Pam Shriver Calls For Tennis To Help Young Women Being Preyed Upon By Older Coaches

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Tennis coach and former player Pam Shriver has grown weary of the Women’s Tennis Association’s tepid response to her stand against predominantly older male coaches forming consensual relationships with their considerably younger players. A problem Shriver calls prominent and widespread in the professional realm of tennis.

The 22-time grand slam champ is calling out the WTA Tour authorities for their weak supposed lack of reaction to Shriver’s story from 2022 where she openly addressed the issue of wide age-gap relationships in the sport, sharing her own story of being romantically involved with her former coach and ex-player, Don Candy.

A Problem Embedded In Pro Tennis

Candy first met Shriver when she was 11 and became her coach several years later. Alongside Candy, Shriver went professional at 15. At the age of 17, she admitted to having grown attracted to Candy, who was 50 at the time and married.

They engaged in a relationship when Shriver was 17. She noted that it was not physical until she reached the age of 20. However, Candy essentially served as her full-time guardian as she maintained the relationship and tennis career. Shriver and Candy were together until she turned 22.

Pam Shriver at the Virginia Slims of Newport Tennis Tournament, Newport, Rhode Island, July 1987. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

In her account, Shriver admitted to maintaining a healthy friendship with Candy after they ended their five-year relationship but wanted to hold him accountable as a way of pushing back on the dynamic that has grown more frequent than it should be for young women in pro tennis.

Shriver is speaking up as she enters the Australian Open as a coach for 26-year-old Croatian player Donna Vekic.

Shriver Takes A Stand

“I don’t know if they [WTA] are all in yet,” Shriver shared, as relayed by The Daily Mail. “Having seen so many generations of women players struggle with the same thing, I really want women players to have more agency over the separation of their personal life from their professional life.”

The seven-time Australian Open winner is calling on all four majors in tennis to stand for the issue.

Since Shriver’s account, shared with The Telagraph last year, the WTA has implemented a Director of Safeguarding and launched the “Safer Game Plan” to help protect minors and establish boundaries for this problem in professional tennis.

Pam Shriver (left), Don Candy (right)
(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

“The WTA is dedicated to ensuring a safe environment across the tour,” a WTA spokeswoman previously shared. “Safeguarding requires vigilance, and we are continuing to invest in education, training and resources to improve our efforts.”

Among the more notable cases of a consensual relationship between a tennis coach and their player is the case of Coach Pierre Bouteyre. The coach sexually assaulted French professional player Fiona Ferro when she was in her mid-teens. Bouteyre was in his 40s at the time of the incident. In 2022, Bouteyre was charged with rape and sexual assault.

“I would like see the four majors, which together have 12 important weeks of the calendar, to step up and be better leaders on this thing. I think there are some real opportunities to make inroads,” Shriver added.

Shriver’s Tied To Don Candy

In her testimony with The Telagraph, Shriver shared that she went public with her decades-old connection to Candy hoping to combat the player-coach trend. She mentioned waiting until her parents passed to share her story. She also attributed the decision to therapy she partook in during the pandemic.

Candy passed away in 2020 at age 91.

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images)

“My main motivation is to let people know this still goes on – a lot. I believe abusive coaching relationships are alarmingly common in sport as a whole,” Shriver told The Telagraph.

“My particular expertise, though, is in tennis, where I have witnessed dozens of instances in my four-and-a-bit decades as a player and commentator. Every time I hear about a player who is dating their coach, or I see a male physio working on a female body in the gym, it sets my alarm bells ringing.

“It’s not only women who suffer from abusive coaching relationships, but they make up the majority. Sometimes it’s young girls and much older men. Sometimes the ages are similar, and you could argue that two consenting adults are entitled to do what they want.

“But mixing your personal and professional lives creates all sorts of extra tensions, especially in the pressurized world of sport.

“It never should have been with my coach and … I’ve just realized that it’s time to talk about my story and hopefully make it easier for some other people who’ve also had stories that are similar.”

Coach Shriver and Vekic will face off against Linda Fruhvirtova at Margaret Court Arena Monday.

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Written by Alejandro Avila

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