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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Ian Raducanu is not a gruesome tennis dad just because he dares to challenge coaches

When Marinko Lucic, the father of the tennis player Mirjana, was obliged to defend himself against accusations that he had physically assaulted his daughter, his explanation was, to say the least, original. 

“I never used excessive force and if I did give her the occasional slap it was because of her behaviour,” he said. 

So that’s OK then. Meanwhile Damir Dokic, father of Jelena, became renowned on the circuit for outbursts which redefined the term volatile. Like the time he was asked to leave the US Open after getting aggressive with the catering staff about the price of the poached salmon. As for Jim Pierce, we were gifted a sizable clue into his relationship with his daughter Mary after she took out a restraining order against him. 

There is something in the power dynamics of producing a top female tennis player, the combination of applied discipline and cold-eyed focus, that brings out the worst in fathers. Interestingly, there are few known incidents of tennis mothers physically terrorising their sons. Jamie and Andy Murray, for instance, have never given the impression of living in fear of their mum Judy. But even if the dads aren’t using violence to cajole, tennis history is littered with those who, in the guise of steering their offspring’s career, have taken the opportunity to feather their own nest. Like Peter Graf who was given a three year prison sentence for tax evasion that involved improper accounting on some £5.4million of Steffi’s career earnings.

Which brings us to Ian Raducanu, Emma’s old man. Ian certainly does not belong in that rogues’ gallery of overbearing tennis dads, but there is a growing constituency who are wondering if his influence on his daughter’s burgeoning career is entirely helpful, especially in light of her early exit from Indian Wells last weekend. 

Emma’s habit of going through more coaches than Watford FC – the latest being Andrew Richardson, who was fired within days of guiding her to her US Open win – is understood to be largely down to Ian, a man who has described himself as “tough to please”. And in the enclosed world of professional tennis, they know what that means. 

Except in Ian’s case, there is none of the courtside shenanigans that generally identify the overbearing tennis dad. He appeared very calm when his daughter got to the Wimbledon quarter-final and, because of covid travel restrictions, wasn’t even there when she won at US Open. Actually, compared to many of those stalking the baseline even at club matches, he looks the model, supportive parent. 

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