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Like Richard Williams, these fathers of champion or champion who marked tennis (for good or for bad)

Many in tennis have bet everything on their child to reach the top. Sometimes fruitful but also often stormy collaborations.

Richard Williams, who is the subject of a biopic hitting theaters this Wednesday, has scheduled his two daughters to be the best. Bet succeeded beyond expectations. But the fathers who pushed their offspring to glory have known varying fortunes. For better and sometimes for worse …

Maria et Yuri Sharapova
A beautiful story with some gray areas. That of Yuri Sharapov, who arrived from Siberia in the United States penniless with his 9-year-old daughter to make her a tennis star (5 Grand Slams between 2004 and 2014), leaving her mother in Russia for lack of a visa. . Yuri was able to convince the famous Nick Bollettieri to make his daughter a champion. But Yuri always wanted to keep control over his daughter’s career. His slippages in the face of the press or in the middle of a match, bored the Russian who moved a little away from him, even if she always publicly preserved her father: “He sacrificed his life for me. I owe him everything

Marion and Walter Bartoli
Walter Bartoli, a former general practitioner, had never touched a racquet in his life, when he gave up everything to take care of his daughter’s career. And not everyone liked it. The French Tennis Federation refused Bartoli’s selection for the French team during the London 2012 Olympics. She wanted to be accompanied by her father, which is prohibited by the regulations. However, this fusional relationship has had results. Surprise winner of Wimbledon 2013, Marion Bartoli remains the last Frenchwoman to have lifted a Grand Slam trophy.

Walter and Marion Bartoli Panoramic

Steffi and Peter Graf
Peter Graf, who died in 2003 of pancreatic cancer, had started his daughter in tennis by playing coaches during the start of his career, he who was a car dealer and insurer. It is under her orders that the future German tennis star will become the youngest player to enter the world rankings at the age of 13, in 124th place. Peter has long been by his side during the 22 Grand Slams won by his daughter. She cut ties with him (before being reconciled), after her father was sentenced to one year in prison in 1997 for not having declared his daughter’s earnings to the tax authorities. Peter Graf was accused of having withdrawn from the tax authorities nearly 20 million DM (13 million dollars) of his daughter’s income between 1989 and 1993 through shell companies operating abroad …

André and Mike Agassi
In his best-selling autobiography “Open”, André Mike, revealed that his tennis-crazy father Mike had built a ball machine, nicknamed by the Las Vegas Kid “Dragon”, with which his father forced his son to hit at least 2,500 times a day! Andre Agassi, who had a love-hate relationship with Mike whom he described as “tyrannical”, will admit to never having liked tennis and to having been unable to make it heard to his father, who died at the end of September 2021, at the age of 90. And if he did not “like tennis”, Agassi, former world number one, marked the history of the game by winning eight Grand Slams between 1992 and 2003.

Aravane and Arsalan Rezaï
In 2010, Aravane Rezaï reached 15th place in the world, all in a rather deleterious family climate. Her father Araslan exercising total control over his daughter, both sportingly and privately. Three years earlier, he had been banned from entering Roland Garros by the WTA, following numerous insults and threats. At the 2011 Australian Open, Arsalan attacks his daughter in the locker room. An argument which goes very far since the young girl files a complaint for violence, death threats and moral harassment. “I acted for a matter of survival», The Frenchwoman explained to L’Equipe in May 2011. Long angry with this volcanic father, Aravane turned to him again in 2019 when she attempted at 34 years old a comeback at the highest level …

Araslan Rezai Panoramic

Mary et Jim Pierce
Mary Pierce, winner of the Australian Open in 1995 and at Roland Garros in 2000, had to deal in her beautiful career with the excesses of her sulphurous father. Jim was notably ejected from the stands at Roland Garros in 1993 for behaving badly there. This former marine commando, with a sulphurous past, had ended up inspiring such fear in his daughter and his wife that they would have hired a bodyguard to protect themselves. Long cold with his father, the former French number one had reconciled with him, before his death in 2017.

Jelena and Damir Dokic
The harder the fall will be. Tennis prodigy with her debut on the circuit at 16 and 4th in the world at 19, Jelena had been coached by her father Damir, of Serbian origin, since her childhood. The naturalized Australian will partly owe her early performance to her father-trainer. But the latter will above all also be responsible for its fall. Alcoholic and violent, Damir also made a detour through the prison. And if she knew how to separate from this tyrannical father, her daughter never saw her career take off. In her autobiography, published in 2017 “Unbreakable”, Dokic explained the treatment inflicted by her father when she had one day lost a match in Montreal. ” He hit me with his fist. Then he made me stand up straight and kicked me in the shins with his pointy dress shoes. When I cried in pain, he forced me to get back into position and he did it again. Damir Dokic being the very example of these toxic fathers who are also a sad reality of professional sport.

Damir and Jelena Dokic Panoramic


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