Psychological, physical abuse and economic scam: the story of dictatorial parents in tennis

(Shuttersttock)
(Shuttersttock)

After the mid-1990s, Guillermo Vilas stopped training a little Argentine girl who promised a great future in the world of tennis, but who, due to her father's almost unhealthy interference, ended the relationship with the greatest Argentine exponent in this sport.. "The tennis players would have to be orphans", the Great Willy left his comment in the whirlwind that formed his spoon, while he stirred his cup of almost cold coffee. Eight years later, I saw that little girl again, already coming out of adolescence, who had come from Spain to compete in a tennis tournament. Former world champion in minor categories, she now carried with her an overweight physique and a frustrated racket player.

Unlike mathematics, the development of an athlete is not an exact science and, most of the time, the sum of the pressures and the bonds with his parents is not usually a good formula.

These harmful relationships are everywhere, they do not recognize nationalities and, therefore, they cross borders. They have no limits. There are them, and many, but some stand out for the physical, psychic, verbal and economic excesses.

Locally, in Argentina there were some cases of parents who beat their children for losing a game in junior categories or who fought with their children's rivals.

Natalia Garbelotto was one of those daughters. In 1999, when she was just 15 years old and after having lost the final of a COSAT tournament to Sabrina Eisenberg, her father Juan Angel Garbelotto was seen by a journalist when he was slapped, which is why he later did not go looking for the finalist award. Later, Juan Angel would tell Clarion that her daughter did not go to the awards ceremony "For a discussion I had with her. It was the easiest game he had because he always beat that girl without complications. Then she began to cry and since her eyes were very red she did not want to go. She is not used to receiving second places ”.

However, The best known and most important story is that of the Pérez Roldán family, a family that emerged from lack, with a father, Raúl, who grew up in the bosom of a family of police officers and who perhaps lies there in the authoritarian rigidity with which he not only raised his children, but with which he carried out a tennis school that established roots and He gave as many successful tennis players as his sons, Franco Davín, Patricia Tarabini, Mariano Zabaleta, Máximo González, Diego Junqueira, Juan Mónaco and even Juan Martín del Potro.

"My dad created a method in which he gradually added things up as the tennis potential of each boy grew.", bill Mariana Pérez Roldán, his daughter, who became one of the best 40 in the world, "But he did it in a very rigid way," he continues. And so many people did not like it. I never agreed with his ‘methods’ and I am one of the few people who confronted him. ”

-Did your dad do violence to you when you were kids?

-I don't know whether to say violence, it was the old way. A glance of my grandparents is not a glance of the grandparents of now. The times changed, so I don't know whether to call it violence, but there was an excess of respect. Also, having a father who is your coach makes you come to your house and, if things did not go well, continue the topic and continue talking about tennis.

Guillermo Pérez Roldán was the one who suffered the most from his relationship with his father and teacher, with injuries that persist despite the passing of the years. (@perezroldantenis)
Guillermo Pérez Roldán was the one who suffered the most from his relationship with his father and teacher, with injuries that persist despite the passing of the years. (@perezroldantenis)

Guillermo had taken the brunt of it all the time, fist bumps, dives, ribbons and even unprepossessing walks for the figure of a father in front of a son. But he was able to continue playing until well into the 90s. Instead, Mariana's career ended abruptly due to a knee injury, for which her father was also responsible, at least, of not having taken care of it or advised correctly.

“My best moment was when I got injured. He was 39 in the world and played the semifinal in Geneva, with Lori McNeil, two days after Roland Garros began. It came from beating Mary Jo Fernández and I had a chance to get into the top 20 in the world, but it came with a discomfort in my knee. Everyone told me that maybe it was exhaustion and nobody gave it importance. I gave up during the semifinal to have a few days off before playing in Paris, but I had to infiltrate in order to do it. During that first round, in the change of sides I used ice and that helped me. It was an accessible game, I had won the first set and that encouraged me, until in the 4-4 of the second I went to look for a ball forward and I felt that my knee came off. I ended up playing on one leg, without a ball and shooting to the end, and so I won. I was not forced to do it, I was unable to run but I put self-love, will and a lot of claw. But all that later ended up playing against me. It turned out to be the same injury that Del Potro had in Shanghai, the same fracture, although mine was with a kneecap displacement. My dad encouraged me to end the game, but no, it was not an obligation ", confessed Mariana, from the desk of her beauty center in Tandil.

Her father ended up carrying her in his arms to the locker room, where she received medical attention, because she could no longer support her leg. He had played his last game at the French Open.

However, the exercise of the abuse of authority and mistreatment of Raúl Pérez Roldán over his children was not limited only to the physical or psychological, it was also extended over the economic gains generated by each victory on the circuit. “I never got into the financial part, my mother (Liliana Sagarzazu) and my father always handled this issue and we did not have access to our own accounts. My old man also made contracts. We signed a power of attorney for him and he wouldn't let us get in any more. That's how he kept everything we had generated ”, commented the former tennis player about the behavior of her father. "Everything went into a funnel," he continues, "and came out in one place. But we never saw it ”, in reference to a sum close to the 4 million dollars that Raúl would have squandered and that came from the resources generated by his children, mostly by Guillermo.

– Did your dad bet on the horses?

– Yes (he reaffirms with his slight movement of the head)

– Was that a bottom of the funnel?

– AHA!

Was he wrong? Yes, he was wrong. And within your mistake we were all in the same bag? Yes. And that we had to pay dearly, but dearly, literally? Yes! And we, our children and grandchildren, pay for it. And with how well it went ”, he regrets, but acknowledges that he did what he could: “I never, absolutely never agreed with his ways and, in fact, I consider that I was the only one who faced him every time I considered it appropriate, and as best I could. I don't know if they were the best ways, but at the time, when I had to face him, I faced him and when I had to leave his side, I left. I was 14 years without seeing it ”.

Mariana's gaze, today, goes through the filter of a more contemplative daughter with the past. His father Raúl's illness has contributed to this approach. “I don't know whether to use words like forgive or forget, I don't know if they are inside. Now that the waters have passed under the bridge, one learns to say that the family is not chosen, you have it, and you learn to live together, to say things differently. Besides, whenever these health problems appear to her, as a daughter, certain things are chewed and swallowed by our blood relationship, because my mother is by her side and my children, who are grandchildren. So today, there is respect from both sides. Respect and not much more ”.

Emanoul Aghassian and his son Andre

This Iranian was not only the father, but also the trainer and head coach of Andre Agassi, one of the most charismatic N ° 1 in the history of modern tennis. However, the champion's beginnings were not the happiest next to his father. Mike, as he was known, always spoke of his three oldest children (Rita, Phillip and Tami) as the "guinea pigs" who made possible the development of tennis for the youngest of the family and on whom he was putting together the methods he used to train. Andre, who made the "Dragon" machine. It was a high repetition ball launcher, so that the little one could practice. “Many criticized my methods and my invention. One day I paid a guy to take it away. If I had known that it was going to become the symbol of evil, I would have kept it in a museum ”, he commented.

Andre Agassi, after succeeding in Australia in 2003. His dictatorial father used all kinds
Andre Agassi, after succeeding in Australia in 2003. His dictatorial father used all kinds of "treatment" to discipline his son.

Strong and dictatorial in nature, he only obtained satisfaction with achieving the stated objective, regardless, many times, of the way he achieved it. As Andre recorded in his autobiography Open, when his brother Philly warned him not to take the pills his father would give him the next day, because they were methamphetamines, which would violate anti-doping regulations, by consuming stimulants for his nervous system and to increase physical endurance.

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– Andre, you have to listen well to what I'm saying. It is a very important. Don't let Dad give you pills. Don't take them.

– What are those pills?

– A drug. It gives you a lot of energy.

Years later, in a note published in La Repubblica, Mike recognized his authoritarianism: "Let's be direct. Have I been a tyrant? Yes. Have I been harsh and severe? Yes. But better a father next to an athlete son than a coach … A father loves his son, a coach does it for money. That is the difference. But always in the son's eyes the coach knows more than the father ”.

In that same interview, the father of who would be a multiple winner of Grand Slam tournaments recalled that he went to look for his son at the Nick Bollettieri Academy and did not like what he witnessed there: "Where did my son start his alcoholism and do strange things? Dyed hair, eye makeup, nail polish … There. "

His character was so aggressive that on a couple of occasions he unleashed a hammer in the middle of Andre's tennis match. "He did it because he was unhappy about Andre's game. I hit the fence with a hammer and yelled at the referees. "he recognized.

Strongly, Mike had many questionable actions, such as when his son lost a final in Junior category with Jim Courier and threw the trophy for second place into the river, or when instead of congratulating him he reproached him for having lost the fourth set against Ivanisevic, after obtaining the Wimbledon title against the Croatian. Or the occasion when he almost got into the hands of Peter Graf, father of his wife Steffi, while they discussed which of the two champion sons had better blows.

"I will be a monster, but I do not regret it. I say what I think"he said more than once. “Behind every great champion there is always someone in the family who has pursued an obsession. I only regret having chosen tennis, today I would have chosen golf, because it allows you to play until you are older and earn more money ”He continued commenting, to close saying: "If I'm a monster, I've done well".

While Andre's thought contrasted with that of his father: "My dad sold me as number one, and when you get there you have nowhere to turn, he was the most unhappy number one in the world."

Bobby Glenn Pearce, the first undesirable

The father of the French tennis player Mary Pierce, born in Canada, thickened a leafy medical record before being expelled from Roland Garros, in 1993, after starring in a scandal on court No. 11, in which her daughter of just 18 years played in front of Kimberly Po.

Nick Bollettieri with Mary Pierce in 1994 in Paris. The year before, father Jim was expelled from the stadium for his bad behavior and the tennis player broke off relations with his father.
Nick Bollettieri with Mary Pierce in 1994 in Paris. The year before, father Jim was expelled from the stadium for his bad behavior and the tennis player broke off relations with his father.

Perhaps, the behavior that he developed in tennis has to be found in the strays of his youth. Jim Pierce, as the name he would later adopt, sought refuge and a livelihood by entering the Marines of his country, the United States, after leaving school and having overcome a brief stage of crime. But it only lasted a year and a half in the forces and returned to the streets. Some time later, in New York, the shot of a policeman hit his back, after having carried out an assault and ended up in prison. He regained his freedom in 1964 and 10 years later he ended up fleeing to Montreal, Canada, where he married Yannick Adjadj and in the city that, a year later, Mary would be born. One fact that cannot be overlooked is that, part of his imprisonment had been spent in a psychiatric prison room.

But that afternoon at Roland Garros was the culmination of a history of abuse within the world of tennis. First they pulled him out of the stands while listening to him shout: "I just yelled at him to hit the ball harder". Later, WTA supervisor Georgina Clarke had tournament security members take him to one of the exits, retain his accreditation, and expel him from the venue, with a warning that he would not be allowed to enter any more.

With each step her father took to the street, Mary took another step toward victory, having lost the opening set.

Days later, the player broke ties with her father and her mother divorced Jim. From there, the family began to suffer the harassment and harassment of an abusive persecutor.

Mary must have hired and rotated bodyguards; He got used to registering in hotels under false identities and presented restraining orders, to protect himself from his father, who was chasing them around the different countries and cities where the tennis player had to appear to play a tournament.

At the Corsica airport, his mother Yannick had to go to the police to retrieve the passports that Jim had taken from a bag to prevent them from traveling. In Latina, Italy, Jim entered the hotel where his family was staying and attacked Michel, Mary's bodyguard, outside the room with a knife. Behind the door, the player was hidden locked in the bathroom of her room. That fight, in which his father ended with some cuts, caused Jim to return to Delray Beach and leave them alone for a time.

From that moment on, the tennis player felt a little more relieved and was able to tell about her abuse, which had already led to the expulsion of the Harry Hopman Tennis Academy in Florida years before. During a Juniors game against Magdalena Maleeva, Jim had yelled at his daughter, "Kill the bitch!", To which Mary responded by throwing the racket at her father.

“He was slapping me for losing a game or bad training. But I couldn't tell my mother, because that also caused fights. "Mary Pierce recalled. "So that makes you afraid to speak, to say something.".

In 1996, Jim sued his daughter for breach of contract, claiming he had been promised 25% of the earnings. She rated him as Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Ivica John Tomic, Taxi Driver

"If they give him all the facilities, my son will give them between 10 and 15 Grand Slams titles", Bernard Tomic's father threw to the members of Tennis Australia, in 2007. At just 15 years old, the path of little Bernard was beginning to be marked.

Tomic and his face of defeat against Nadal in an Australian Open. Bernard's father had stopped being a taxi driver to train his son.
Tomic and his face of defeat against Nadal in an Australian Open. Bernard's father had stopped being a taxi driver to train his son.

Ivica John Tomic had left the taxi driver seat to devote herself to training the family jewel and new Australian tennis star, but she did nothing but cause one problem after another for her son.

A year later, the Australian was playing in Perth against Marinko Matosevic and Dad Tomic was yelling at his son to withdraw from the court because the judges of that future did not charge the foot-faults that his rival committed. Tomic was suspended for a month by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). To decompress, John went out to threaten the Australian federation that his son would stop representing Australia and would represent Croatia, if he was not given due attention.

At the Miami Masters 1000, Bernard Tomic went to sit in his chair on a break, faced the umpire and said: “I am sick of having to listen to him, he is my father but he is unbearable. How can I make it go away? Can you kick him out?"The head movement of the judge indicating the refusal left everyone in their place, John in the audience and Bernard in the field. The fisherman of history became David Ferrer who, with a stirring river, took the victory in sets corridos.

A few months later, during a practice in Marseille, in 2012, one of the many moments of shouting between father and son occurred, when Bernard wanted to train and called his sparring Marcel Drouet, while John demanded that the Frenchman not enter to rally with your son.

Just a year later, during the Masters 1000 in Madrid, at the door of the hotel where they were staying, on the Paseo de la Castellana in the Spanish capital, an argument with that same sparring was rising in tone and ended with Drouet's nose fractured, product of the precise head butt that the former Bosnian taxi driver had made to him. John was detained by the Police and charged with injuries. These incidents on public roads led the ATP to issue a statement and deny Dad Tomic accreditation in all tournaments on his circuit. In September 2013, John was sentenced to 8 months in prison and paid $ 435,000..

In order not to clash, the player's behavior was accompanying the tortuous relationship with his father, which led to suspensions, accreditation withdrawals, mixed him in women's parties, alcohol and, even, drugs

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