Former World No. 3 and 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pam Shriver opened up Wednesday about the “inappropriate and damaging relationship” she had with her 50-year-old coach at the age of 17.
In a first-person account for the Daily Telegraph, Shriver — now 59 years old and a prominent tennis broadcaster — details how she first worked with Australian coach Don Candy at the age of nine. She quickly rose to the top of the sport, making the final of the U.S. Open as a 16-year-old.
At 17, Shriver says she confessed to Candy that she was falling in love with him, and they went on to have an affair.
“I still have conflicted feelings about Don,” Shriver writes. “Yes, he and I became involved in a long and inappropriate affair. Yes, he was cheating on his wife. But there was a lot about him that was honest and authentic. And I loved him. Even so, he was the grown-up here. He should have been the trustworthy adult. In a different world, he would have found a way to keep things professional.
“Only after therapy did I start to feel a little less responsible. Now, at last, I’ve come to realize that what happened is on him.”
While Shriver says that Candy did not sexually abuse her, she also says the relationship prevented her from forming normal relationships and, at times, he was emotionally abusive.
“What made it worse was that I had nobody to talk to,” Shriver writes. “I didn’t feel I could tell my parents. Nobody in the locker room knew — or, at least, I didn’t think they did. But gradually, over time, it became an open secret on the tour.
“You might ask why nobody reached out to help me. At that time, though, there were a lot of other blurred relationships on the tour. Love affairs between players and coaches had become normalized.”
Shriver adds that she believes her story is not unique in tennis, calling it a “widespread problem.”
“I believe abusive coaching relationships are alarmingly common in sport as a whole,” she writes. “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.”
Last year, the NWSL dealt with widespread abuse accusations, in which multiple coaches were fired amid the allegations and the NWSL’s front office was criticized by players for a lack of transparency under former commissioner Lisa Baird. New NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman, hired as commissioner in early March and officially assuming her new role Wednesday, has talked about earning the players’ trust in the wake of the scandals.
Prior to last summer’s Olympics, Australian swimmer and Olympic medalist Maddie Groves made headlines for withdrawing. As a minor, she said she was sexually abused multiple times over a five-year period by a man who still works in swimming.
Shriver finished her first-person account by calling on the International Tennis Federation, who organizes junior events, to address the problem.
“Everyone must come together — the WTA, the ATP and the four grand slams — to improve tennis’ safeguarding practices,” she writes.