Infamous Fathers Who Shaped Their Children’s Tennis Careers

Infamous Fathers Who Shaped Their Children’s Tennis Careers

Tennis Sport History would be a lot different without them.

It's often those who come before us who have drilled the best habits and behaviors into our minds. The wizened fathers who raised us teach us discipline, dedication, and grit. They’ve blessed us with something passed down from the years they lived before us: knowledge. Whether that’s a family recipe or a personality trait that carries us through life with an extra tool at our disposal, our fathers have done the work so that we can reap the benefits. And sometimes, working together harmoniously, we reap those benefits in tandem, side by side.

And sometimes, we don’t.

As much as we love them, our families are usually the source of some of the most monumental drama in our lives. And for parents and children in the media, those tensions can run even higher.

Venus, Serena, and their father, King Richard

Venus, Serena, and their father, King Richard

When your dad’s monicker is “King Richard,” you’d best believe he’s going to be ruling over his household with monarchial discipline.

Venus and Serena Williams' journey to tennis stardom began on the public courts of Compton, California, under the watchful eye of their father, Richard Williams. Richard's visionary approach and unwavering belief in his daughters' potential transformed them into global icons, but that drive and discipline was not without its fair share of grief.

Richard Williams' methods and decisions were pretty controversial, and still are. His insistence on rigorous training routines and his unconventional coaching techniques draw scrutiny even now, despite how successful his daughters turned out to be. Was it their talent, or his guidance that shaped them into the stars they are? Is it both?

While their father’s outspoken nature and sometimes confrontational demeanor didn’t exactly endear him to everyone, he was known for making bold predictions about his daughters' success, which led to some amazing victories for their family. His presence in the stands, often vocal and passionate, added to his polarizing image. But it begs the question, what parent isn’t? Despite the criticism, Richard didn’t budge, believing that his methods were necessary to navigate the barriers his family faced. His protective streak sometimes resulted in public altercations, further fueling his controversial reputation. However, many argue that Richard's defiance was an important fatherly shield for Venus and Serena, helping them focus on their game amidst the relentless scrutiny.

Sure, his methods may have been unorthodox and his public persona a little divisive, but Richard’s role in shaping two of the greatest tennis players of all time can’t be denied. Being a parent is complicated, and hard to navigate. And all things considered, this was a man trying his best to help his family succeed.

"He could be aggressive and bullheaded and step in the spotlight when it wasn’t his turn to be there,” Zach Baylin, writer of King Richard, starring Will Smith, stated in a Vanity Fair piece. “I think that Will did a really great job of bringing all those different components to him.”

“We were willing to tell the tough stuff,” adds Isha Price, sister of Serena and Venus, in the same interview.

His innovative coaching methods and relentless support laid the foundation for their unparalleled success, propelling Venus and Serena to the pinnacle of their sport. There’s no debating one thing: despite it all, he believed in his girls unwaveringly.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and His Father, Apostolos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas and His Father, Apostolos Tsitsipas

Behind Stefanos Tsitsipas’ rise to the top is a pretty tumultuous relationship with his father, Apostolos.

Their training sessions are intense, to say the least, with Apostolos pushing Stefanos to his limits to bring out the best in him. But that intensity has sometimes spilled over into public spats and heated moments during matches.

One… memorable… incident that made headlines was during the ATP Cup in 2020, where Stefanos lost his cool and accidentally hit his father with his racket in a fit of frustration. The cameras caught the whole thing, including Stefanos’ mother, Julia, storming down to give him a stern talking-to right there on the sidelines. It was a real family affair, that’s for sure.

"Maybe I'll [have to] stay in my room for three days," Stefanos joked of his impending grounding after the incident.

His and his father’s relationship is characterized by a mix of tough love and deep mutual love for tennis. But just like anything, that type of passion for the same thing can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

Just this past week during the French Open, Apostolos tried to offer some advice to Stefanos, who had just lost a break point opportunity. The response? A "shut up!" from his son, which, objectively, is what a lot of us have said about a million times to our dads.

Yet, through all the ups and downs, there’s an undeniable bond between them. They share a dream and a drive to see Stefanos reach his fullest potential. In the end, Stefanos and Apostolos Tsitsipas have an incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding professional and parental relationship. Their story is still unfolding, and while there will surely be more bumps along the way, their shared passion for tennis keeps them united as a strong team… Who occasionally fight along the way.

“When he is not with me, I feel that a part of my identity as a player is lost,” Stefanos admitted. “Sometimes I don’t speak too well of him, but he’s the only person who understands me, and that’s part of the job.”

Parents On and Off the Court

For parents, it’s easy to see the parallels in everyday life. It’s a messy business, raising children. And often, in our attempts to do right by our children, we end up causing the most damage. But when all is said and done, the essence of parenting lies in the love, dedication, and belief that we pour into our children’s lives.

We may not all have our familial disagreements broadcasted for the whole world to see, but every parent knows the struggle of wanting the best for their kids, sometimes to the point of friction. These fathers have undoubtedly shaped tennis sport history, whether with iron-fisted discipline or tough love.

It’s these fathers who remind us that while “perfection” in parenting is a myth, the relentless pursuit of our children's dreams is very, very real. And we’ll screw up along the way, for sure. Whether through bold methods or intense, demanding practices, these dads have shown us that the road to greatness is often paved with challenges and even more misunderstandings.

So, as we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s tip our hats to these notorious dads who, for better or worse, have given their all to help their children excel. They’ve shown us that sometimes, the path to success is a bit rocky, and that’s perfectly okay. After all, what’s a little drama between family?

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