The WTA has had its share of infamous parents, particularly fathers, over the years. First there was Jim Pierce, Mary Pierce’s father, who was physically and mentally abusive to Mary for the majority of her formative years. In November of 1992, the ‘Jim Pierce rule’ passed, which stated a member of a player’s entourage, whether it be an agent, parent or coach, could be banned for his or her conduct. He was banned from all remaining events of the 1993 season due to violent behavior towards Mary at that year’s French Open.
Next came Marinko Lucic, father of Mirjana. Lucic, who made the semifinals at Wimbledon in 1999 at just 17, said her father started physically beating her at the tender age of five and also beat her mother and siblings. Years of physical and verbal abuse followed Lucic’s young career, until countryman Goran Ivanisevic saved the family and helped them move to the United States. Stefano Capriati was also alleged to have crossed the line with his daughter Jennifer and used the teenaged Capriati as the cash cow for her family.
Damir Dokic is perhaps the most infamous father in tennis history due to a variety of off-court incidents; he accused the Australian Open organizers of fixing the draw against his daughter in 2001, complained about the price of food at the US Open and was kicked out of Wimbledon for being drunk and disorderly. In June 2009, Damir was arrested and eventually sentenced to 15 months in prison for threatening the Australian ambassador to Serbia; he and Jelena reconciled in 2011, ending their eight-year feud. Arsalan Rezai, whose daughter Aravane seemed poised to be a contender on the WTA after winning Madrid in 2010, was indefinitely banned from the WTA after a violent incident with Aravane and her boyfriend at the 2011 Australian Open. The incident has had a profound effect on the Frenchwoman, who has slipped to near No. 200 in the WTA rankings.
While Piotr Wozniacki has not approached these extremely abusive levels, he’s become a tennis villain in his own right. Much like Yuri Sharapov before him, Piotr has been the one constant in Caroline’s tennis career, perhaps to a fault. Over the past few years, Caroline has been criticized just as much for Piotr’s domineering presence in on-court coaching visits as she has for her defensive game style or “Slamless No. 1” status. Many have called for Caroline to fire her father as coach and employ someone who knows the game better to try and help her win her maiden Slam title.
When the Wozniackis hired Ricardo Sanchez in early 2012, it seemed as though she had turned a corner; however, this coaching relationship latest all of two months, and Sanchez later stated that it was impossible to coach Caroline under Piotr’s influence. Both father and daughter have insisted to the press that their system is the best system for Caroline.
On Thursday in Doha, Caroline argued with chair umpire Julie Kjendlie over a phantom ‘out’ call during her match with Mona Barthel. Piotr felt the need to join in from the stands, and the scene became a circus when a WTA official came to confront him.
As a spectator, Piotr has no right to argue his daughter’s case or strike up any sort of conversation with the chair umpire or other officials from the stands, and Kjendlie should never have engaged him. Players have no right to claim hindrance based on calls from the crowd, and as the linesman signaled the ball in with his hands, it should have been ruled a clean winner and Barthel’s point. Kjendlie was in the midst of explaining this to Caroline when Piotr got involved. Following his tirade, she proceeded to change her ruling and ordered the point to be replayed.
Was Kjendlie ‘bullied’ into doing so? Maybe. Nonetheless, she should’ve stood her ground here; the first rule of umpiring is stick to your guns, no matter what. But that doesn’t, even for a second, excuse Piotr’s behavior.
Maria Sharapova finally put Yuri in the backseat after winning the Australian Open in 2008. After firing her father as coach and hiring Tomasz Wiktorowski as coach in July 2011, Wozniacki’s friend and rival Agnieszka Radwanska finally reached the next level; she peaked at World No. 2, reached the Wimbledon final in 2012 and has cemented her status as a top-five player. Marion Bartoli, who recently settled her rift with the French Tennis Federation and was named to the Fed Cup team for the first time since 2004, stated that her father will no longer be coaching her, ending the other high-profile WTA father-daughter coaching relationship.
It can’t be denied that Wozniacki reached the pinnacle of women’s tennis under her father’s tutelage. However, his on-court episodes have become more and more frequent following Caroline’s slide down the rankings. If other players can ‘put on the big girl pants’ and take control of their own careers, why can’t Caroline?
Because she doesn’t want to. At the end of the day, Caroline is an adult; if she wanted to end the coaching relationship with her father, she would’ve done so already.
The first week at the Australian Open was a controversial one with Cypriot and flamboyant player Marcos Baghdatis playing the lead role in what should be a Razzie nominated movie. In the movie Baghdatis was seen with friends at a barbecue holding a flare while chanting “Turks out.” Bluntly put: This is racism. And the strange part is he won’t apologise for what he did. Endorsing racism when you are a celebrity and especially the kind of celebrity he is in his own country can get nasty.
Kids following his example come to tolerate racism thinking it’s an acceptable way to emulate their idol. Even though it’s a tough task to lead by example while keeping your political views to yourself when you are in the spotlight, it would be wise for him to be more aware of his actions.
His actions also caused upset with the Turkish Cypriotic community. Specifically, the “Australian Turkish Cypriot Cultural and Welfare Association” in Australia and its members will actively seek to get Baghdatis expelled from the Australian Open for abusing his celebrity status.
Baghdatis himself says in a statement issued by the Australian Open organisers that he was defending the interests of his country Cyprus but that he would like to focus on his tennis.
Something he should have done in the first place rather than chanting simply because he is a much better player than a chanter.
Another controversy revolving Marcos Baghdatis is the fact that on the video there is a man in his company who got ejected from the Australian Open during the Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) versus Konstantinos Economidis (GRE) match.
The fans got ejected for rioting during the match and were ejected by the police with pepperspray. I believe it’s the first time that pepperspray has ever been used at a tennis match.
Tennis has enough problems than to deal with nationalistic fans and players who can give the sport a black eye.
Another player who is under fire in her native country is Sania Mirza. She was caught on photo with her feet up after a long and hard match during the Hopman Cup earlier this month.
Mirza is a girl who can’t do anything right in the eyes of orthodox Indian Muslims back home country India. She is either too naked or reveals too much with her tennis attire. Wearing scant attire is the lest of her troubles when considering that she shouldn’t be playing tennis at all because, well, she is a woman.
This time it’s different and what bothers me most is that you can’t take a rest anywhere anymore these days. You can’t take a rest on a bench in the park without the police stopping to suspiciously ask what you are doing – as if you’re a criminal. You can no longer sit on a sideway to take a rest after a long walk and you sure as hell are not allowed to get your feet up after an intense match at the Hopman cup with the Indian flag present.
Indeed, places to rest are becoming scarce. Perhaps next year the tournaments can just put the Indian flag like 50 feet away from Sania Mirza so she can get her feet up.
The issue is reaching the point where Mirza even considered quitting the game. This is unfortunate. I would hope not because she is a real asset to tennis and is definitely a proper example for Asian muslim women all over the world regardless of what Orthodox Indian Muslims say.