5 tennis fathers who are no strangers to controversy
Tennis is a unique sport, where players travel all around the world on their own with their entourage all through the year. The season lasts almost 11 months, with only the final month alloted for players to cool off and enjoy an off-season.
What it means is that players are constantly under tremendous amounts of pressure to keep putting their best foot forward. It is not unusual to see tempers flaring on the court, but sometimes that extends to the player's team off the court as well.
Since most players start at an early age on the tour, they are often accompanied by their parents to their matches -- either as their first coaches or in their box later on. Considering the huge amounts of money and spotlight that are at stake in the sport, there have been quite a few fathers of tennis players who have become famous for all the wrong reasons.
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Here's a look at five of them:
#1 Peter Graf (Steffi Graf's father)
Widely regarded as one of the most controlling fathers tennis has ever seen, Peter Graf served as the coach and manager of 22-time Grand Slam champion Steffi Graf. Nicknamed "Papa Merciless" for the way he ruled over every aspect of his daughter's schedule with an iron fist, the senior Graf has been accused of everything from verbally abusing officials to illegal coaching.
In the prime of the German's playing days, Peter Graf was also found to have mismanaged the former World No. 1's funds and ended up being jailed for a period of 25 months for tax evasion. He died in 2013, at the age of 75.
#2 Damir Dokic (Jelena Dokic's father)
Damir Dokic served as the tennis coach to his daughter Jelena Dokic, who won six WTA Tour titles and reached a career-high ranking of World No. 4. After representing Australia until 2000, Dokic switched her nationality to Yugoslavia at the behest of her father.
In the following Australian Open, she lost out in the first round to defending champion Lindsay Davenport, prompting Damir Dokic to claim the draw was fixed against his daughter.
In 2003, Dokic replaced her father as coach and later on remarked that switching her nationality was the biggest regret of her career. Since then, Jelena Dokic has revealed that she was mentally and physically abused by her father, detailing the ordeal in her autobiography titled 'Unbreakable.'
#3 Apostolos Tsitsipas (Stefanos Tsitsipas' father)
Stefanos Tsitsipas is one of the most enterprising talents in tennis at the moment, a claim he justified by becoming only the sixth player in the Open Era to defend his title at the Monte-Carlo Masters earlier this month.
But the Greek has constantly come under fire because of his father Apostolos Tsitsipas. The World No. 5 has time and again received coaching violations, most prominently at the 2022 Australian Open where the match referee caught his father red-handed in the act.
While unsubstantiated, Alexander Zverev has also accused Tsitsipas of taking coaching from his father during his toilet breaks. The 23-year-old denied those accusations firmly.
#4 Srdjan Djokovic (Novak Djokovic's father)
Novak Djokovic will go down as one of the greatest ever tennis players in history, irrespective of what happens in the years to come. But his cause would have been furthered even more if not for his father Srdjan Djokovic's knack for controversy.
Among other things, Srdjan Djokovic has accused Roger Federer of attacking his son when he was a teenager and the Australian Prime Minister of attacking all of Serbia by vilifying his son during the visa fiasco.
Despite all that, the World No. 1 has been more ambivalent towards his fathers comments on numerous occasions, emphasizing that "it is what it is" and that his father has the right to speak his mind as he sees fit.
#5 Richard Williams (Serena Williams and Venus Williams' father)
No father in tennis is as widely known as Richard Williams, so much so that Hollywood made an entire movie about his daughters Venus and Serena Williams from his point of view.
The Williams family is no stranger to controversy, with Richard Williams standing by his daughters no matter what. On multiple occasions, he has accused other players and tournament crowds of being racist towards his daughters and after a racist incident in Indian Wells led to the Williams sisters boycotting the Indian Wells Open for more than a decade.
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