Pam Shriver wants to prevent young tennis players from going through what she did.
Last year, Shriver revealed that she had a “damaging” intimate relationship with her former coach, Don Candy, who died in 2020. The relationship allegedly began when she was 17 and he was 50.
Now, Shriver — who won eight majors in singles competition between 1978 and 1988 — is a coach for Croatian player Donna Vekic, and is speaking out against the “acceptance” of players in relationships with their coaches.
“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,” Shriver told the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian outlet. “There has been such an acceptance that this happens. That has to switch to ‘no, it can’t happen.’”
There are multiple instances of current women players in relationships with their coaches. In 2022, Petra Kvitova announced her engagement to coach Jiri Vanek. He is 12 years her senior but started coaching her when she was an adult. Veronika Kudermetova is married to coach Sergei Demekhine; he started coaching her when he was nearly 30 and she was 15.
The WTA, which last month created the position of director of safeguarding and appointed attorney Lindsay Brandon to the job, issued a statement in response to Shriver’s comments.
“The WTA is dedicated to ensuring a safe environment throughout the tour,” a spokeswoman said. “Safeguarding requires vigilance, and we are continuing to invest in education, training and resources to improve our efforts.”
There has not been an indication the WTA intends to make stricter bylaws governing sexual relationships between players and coaches.
Shriver called on the four majors — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open — to take a leadership role.
“I would like to see the four majors, which together have 12 important weeks of the calendar, to step up and be better leaders on this thing,” she said. “I think there are some real opportunities to make inroads.”
Last year, Shriver explained the “conflicted feelings” she had about her relationship with her former coach.
“I still have conflicted feelings about Don. 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,” she said. “Even so, he was the grown-up here. He should have been the trustworthy adult.”