Andrei Chesnokov from Russia was a brilliant tennis player who reached a high of World number 9 in 1991 and who had a two handed backhand to rival anyone of his time. In 1986 he had a third round victory over defending champion Mats Wilander in the French Open by the score of 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, a win that made the tennis World take notice. At the time the Russian was ranked a lowly 81. Chesnokov in fact had a habit of beating Wilander as the defending French Open champion as he did it again in 1989 , another straight sets victory.
What made Chesnokov unique was that his coach was in fact a woman, something that is rarely seen on the Men's pro tour , if at all, yet Tatiana Naumko helped him become a champion. While he only won 7 titles in his career he had a reputation as a fierce competitor who rarely missed a ball and typified the saying, 'he would not lose, you would have to beat him'. He won over 3 million dollars in his career but it was a Davis Cup match that eventually turned Chesnokov into a national hero .
In 1995 in the Semi Final against Germany Chesnokov took on Wimbledon champion Michael Stich in the fifth and deciding match . After winning the opening set 6-4 Chesnokov was hammered by Stich in the next two sets 6-1, 6-1 before regrouping with a 6-3 win to take it to a fifth and deciding set.
In a remarkable show of mental and physical strength the Russian saved an incredible 9 match points to take the match 14 games to 12 and send Russia through to the final. The following day after his amazing win the Russian President Boris Yeltsin awarded Chesnokov the Order of Courage.
Chesnokov again played his heart out in the final against the US and in particular against then World number 2 Pete Sampras. After being down two sets to one Chesnokov came back in the fourth set to take it in a tie breaker before losing the fifth 4-6. The match was pivotal in the overall tie as Yevgeny Kafelnikov defeated Jim Courier in the second match in straight sets to make it one all . The US went on to win the final 3-2 however the efforts that year by Chesnokov were quite amazing while playing for his country against higher ranked opponents.
Chesnokov retired from tennis in 1999. In 2005 he was quite remarkably shot outside a bar in the Ukraine with rubber bullets that were later removed by surgery from his abdomen . He currently coaches World number 2 in doubles Elena Vesnina from Russia who is also ranked number 33 in singles.
Andrei was a man who refused to give in when he was a professional for 14 years and an unassuming player in the way he conducted himself on court. If his coaching skills are anything like his playing ability he will have no trouble in getting the best out of his players, a true gentleman of World tennis......