Former US tennis star Pam Shriver has opened up on what she believes was an “inappropriate and damaging relationship” with her Australian coach Don Candy which began when she was 17.
In a newspaper column in Britain’s Daily Telegraph published on Wednesday, the 22-time grand slam doubles champion said she started working with Candy, a former French Open doubles champion himself, at the age of nine and he helped her reach the US Open final in 1978 as a 16-year-old.
Shriver said the pair began an affair, which lasted just over five years, when she told the 50-year-old Candy she had fallen in love with him.
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“I still have conflicted feelings about Don,” Shriver said, referring to the former Australian Open quarter-finalist who died in 2020.
“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… Only after therapy did I start to feel a little less responsible. Now, at last, I’ve come to realise that what happened is on him.”
Shriver added that the relationship with Candy impacted her time on court as well as the ability to form normal relationships later in life.
She said the affair ended when she started looking for a new coach, although she kept Candy on as a consultant, and described the following four seasons as the best of her career.
“Don never abused me sexually, but I would say there was emotional abuse. I felt so many horrendous emotions and I felt so alone,” Shriver said.
The 59-year-old, who has been working as a broadcaster since retiring from tennis in 1997, said she has seen “dozens of instances” of abusive coaching relationships in tennis in the last four decades.
“I think it’s possible to educate young athletes, but you probably have to start before they even reach puberty,” Shriver said.
“By the time they graduate to the main tennis tour, many patterns have already been set.
“And then there’s the coaches. The best way to protect their charges is to put them through an education process before they arrive on tour.
“The point has to be made very clearly: these kinds of relationships are not appropriate, and there will be consequences for those who cross the line.”