By Nick Georgandis
A look at tennis players celebrating birthdays between February 24 and March 2
February 24 - Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, the youngest man to ever reach No. 1 in the world, turns 32. Hewitt has won two Grand Slam singles titles and one in doubles. In 2000, he and Max Mirnyi won the men's doubles title at the US Open, making Hewitt he youngest man to win a Grand Slam doubles title in the Open Era, at age 19 years, 6 months. In 2001, he defeated Pete Sampras at the US Open, one of six titles he won on the year to earn the No. 1 ranking when he took the Tennis Masters Cup title at year's end. He followed that with the 2002 Wimbledon title, losing only two sets in the entire tournament. Hewitt helped Australia to the 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup titles. He was previously engaged to fellow pro Kim Clijsters, who he dated from 2000-2004, then proposed to Australian actress Bec Cartwright in 2005. The pair have three children - Mia, Cruz and Ava.
February 25 - Italy's Flavia Pennetta, former No. 1 doubles player and 2011 Australian Open doubles champion, turns 31. Pennetta is the first Italian woman to ever be ranked No. 1 in doubles, which she achieved in 2011, and the first to ever reach the Top 10 in women's singles, which she accomplished in August of 2009. She has nine career singles titles and helped Italy to to the 2006, 2009 and 2010 Fed Cup title teams. Her best Grand Slam singles performances have been at the US Open, where she reached the quarterfinals in 2008, 2009 and 2011. She has 14 doubles titles and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all four majors, along with winning the WTA Championships in 2010.
February 26 - China's Li Na, the first Asian player to both reach and win a Grand Slam final, turns 31. Na reached the finals of the 2011 Australian Open, losing to Kim Clijsters, then defeated Maria Sharapova to win the French Open title that same year. She has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world and is currently No. 5, having stayed in the Top 10 since the beginning of 2011. She has seven career singles titles and two in doubles. She is married to on-again, off-again coach Jiang Shan. Former doubles No. 1 Danie Visser of South Africa turns 42. Visser won three Grand Slam doubles titles in his career - the Australian Open in 1990 and 1993, and the US Open in 1990. He also reached the 1990 Wimbledon final and the French Open quarterfinals on two occasions. He was first ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles in January of 1990.
February 27 - Ecuador's Andres Gomez, the 1990 French Open champion and two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, turns 53. Gomez won 21 singles and 33 doubles titles in his ATP career which spanned from 1979-1995. He won the 1986 US Open doubles title With Slobodan Zivojinovic and the 1988 French Open title with Emilio Sanchez. He reached No. 1 in the world in doubles in September of 1986. In singles, he won Roland Garros in 2000 by defeating defending champion Andre Agassi in four sets, peaking in singles at No. 4in the world a week later.
February 28 - Croatia's Ivo Karlovic, the tallest man to ever play professional tennis (and this blogger's choice to be Gregor Clegane in the tennis version of "Game of Thrones") turns 34. Karlovic stands 6 feet, 10 inches tall and holds the record for fastest serve ever recorded at 156 miles per hour. Karlovic has four career singles titles and has been ranked as high as No. 14 in the world.
Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, a former world No. 1, turns 28. Jankovic has one Grand Slam to her credit, the 2007 mixed doubles title at Wimbledon. She took over No. 1 in the world in August of 2008, becoming the first woman to do so without reaching the finals of a Grand Slam singles event. After a few weeks at No. 2, she regained the top ranking and held it through the end of 2008. She is currently ranked No. 24 in the world.