Enduring ‘tennis dads’ continue to make trouble for their offspring


Caroline Wozniacki at 2008 US Open

Image via Wikipedia

So much has changed in tennis since the turbulent, historic “boom” of the 1970s. Wooden rackets are collectors’ items, just about everyone hits the two-handed backhand, hotheads have been silenced by instant replay, and string technology replaced cat-and-mouse strategy with titanic battles from the baseline.

One thing hasn’t changed over the years. The dreaded “tennis dad” still roams the earth, arrogant to the extreme and wielding entirely too much power.

Perhaps none of today’s violators make the Overbearing Hall of Fame, featuring the likes of Stefano Capriati, Jim Pierce, Roland Jaeger, Marinko Lucic and that most dastardly character of them all, Damir Dokic. But the sport remains tarnished by sideshows, parents making the regrettable mistake of living their lives through their children’s stardom.

Caroline Wozniacki is a delightful young woman with formidable talent and, until recently, the honor of being ranked No. 1 in the world. There’s no question that the influence of her father, Piotr, was crucial to her development — but it seems the man can’t stay out of his own way.

In August of last year, after a disheartening loss to Christina McHale in Cincinnati, Caroline announced that she and her father had ended their coaching relationship. He was heard yelling at her during the match, and reports suggested that both were at wit’s end. “As you can see, she cannot win matches right now,” Piotr told a Danish newspaper, “because she does not know how she should play.”

The identity of her new coach was a mystery (at least to outsiders) for several weeks, and it wasn’t until December that Ricardo Sanchez, a Spanish coach who had worked with Jelena Jankovic, officially joined the Wozniacki team.

The arrangement lasted two months. Sanchez learned that he’d be little more than a pawn in this game, offering tidbits of advice while Piotr called the shots.

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