Tennis (Life) Birthdays – April 19, 2019

Maria Sharapova (RUS), 32

At an age where she should still be a relevant contender at major tournaments, the former No. 1 finds herself at a career crossroads.

She seems to still want to play, even if she has little to prove and has plenty of off-court ventures to keep her busy.


But her body won’t let her.

When Sharapova has played in 2019, she has played well. But then the shoulder pain has kicked in again. And that’s all she wrote.

Sharapova’s shoulder has been her Achilles’ heel for much of her career.

Back in 2008, she finally had surgery and missed the Beijing Olympics, the US Open and the rest of the season. But for a significant period before that, she already had been fighting through bad diagnoses and surgery-avoiding therapy before she finally bit the bullet.

You could argue that Sharapova never really got her serve back. And without that serve, she had to work a whole lot harder to win points. Which, eventually, takes its toll on other body parts.

Here’s a selection of Sharapics from the Tennis.Life archive.

More time off than on for Sharapova

Sharapova didn’t play after the US Open last year.

And she has played just three tournaments in 2019.

In two of them, Shenzhen (retired vs. Sabalenka) and St. Petersburg (gave Kasatkina a walkover), she didn’t finish. In the third, the Australian Open, she upset defending champion Caroline Wozniacki before losing to Ashleigh Barty 6-4 in the third, in the fourth round.

Since then, she reportedly has tried a new treatment on the shoulder that, she hopes, will put her back on the court.

But more than two months later, after missing Indian Wells and Miami, she’s still out. Sharapova will miss Stuttgart, which is a tournament sponsored by the carmaker for which she’s an ambassador and which she won three straight years from 2012-14. And she has also already withdrawn from Madrid, at which she has been a champion and a finalist.

Rome is next up. And she’s won that three times. But nothing is certain at the moment.

Sharapova’s ranking will tumble if she can’t return to defend some significant results from last year’s clay-court season. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

While her ranking is holding steady at 28, she has some big points to defend in the next two months. Sharapova reached the quarterfinal in Madrid, the semis in Rome and the quarters at the French Open.

They represent nearly 60 per cent of  her ranking points. Without those three results, her ranking would drop down close to No. 90.

15-month doping suspension hurt

There’s not much point spending more bandwidth to rehash Sharapova’s positive doping test for Meldonium in March, 2016. They wanted four years, certainly to make an example of her as the biggest fish ever caught in the doping net. She ended up being out of the game 15 months. Not only did it cost her millions and threaten her longstanding relationships with some sponsors, it also cost her all those months on the Tour as she was hitting 30.

She’s not been the same since she returned, determined as she is.

After romances with Sasha Vujacic and Grigor Dimitrov didn’t go the distance, Sharapova has found happiness with Brit Alexander Gilkes.

Back in 2011, Sharapova got engaged to NBA player Sasha Vujacic. But that one never made it to the altar. It was one of only two romantic relationships she had that she didn’t manage to keep private.

The other, of course, was with fellow player Grigor Dimitrov.

She’s currently dating a British fellow named Alexander Gilkes, a 39-year-old online auction house owner.

Tzipora (Zippy) Obziler (ISR), 46

Obziler made it into the top 100 (No. 75) on the WTA Tour for the first time in 2007, at quite an advanced age for a tennis player.
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She wasn’t a big name. But she was known for being one of the mothers on tour. In her case, though, it was a bit of a twist, as it was her partner, Hadas, who actually had baby Lihi. 

She did take a maternity leave from the Tour, though, and returned in 2008 to finish up.

Aussie Casey Dellacqua, who had two children with partner Amanda Judd and just gave birth to their third child herself, followed in her footsteps.

Obziler’s last match was in Warsaw in May, 2009. She officially announced her retirement on Aug. 13 of that year.

She already was a council member in the municipality of her home city, Givatayim.

Obziler won 14 singles and 14 doubles titles on the ITF circuit during her career.

And she also played in 61 Fed Cup ties, and is currently the Fed Cup captain, going by Tzipora Hirsh-Obziler.

Sue Barker (GBR), 63


The former player now known for her on-court interviews at Wimbledon has made a great career for herself after her playing days – and it’s a tribute to her that she’s still going strong on in a business that’s particular cruel to women her age.

Barker was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 1977 (the centenary year, with another Brit, Virginia Wade, winning it all).

Just 21 at the time, she was seeded No. 4, Wade No. 3 – two British women in the top four seeds; hard to believe.

Here’s some video of Barker playing rival Chris Evert (then Lloyd) in the 1981 Fed Cup final.

And here they are, years later, chatting on the BBC’s Wimbledon broadcast. Two fine old birds, still.

Barker won the French Open in 1976 (the fields were week in those mid-70s years, but it was still a major accomplishment).

She retired in 1984. Her backhand was a bit erratic, she absolutely smoked her forehand. We can relate.

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