Sweden's Robin Soderling, the ATP Tour's missing man, turns 30 today.
Great Britain's Elena Baltacha would have turned 31 today. Except she didn't make it.
Both are greatly missed on the professional circuit.
Baltacha, who for long periods of time was the highest-ranked female British player, died suddenly and tragically of liver cancer in May just six months after officiallly retiring with the intention of devoting her life to her foundation, which aims to bring tennis to disadvantaged kids.
The outpouring of love and support for her new husband / longtime coach Nino Severino was heartwarming back in June, when the "Rally for Bally" cause hit its apex during the Queen's Club tournament just before Wimbledon. Many top players donated their time to raise funds for her foundation. You can still see the symbolic yellow wristbands around the tour.
The current total stands at over 77,000 British pounds. You can still contribute by clicking here.
As for Soderling, the milestone birthday isn't necessarily the make-it-or-break-it point for a comeback. But the longer he stays away, the more remote the possibility seems.
Quite a few players who have been in and out of the game with mononucleosis (Croatia's Mario Ancic had it twice; Roger Federer also had it). But none, it seems, were hit as hard as Soderling, who according to various media reports STILL doesn't feel right and can't play a lot of tennis.
In the meantime he has become a father, and has developed a new tennis ball that bears his name and was approved by the ITF last year.
No one around him seems to be talking about his career in the past tense, only in the interrupted tense. Soderling now is the tournament director at his hometown Stockholm Open. So he's getting on with his life; maybe he just doesn't want to say the "R" word out loud.
If Soderling doesn't play again, it would be a shame. He's still young enough that there's little doubt he'd be right in that "next-tier" mix after the top group, along with Juan Martín del Potro (also currently MIA), Berdych, Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic.
He will always be remembered for that epic upset of Rafael Nadal at the French Open in 2009 (he's in rather exclusive company there, and his ranking was only No. 25 at the time), and for reaching the final in Paris both that year and in 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Robin Soderling
- Elena Baltacha
- Tomas Berdych