This weekend, the 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) German, Alexander (“Sascha”) Zverev won the ATP tour finals in London. He joins a list of tennis stars who have been heavily influenced by their families. Whilst all children owe their success in some shape or form to their parents, here are a few tips we can take from some of the world’s greatest.
Born 20 April 1997, Sascha is already being hailed as the future of tennis. He is the son of Alexander Zverev (sr) and Irina. Sascha was born in Hamburg although his father, Alexander played David Cup for the Soviet Union where his mother also played tennis player. Zverev eldest brother, Mischa Zverev, is also a professional tennis player, who reached No. 25 in the World in 2017.
We might conclude that the Zverev family know all about tennis. His father is his coach but in 2017, Sascha turned for help from former number one, Juan Carlos Ferrero. In 2017, Sascha asked former World Number One, Juan Carlos Ferrero to assist his father with the coaching. Whilst parental support is necessary, increasingly tennis players are turning to successful former tennis players who understands the pressures of playing at the highest level.
My top tips for new dads #1: don’t be afraid to ask for support.
Serena and Venus Williams
Richard Williams is the father of Serena and Venus. He was known for his court side appearances as the start of the girls’ careers, although these days he is less visible.
Richard Williams was often perceived as an eccentric and diving into his history, you might start to see why. He himself tennis lessons from a man known as “Old Whiskey”. He committed his daughters to become tennis professionals when he saw the Romania tennis player, Virginia Ruzici playing on television. His planning was so detailed that he wrote a 78-page document how his daugghers would champion the tennis world.
Dads often can’t wait to take their children to their game and a popular question is when to start. Mr Williams started giving lessons to Venus and Serena when they were four on the public tennis courts. He now says he feels like he took them too early, and six is a better age.
Tennis is often perceived as a white, elitist sport. Hats off to Richard who broke down barriers. Whilst I believe in giving my own kids opportunities, Richard went that step further. He made a decision very early that his daughters would be professional tennis player.
My top tips for new dads #2: Your baby has their future ahead of them. Don’t let perceived barriers stop you.
In his latest biography, John McEnroe suggests that Rafa Nadal is an even greater tennis player than Roger Federer. If any other tennis player doubted Federer’s greatness, you would laugh. There is something about McEnroe, he knows his tennis.
Rafa’s father is a businessman, owner of an insurance company, glass and window company and a restaurant on the small Spanish island of Mallorca. Rafa owes his tennis success to his uncle Toni.
Uncle Toni started playing tennis when he was fourteen, but went onto become a tennis coach. He has become the most famous uncle in the tennis fraternity, although his love was described as hard. It is said that the young Rafa would leave his practice sessions crying. His Uncle was convinced would make him a better player. Toni would not tolerate irate children throwing their tennis racket. He said it was disrespectful towards other children who could not afford the same equipment.
My top tips for new dads #3. Your kids don’t need the latest and most expensive equipment to succeed. Uncle Toni made Rafa train with an old racket and old balls, to show the young rafa that it was not the equipment that would decide if you win or lose a game.
Andy and Jamie Murray
How proud would you be if your two sons were world number ones in double and singles at the same time? Stand up Judy Murray. I believe Judy Murray is a role model for parents.
Judy Murray was often perceived as hard and steely, some go so far as saying she was a bad influence. She had a horrid time in the English press. So often in parenthood, we find ourselves in a constant battle to stay afloat. When your two children are respective champions of the world it might be easy to think she has had it easy. However, her two sons were at school during the terrible Dunblane School Massacre. She did not come from money, she scrimped and saved to send her children to tennis academies in Spain and France.
My top tips for new dads #4:Reward your children for their hard work: Judy Murray recalls the day Andy Murray won Wimbledon. He was on the way to the famous Champion’s ball, when his taxi took a detour. Judy was in the car behind and her driver was a little perplexed where they were going. It turned out Andy was going to McDonalds. Throughout his training, Andy was on a strict diet and training regime. When he won a tournament, his mum rewarded his hard work with McDonalds. The day he won Wimbledon was no different. Don’t forget to reward the hard work!
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is in now her mid 70’s. In her tennis career, she won 39 grand slams and has become an unrelenting advocate of women’s rights, however she very nearly did not play tennis at all. Her parents refused to buy her a tennis racket, even though she was showing interest and clearly had an eye for a ball. Her parent’s rationale was that they had just bought a new piano and they certainly weren’t going to splash out on a new tennis racket as well. They made Billie Jean save up $11 to buy her first racket.
My top tips for new dads #5: Although there is a morale in saving up for your first racket, Billie Jean King will be remembered for her hard work off the court campaigning for women’s rights. She will be remembered for her work on equality and so if there is a message for dads, it is don’t tell your daughter she is worth less than the boys.
In 1972, Billie Jean King won the US Open but protested when her prize money was $15,000 less than the men’s winner, Ilie Nastaste. Her protests were an influential reason why the US Open was the first grand slam to equal the pay for men and women.
Nick is a blogger for The Dad Nets and is also the maker of soft toys for babies, all of which are sports themed. His baby tennis racket for babies aged 0-2 has won several parenting awards.