Hall of Fame tennis player Pam Shriver said Wednesday that she had an “inappropriate and damaging” relationship with her coach when she was 17 and he was 50.
Shriver, 59, in an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and a first-person story and podcast with The Telegraph, said she decided to talk about her relationship with coach Don Candy because “this still goes on — a lot.”
Shriver said her relationship with Candy, who died in 2020, lasted just over five years.
“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,” Shriver said, according to ESPN. “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.”
Shriver turned pro in 1979, a year after she made it to the U.S. Open singles final as a 16-year-old. She defeated Martina Navratilova in the semifinals before losing the title match to Chris Evert, according to ESPN.
Shriver began competing on the WTA circuit in 1978 when she was 15, Sports Illustrated reported. Candy was her coach and chaperone. Shriver said her relationship with Candy became inappropriate about two years into her career but did not become sexual until she was 20, the magazine reported.
“I believe abusive coaching relationships are alarmingly common in sport as a whole,” Shriver wrote in The Telegraph. “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.”
Shriver won 21 singles titles on the WTA Tour and added 21 Grand Slam doubles titles between 1981 and 1991, mostly with Navratilova as her partner, ESPN reported.
She said she told her father about the relationship but did not tell her mother, who died in August 2021.
“I felt a lot of shame and guilt,” Shriver told ESPN. “I felt also a lot of anger, jealousy when his wife would come to tournaments. Um, so it was just basically, at times really miserable.
The WTA on Wednesday issued a statement, saying the tour “is dedicated to ensuring a safe environment” and that “safeguarding requires vigilance, and we are continuing to invest in education, training and resources to improve our efforts.”
“The health and safety of all WTA Tour stakeholders — including the players — is our priority, and our commitment to safeguarding remains resolute,” the statement said.
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