might happen again. She’s at No. 1, with her partner at No. 1.

Meanwhile, here are pics from Hingis’s 20 majors.

Milagros Sequera (VEN), 35

MILAGROS SEQUERA, LOUISE VIENS, MARIA SHARAPOVA Born on the same day on the other side of the world, of similar height and build, Sequera did not have a Hingis-ike career. But she had a solid one.

The Venezuelan MILAGROS SEQUERAhas a few Canadian connections. She was the one on the other side of the court when Aleksandra Wozniak reached her first WTA final in Fes, Morocco in 2007. Sequera came out the winner – the first woman from Venezuela to win a WTA Tour title.

It was her first and only title, to go along with three doubles titles and another 28 combined in singles and doubles on the ITF circuit.

And she had the best and worst moment of her career in Canada – in Quebec City, when she reached the final of the Bell Challenge in 2003.

Playing a very young Maria Sharapova (ranked No. 32), Sequera didn’t have much of a shot after defeating Marion Bartoli and Mary Pierce (and Canadian Maureen Drake and former Victoria Azarenka agent Meilen Tu) to get there.

Down 2-6, 0-1, Sequera twisted her ankle. It ended up being broken; she was carted off the court in tears, in a wheelchair.

It was a terrible moment, but she was so sweet and adorable about it, with the two little buns on her head, the crowd just loved her.

Sequera reached No. 48 in singles and No. 29 in doubles. After calling it a day around this time in 2008, she married former doubles specialist Stephen Huss, an Aussie, and lives in the San Diego area.

Kristina Barrois (GER), 34

Still an unusual sight on the WTA Tour with her one-handed backhand, Barrois got a late start in professional tennis. You look at Hingis (above) turning pro at 14; Barrois was 24. Kristina-Barrois_new

 

Barrois wrapped up her career almost exactly a year ago at the WTA Tour event in Luxembourg. She lost in the qualifying of the singles but – if only actual life worked out this way more often – she and Timea Bacsinszky won the doubles title.

It was the first, last and only WTA Tour-level title of her career. What a way to bow out.

Barrois and Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland got to the third round of doubles at Wimbledon last year; they were the team on the other side of the net when Serena Williams had her infamous “woozy” incident, winning by retirement after leading 3-0.

She has 31 titles in singles and doubles on the ITF circuit.

Jovana Jaksic (SRB), 22

Jovana-Laksic_new

Jaksic is a squeaker on the court, which is annoying. But she’s lively and full of of personality off the court, one of the legions of talented players waiting for a breakthrough at the top of the game. She’s done just about all she can do at the ITF level, having won 14 titles at that level before the age of 21.

She’s currently ranked No. 235 on the WTA Tour, way down from No. 120, which is where she was a year ago.

The next step hasn’t quite happened. Jaksic got her feet wet last year at the top level of competition. Her best ranking was No. 102 in May, 2014. It seemed her “Welcome!” moment would be the Monterrey event,  just before Indian Wells last year, when she reached the final and got to hang with countrywoman Ana Ivanovic.

The selfies during those few days were legion. It’s hard to imagine too many top players who would embrace the notion of a much-younger countrywoman as a friendly opportunity, not a threat, the way Ivanovic did – which is full credit to her.

Not just before …

jaksic1

But after, too.

And ongoing …

jaksic3

Ana1

Ana, the mother hen and mentor. Do you LOVE it?

It hasn’t really helped, though. We’re still waiting for Jaksic.

Shares 0