Commentary

Tennis had its share of off-the-court episodes in 2008

By this time, we're acutely aware of tennis' on-court transpirations in 2008. But there were also plenty of reasons to both toast and lament the marriages, births and deaths off of it.

Originally Published: December 12, 2008
By Sandra Harwitt | Special to ESPN.com

Greg Norman and Chris EvertAP Photo/Jeff ZelevanskyGreg Norman and Chris Evert exchanged vows in a lavish Bahamas wedding in June.
It seems like only yesterday that we were popping the corks on the champagne and looking forward to 2008. Now with 2009 only a month away, it's time to look back and toast some of the turning points that took place in the world of tennis in 2008.

Couplings

Michael Chang and Amber Liu: Former French Open champion Chang, 36, married WTA Tour player Amber Liu, 24, in Laguna Hills, Calif., in October. Chang plays the senior circuit and actively works with his Christian-based organization, the Michael Chang Foundation. The No. 469-ranked Liu won her second career ITF satellite title this year. Chang was enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July.

Chris Evert: Apparently, Evert is hoping the third time walking down the aisle will be the charm. In June, the 53-year-old married golfing great Greg Norman in a private wedding in the Bahamas. Evert's second husband, skier Andy Mill, was Norman's best friend. Her first husband was fellow tennis player John Lloyd. And then there was that famous engagement that didn't end in marriage to Jimmy Connors. The wedding was a family affair with Evert's three sons and Norman's adult son and daughter in attendance.

Mardy Fish: Engaged earlier in the year, Fish sealed the deal with fiancée Stacey Gardner, an attorney and TV model from the popular game show "Deal or No Deal," in a traditional Jewish ceremony in Beverly Hills in September. Fish will divide his time between the couple's Los Angeles home and his training base at the Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Florida.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario: The four-time Grand Slam champion preferred a smaller, more private wedding the second time around when she married businessman Jose Santacana, 33, in September. A familiar face these days as a broadcast tennis analyst, the 36-year-old Sanchez-Vicario has more reason to smile than just about being a newlywed -- she's expecting the couple's first child. Sanchez-Vicario was briefly married to Joan Girona, a Spanish sports journalist, in 2001.

Juan Ignacio Chela: The Argentine married longtime girlfriend Veronica Luz Alonso in November. Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires, provided a Cessna jet to fly the practicing Argentine Davis Cup team from Mar del Plata to Buenos Aires so they could attend Chela's nuptials.

Nenad Zimonjic: The now-world-No. 1 doubles player married longtime girlfriend Mina Knezevic, a former model and owner of model agency "Model Tattoo," in their hometown of Belgrade right before the French Open last May. The couple is looking forward to the births of their twins, which is expected to take place in Miami this month. Zimonjic is training for the 2009 season in South Florida.

Coupling commitments

Andy Roddick: The 2003 U.S. Open champion proposed to Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, 20, in March. The couple met in the fall of 2007 in New York City, where Decker works as a model. Decker has appeared in Gap and Victoria Secret advertisements and on the pages of Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue and Glamour magazine. No wedding date has been announced. It's not only all about love for Roddick, 27, when it comes to partnerships -- he announced a new coaching coupling with the highly regarded Larry Stefanki in November.

Uncouplings

Andre Agassi: The eight-time Grand Slam champion recently severed business ties with Perry Rogers, his best friend from childhood. Rogers, an attorney, has become a high-powered agent for many sports celebrities and was CEO of Agassi Enterprises. Citing that business was getting in the way of their friendship, talk is a bad real estate deal that Agassi and wife, Steffi Graf, were entangled in was at the core of the split -- the two disbanded their business relationship in the autumn.

Boris Becker: Engaged in August to 25-year-old Alexandra (Sandy) Meyer-Woelden, a former junior player and jewelry designer who graduated from the University of Miami, the diamond ring came off of Meyer-Woelden's finger 83 days later. Becker, 40, knew his fiancée for most of her life as her father, the late Axel Meyer-Wolden, was a prominent German attorney/agent who represented Becker. Meyer-Woelden previously dated player Tommy Haas on-and-off for four years. Becker's ex-wife, Barbara, who lives with their two sons in Miami, ended their marriage when Becker fathered an illegitimate child.

Pam Shriver: The 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion and TV commentator apparently discovered marriage to a former James Bond isn't an adventure for a lifetime and filed for divorce from George Lazenby, 68, on ground of "irreconcilable differences" in August. The split of the six-year marriage is bound to get complicated, as the 46-year-old Shriver asked for custody of their three children -- George Jr. and twins Kate and Sam -- with supervised visits for Lazenby. The Australian, who played 007 in the Bond flick "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," countered he would seek sole custody of their offspring.

Stork visits

[+] EnlargeKim Clijsters
Michel Krakowski/AFP/Getty ImagesAfter retiring from tennis at the ripe old age of 23, former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters gave birth to her first child, Jada.
Kim Clijsters: The former U.S. Open champ and her husband, American basketball player Brian Lynch, who plays in a league in Belgium, welcomed daughter Jada to the family in March.

Anastasia Myskina: The former French Open champion gave birth to son Zhenya in April. The single Myskina remains mum on who's the daddy.

Jonas Bjorkman: A former top five in singles and No. 1 in doubles, the now-retired Bjorkman and wife Petra welcomed son, Max, last January.

Jonathan Erlich: The reigning Australian Open doubles champion and his wife, Mor, welcomed their first child, son Amit, in August.

Mark Knowles: Top doubles star and wife, Dawn, welcomed son, Brody Mark, a playmate for big brother, Graham, in June.

Patrick McEnroe: U.S. Davis Cup captain and USTA guru of pro tennis and his wife, Broadway singer/actress Melissa Errico, welcomed to the family two bundle of joys, Juliette and Diana, in November. The couple has a toddler daughter, Victoria.

Mariana Diaz Oliva: The Argentine gave birth to a son, Franco, in February.

Stork alert

Ashley Harkleroad: The American and fiancée/coach/former player Chuck Adams are expecting their first child. The WTA Tour's very own Playboy cover girl was initially reported to skip the U.S. Open because of a bad back. But very shortly after that announcement word came out that Harkleroad was in the family way. Harkleroad is divorced from fellow pro, Alex Bogomolov Jr.

Lleyton Hewitt: The two-time Grand Slam champion and wife, actress Bec Cartwright, are expecting a sibling any day now for daughter, Mia.

Daniel Nestor: Doubles specialist Nestor and his wife, Natasha, are expecting their first child, a daughter, in December.

Pomp and circumstance

Mario Ancic: The 24-year-old Croat can now answer to "Counsel for the Defense," having earned a law degree from the University of Split in April. Ancic started working toward his degree in 2002. Ancic gave a 45-minute oral thesis on a subject matter close to his tennis ties -- "ATP: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

Max Mirnyi: The 31-year-old Belarusian earned a law degree from Belarus State University in October. A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to Belarus, Mirnyi majored in International Law with a specialization in the international protection of children's rights.

Out of this world

Rafael Nadal: A week after the current world No. 1 won his first Wimbledon title, the formerly named "128036" asteroid became forever known as The Rafael Nadal asteroid. The Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca, located in Nadal's hometown, applied to The International Astronomical Union to have the asteroid located between Mars and Jupiter named in tribute to "one of the greatest tennis players of all time."

Court visits

[+] EnlargeJimmy Connors
Al Bello/Getty ImagesMonths after resigning as Andy Roddick's coach, Jimmy Connors was arrested at a UC Santa Barbara-North Carolina basketball game.
Jimmy Connors: Eight-time Grand Slam champion Jimmy Connors was charged with a misdemeanor offense in Santa Barbara Superior Court after he was cited for arguing with police as well as getting in the way of campus activity and then refusing to vacate a facility at the University of California Santa Barbara in November. Connors was at the campus with his son, Brett, to attend a basketball game between UCSB and top-ranked North Carolina.

Roscoe Tanner: The (January) 1977 Australian Open champion and 1979 Wimbledon finalist, considered in his day to have the hardest serve in the game, came close to serving more time in jail when he was arrested for bouncing two checks equaling $75,000 for the purchase of two Toyota Highlanders in Knoxville, Tenn., last May. The felony charges were dropped in August after Tanner returned the two cars and paid a $5,000 restitution fine to the dealership. Born into a family of privilege in Tennessee, Tanner has spent much of his life after tennis running from the law -- he's been a fugitive on previous felony charges for writing bad checks and has also been in trouble for failing to pay court-ordered child support from New Jersey, Florida, Georgia and California. In recent years, he served time in a Florida prison.

Departures

Andy Anson: The ATP-Europe CEO leaves the men's tour in January to return to his former soccer roots. He will become the Chief Executive of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Anson was formerly the Commercial Director for Manchester United and also worked with Disney Corporation.

Etienne de Villiers: The ATP Executive Chairman and President announced he would leave his position as head honcho of the tour at year's end when it became clear he did not have the support of the top players. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic all ran and won seats on the Player Council so they would have a larger-than-life presence on the tour philosophy. There's no word on future plans for the former Disney executive.

Arlen Kantarian: Declaring that the best time to move on is when an organization is at an all-time high, Kantarian announced he would depart his role as CEO for professional tennis for the United States Tennis Association at the end of the year. Kantarian made many significant changes in the game, including the development of the U.S. Open Series where he united a large majority of summer tournaments leading into the U.S. Open into a cohesive TV/commercial package. Kantarian, who formerly worked with the NFL and Radio City Music Hall, has not revealed his future plans. He's believed to be a candidate for de Villiers' position at the ATP.

Encores

Sandra Klemenschits: Although her sister, Daniela, passed away from the rare abdominal cancer they both suffered from earlier this year, Sandra successfully beat the disease and has returned to the tour. The Austrian doubles specialist teamed with Marlene Weingartner at the Gastein Ladies tournament in July.

Joachim Johansson: After announcing his retirement in February because of a shoulder injury that plagued him for four years, "Pim Pim" Johansson seemed to find a rehabilitation regimen that made him believe he could crank up that humongous serve again. Johansson, 26, returned to the tour at the Swedish Open in October and plans a full 2009 schedule.

Passings

Lennart Bergelin: The well-known Swede coached Bjorn Borg throughout his glorious career, which delivered 11 Grand Slam trophies. Bergelin also captained Sweden's first winning Davis Cup effort in 1975 and orchestrated Borg's Davis Cup debut as a 15-year-old in 1972. Bergelin, the French Open doubles champion in 1948 and the winner of nine Swedish championship singles titles from 1945 to 1955, died of heart failure at age 83 in November.

Sven Davidson: The first Swede to win a Grand Slam singles title (French 1957), Davidson was battling Alzheimer's disease when he died of pneumonia at age 79 in Arcadia, Calif. Davidson, who also won the Wimbledon doubles title in 1958, was the founder of the Stockholm Open. He was enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004.

Carole Caldwell Graebner: A two-time Grand Slam doubles champion (the 1965 U.S. National and 1966 Australian National with Nancy Richey) and a top-10 ranked singles player in the U.S., Graebner went on to become a force in the game after her playing days were over. A former chair of the USTA Fed Cup Committee and vice-chairman of the Wightman Cup Committee, Graebner was a former vice president of advertising for Tennis Week magazine. The 65-year-old Graebner lost her brief battle with cancer in November.

Hamilton Jordan: The youngest-ever White House Chief of Staff under Jimmy Carter, Hamilton Jordan joined the ATP as CEO in 1987 and was instrumental in the ATP restructuring from its roots as a player union to total control of the world tour. Hamilton, who left the tour in 1990, overcame a number of battles with cancer since 1984 before succumbing to the disease in May.

Daniela Klemenschits: The 25-year-old Klemenschits and her twin sister, Sandra, were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer in January 2007, which led to the end of their doubles career. The Austrian duo won 20 ITF circuit doubles titles. Daniela lost her battle with the disease in April.

Federico Luzzi: The 28-year-old Italian died suddenly after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was hospitalized after retiring from a match because of a high fever in October. A former top-100 player who suffered from a shoulder injury throughout most of his career, Luzzi recorded the longest Davis Cup match ever by an Italian when he beat Ville Liukko of Finland 14-12 in the fifth set after a 4-hour, 35-minute battle in 2001. In February of 2008, Luzzi was suspended for 200 days and fined $50,000 by the ATP for placing 273 minor bets on tennis matches, which made him the fifth Italian player sanctioned for online betting.

Horst Skoff: A former top-20 player, the 39-year-old Austrian passed away from heart failure while on a business trip to Germany in June. Skoff, who won four career titles, had been working as a director of a tennis academy.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.