Mother’s Way: Five moms who produced great net results
On some level, most professional athletes have Mom to thank for their success. But in few sports is the contribution as direct as it is in tennis, where several matriarchs have coached their offspring to glory. In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, May 8, here are the most impressive combinations.
Often referred to as one of the most famous sports mothers of all time, Gloria Connors—who herself competed in the United States National Tennis Championships in 1942 and 1943—began coaching her oldest son Jimmy in 1954 when he was two years old. She remained his primary coach for much of his 21-year career, often with her mother Bertha Thompson by her side, whom Jimmy called Two Mom. With Gloria, Jimmy won 130 titles, including eight Grand Slam singles crowns, and held the No. 1 ranking for 160 consecutive weeks from July 29, 1974 to August 22, 1977. Of his mother’s death in 2007 at age 82, Jimmy said, “All my life she taught me, she made me a world champion.”
Venus and Serena Williams
Although Richard Williams often overshadowed her role as coach, Oracene Price's teaching and mentorship of daughters Venus and Serena has been invaluable. Like Richard, Price first learned to play tennis as an adult, to help teach her daughters the technical aspects of the game. She also travels with them on the road for the majority of their tournaments for guidance and moral support. The result? No. 1 rankings for both sisters (Serena has been the WTA’s top player since Feb. 18, 2013, her sixth time in that spot; Venus was No. 1 three times) plus 118 WTA singles titles (Serena 69, Venus 49), 28 Grand Slam singles titles (Serena 21, Venus 7), eight Olympic gold medals (one each in singles and three each in doubles) and a partridge and a pear tree.
Molitor, a former player from the Czech Republic, also began coaching her daughter Martina Hingis—named after national Czech hero and 18-time Grand Slam singles champ Martina Navratilova—at age two. While under Molitor’s tutelage, Hingis became the youngest No. 1 player in tennis history at 16 years and five months and won five Grand Slam singles titles and nine major double titles. Hingis retired in 2003, but returned to the court in ’07, winning seven more Grand Slam doubles titles. She is currently ranked No. 1 in women’s doubles.
Andy and Jamie
The winner of 64 Scottish tennis titles as a young adult, Judy Murray began coaching full-time at age 35, working with her sons Andy and Jamie until each were in their early teens. Andy, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, would go on to win gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games and that year’s U.S. Open men’s title. In 2013, he became the first British man to win the Men's singles championship at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. For his part, Jamie won the 2016 Australian Open Men’s Double title with partner Bruno Soares and is currently the No. 2 doubles player in the world.
Marat Safin and Dinara Safina
A former No. 5 player in Russia, Rauza Islanova laid the foundation for her son Marat and daughter Dinara to become the first and only brother-sister tandem in tennis history to achieve No. 1 rankings. Islanova coached Marat in their native Moscow until he was 14, before the family moved to Valencia, Spain, to train on clay. After turning pro in 1997, Marat held the world’s top spot for nine weeks in 2000 and won that year’s U.S. Open men’s title with a straight sets victory over Pete Sampras. Marat later won the 2005 Australian Open. Sister Dinara was coached by her mother until 2003 when she was 17, and six years later claimed the No. 1 ranking, holding it for 22 consecutive weeks.