Tennis (Life) Birthdays – April 12, 2019

Jelena Dokic (AUS-CRO-SRB-AUS), 36

Her brilliant but troubled tennis career behind her, Jelena Dokic can now focus on living the rest of her life.

The release of her brutally open memoir, Unbreakable, a little more than a year ago pretty much tore the lid off everything most had suspected about her cruel tennis father, Damir.

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And more.

Sadly, it’s not even that unusual a story, especially in women’s tennis. We hear only the more prominent stories. The players who can’t survive it, don’t make it, largely remain in the shadows.

One of the biggest takeaways we got out of that book was noting who tried to help, who should have known but didn’t want to know, and who didn’t lift a finger. Dokic may not have judged them, or be holding grudges. But we know who they are.

That she somehow took all that, and managed to get to the Wimbledon semifinals and No. 4 in the world at a very young age, is just more evidence that champions somehow find a way. And that they’re not wired like the rest of us.

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Dokic did a fair amount of promotion after the release of her memoir in 2018. You hope it was therapeutic, on some level. And you hope she made enough money from it to start her life properly again, after what she wrote about father Damir and his control of her earnings.

But it’s a childhood and adolescence that leaves so many traces, the scars will always remain.

Still, Dokic seems to be – at least from a distance – moving on nicely.

She took Tennis Australia’s Junior Development Coaching course last summer. And she was regularly seen on television during this year’s Australian Open.  

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The great Martina Navratilova worked with the Australian women on court at the French Open in 2011, including Dokic.

A decade ago, still only 25, she made a near-miracle resurgence at the Australian Open.

Dokic reached the quarter-finals in dramatic fashion, with three-setter after three-setter in the heat. Ultimately, she went down in three sets to eventual finalist (and future No. 1) Dinara Safina.

She followed it up with a successful Fed Cup. But that effort took a toll. After taking a couple of wild cards, she struggled.

DokicDokic pulled out of Charleston a few months later with what she called “sports fatigue syndrome.” 

It ended up being mononucleosis, and she had to retire with a back injury while beating Elena Dementieva at Wimbledon in 2009

She was disconsolate. It – barring some sort of miracle – was her final shining moment.

Her father then ended up in a Serbian jail for making death threats.

Dokic lost in the first round in Australia in 2010, and professed she was “too tired” for Fed Cup a couple of weeks later.

Five years ago, there was talk of a comeback.  But it didn’t really happen.

Dokic showed up briefly in December 2013, when she played in the Australian Open wild-card playoff tournament at Melbourne Park.

We watched that; frankly, she barely gave it a cursory effort.

Dokic last played doubles at the Australian Open in 2014, losing in the first round.

But her last singles match came seven years ago in Charleston, where she retired in the first round of her match against Galina Voskoboeva.

She’s only 36. But her No. 4 ranking in singles (she also hit No. 10 in doubles) came … 17 years ago already. 

Dokic actually appeared on the Today show in Australia yesterday.

Marcel Granollers (ESP), 33

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As he turns 33, the veteran Spaniard is mounting one (last?) singles charge.

A former top-20 singles player and No. 4 doubles player (with 16 career titles) had fallen down the ranks significantly.

He was outside the top 150 at the end of 2017. But he hasn’t given up. And he’s playing a whole lot of tennis at the lower levels.

He has maintained his doubles ranking in the 20s, though.

Granollers went from Davis Cup to a pair of Challengers in California last fall. And then he returned to Europe for Basel, Antwerp and the Paris Masters (where he won the doubles), before coming back and playing two more U.S. Challengers after that.

4274.granollers 2 Tennis birthdays April 12, 2011In 2019, he has gone from Pune, India to Vietnam. And then from Melbourne to France, Delray Beach, Acapulco, Miami and Monterrey. 

This week he’s at the clay-court ATP event in Houston. And to celebrate his birthday, he’ll play Casper Ruud in the singles quarterfinals.

He already looks like a safe bet to make the main draw in Paris. If he beats Ruud, he’ll be back in the top 100. Granollers had to play the qualifying at all three majors he entered in 2018.

The Spaniard didn’t take a traditional path. He basically eschewed the junior circuit. The only junior Slam he played was the 2004 French Open, where he won the doubles with Pablo Andujar.

But despite that, he really wasn’t much known for his doubles prowess on Tour until 2012. That year, he teamed up with Marc Lopez and made seven tournament finals, winning three. That included a win at the World Tour Finals in their debut. And this was at the height of his singles success.

Nicolas Monroe, (USA), 37

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A ridiculously-fit 37-year-old, the American doubles specialist reached his career high of No. 30 in Oct. 2017.

He reached No. 253 in singles back in 2011, and still occasionally plays in the qualifying if there are alternate spots available. But he makes his living in doubles.

Monroe has four career titles, the most recent in Atlanta with John-Patrick Smith of Australia. He also won Stockholm in 2015 with countryman Jack Sock.

This year isn’t going gangbusters. After 10 tournaments, he’s 1-7 at the ATP Tour level, 2-3 at the Challenger level.

He’s also played with five different partners in 2019.

Monroe came to the Tour from the college circuit. He starred at the University of North Carolina from 2000-2004. And he was All-American his final season, when he also was the university’s “Senior Male Student-Athlete of the Year” and received the Arthur Ashe Regional Sportsmanship award.

He also is second all-time in singles wins for the school.

Matteo Berrettini (ITA), 23

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There are few Italian players who have broken through in recent years.

Notably, we’re thinking of 2018 French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato. The 26-year-old not only has backed up his semifinal effort at Roland Garros last year (at No. 72, he was the lowest-ranked player in the final four in years, and defeated Novak Djokovic along the way), he has improved on it. Cecchinato currently stands at a career high No. 16 in the rankings.

But Berrettini – all 6-foot-5 of him – could be a good one, too.

The Rome native hit his career high of No. 46 back in February, and currently stands at No. 54.

He reached his first ATP Tour final, and won his first title, on clay in Gstaad last summer.

Berrettinin was a semifinalist indoors in Sofia, Bulgaria in February, beating Karen Khachanov and Fernando Verdasco before losing a tight one to Marton Fucsovics of Hungary.

He also beat Jérémy Chardy in Marseilles, and won the big Challenger in Phoenix, Arizona held the second week of Indian Wells.

Jennifer Brady (USA), 24

 

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The former UCLA player will made her Fed Cup debut for the USA, next weekend in San Antonio, Texas against Switzerland.

At No. 78 in singles and No. 49 in doubles, Brady is a versatile athlete who may well become an even better tennis player as she gets older and with more experience.

She had never even played the main draw of a Grand Slam event until the 2017 Australian Open. And she got to the fourth round there.

Her career high in singles was No. 60 in Oct. 2017.

Over the winter, Brady got to the third round in Dubai, the final of the Indian Wells Challenger before the main event, and the third round of Indian Wells proper. She lost to Ashleigh Barty there.

In her freshman year at UCLA in 2014, she helped the squad win the Division I women’s national championship in Athens, Georgia.

No Serena, but strong US squad for Fed Cup

 

Fernando Meligeni (BRA), 48

Meligeni was top-25 back in 1999 and won three titles, all on clay.

3414.meligeni Tennis birthdays April 12, 2011He also, years ago, was in some rather elite company.

According to the ATP Tour website, the lefthander was one of only five active players at the time to have finished in the top 100 for the previous 10 straight years.

Sampras let the pack with 15; the others were Wayne Ferreira (12), Todd Martin (11) and Jonas Bjorkman (10).

Juan Pablo Brzezicki (ARG), 37

Brzezicki broke into the top 100 in both singles in doubles.

But the Argentine wrapped things up in early 2012 on the clay-court circuit in South America, before his 30th birthday.

We’ll always remember him for one moment – when he and equally average-sized Argentine Agustin Calleri took the court in Australia in 2008.

They looked across the net, and saw 6-foot-10 John Isner and 6-foot-11 Ivo Karlovic.

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They beat them, too, in straight sets.

It was an epic David and Goliath moment.

Brzezicki got to the third round of the 2007 French Open as a qualifier.

These days, he has a tennis academy in Buenos Aires. And he was the coach of countryman Nicolas Kicker when he broke into the top 100. That, of course, was before his suspension for match-fixing.

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