October 22, 2021

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Retirement is never forever – Sarasota Open edition

Looking through tournament draws will sometime reveal hidden gems – players you hadn’t thought of in a million years who suddenly re-appear.

In the doubles main draw at the $100,000 Sarasota Open, going on this week in Florida, are a couple of blasts from the past we never thought we’d see again.

Teamed up for the doubles were Julian Alonso of Spain, and Hugo Armando of the U.S.

Alonso with Hingis, back in the "black-widow" era.
Alonso with Hingis, back in the “black-widow” era.

A little background:

Alonso, who is now 36 years old, is a Spaniard whose official residence is Monte Carlo.

He reached as high as No. 30 singles … all the way back in 1998. And he has two ATP Tour titles on his resumé. He got to No. 53 in doubles, also with two career titles.

But Alonso hasn’t played a professional match since March, 2008, after teaming up with Gerard Granollers (younger brother of the more celebrated Marcel) in a series of Futures events in Spain over about a one-year span.

Alonso was one of those guys who sort of went straight onto the circuit. He only played two ITF junior events: the Orange Bowl in 1994 (went through the qualies and got to the QFs, where he lost to Nicolas Lapentti) and 1995 (lost in the quarters to Tommy Haas, beating Sébastien Grosjean in the round of 16).

Armando's ATP mugshot features outstanding hat-tan.
Armando’s ATP mugshot features outstanding hat-tan.

And – this is really obscure stuff you really have to have been plugged in long before the days of Twitter to recall – he is one of the “victims” of the old Martina Hingis black widow curse.

Alonso, a handsome fellow, is a former paramour of Hingis, from back in the days when every guy she dated seem to see his career fall off the edge of a cliff in rather short order for one reason or another.

Armando, who turns 36 next month, is an American living in nearby Bradenton who reached No. 100 in the ATP Tour rankings in 2001. He got to No. 85 in doubles with a title in Delray Beach in 2007 with fellow Bradenton resident Xavier Malisse.

He was more of a journeyman, playing singles pretty much to the end of 2008, at the Challenger level.

That year, he played quite a bit of doubles with Canadian Jesse Levine; we remember the two together at Wimbledon.

Both are registered as “inactive” on the ATP Tour site.

Armando and one of his academy pupils (from the academy's Facebook page)
Julian Alonso and one of his academy pupils (from the academy’s Facebook page)

How did they get in? They seem to have stepped in as last-minute alternates; the original spot in the doubles draw had Ruben Bemelmans and Michael Russell in it. Maybe no one else signed up – or if they did, they were long gone.

Alonso and Armando lost 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday to two rather respectable doubles players, American James Cerretani and Andreas Siljestrom of Sweden, in Sarasota. Pretty good effort for a couple of retired guys.

What are they doing now? Armando is the general manager and head pro at a club in Bradenton near the Bollettieri Academy, where he and his father, Hugo Sr., who coached him when he was on Tour, ran a junior academy.

As for Alonso, the last we heard (his “retirement” came early, in 2001 although obviously he wasn’t quite done) he had studied sports management and was had an academy in Spain, in his hometown. However, he seems to have relocated to Florida, also right nearby the Bollettieri behemoth.