***Alex Shulaev is the father of Ekaterina Shulaeva, a Canadian professional tennis player on the ITF and WTA Tour. He has seen the journey from sponge balls to Center Court at Rogers Cup. ONcourt thought it would be interesting to get a parents’ point of view of the successes, setbacks and experiences of becoming a pro tennis player. Alex has much experience with professional sport, as he played soccer for his country in native Russia. Be sure to read the interview with Natalia Shulaeva, Ekaterina’s mother, to get her insight as well.***
ONcourt: What are some of the reasons why you decided to put your child into tennis?
AS: I saw talent in my daughter that I thought I could help her develop and I felt tennis was the right fit. All 3 of our kids were athletic, Natasha, our eldest, swam, Alex, our middle one, played soccer and we put Katia into tennis.
ONcourt: What did you hope your child to gain by playing the sport?
AS: Nothing was planned, we as the parents just wanted Katia to reach her potential and to give her the chance to explore what that may be. Many parents dive deep into a dream for their child to be world number one, and mix up their priorities. The child needed a chance to grow and if she had the desire to be great, then she would try to do it.
ONcourt: What surprised you the most about the sport, in a positive way?
AS: I am very surprised that I took a personal interest in tennis and took it up myself! I took up a newfound appreciation for the sport when I realized how difficult it is to play and master.
ONcourt: What surprised you most about the sport, in a negative way?
AS: To be honest, the crazy parents of tennis, especially in the very young stages of Under 10, Under 12 and Under 14. Also, I was surprised how many injuries there are at the professional level of sport and how much they can limit potential. A player can be a star and have their career cut short because they are always getting hurt. All the cards in the deck have to be there to have a champion.
ONcourt: Is there anything you would do differently if you could do it all over again?
AS: I would change the contract with Pierre Lamarche and Katia. I would not have agreed to the compound interest clause. (He is kidding, of course) I would have given Pierre a higher percentage of earning.
ONcourt: Do you have any advice for current or future parents of tennis?
AS: Patience and belief in your child. Absolute support in them.
My advice would be to have patience in the development of your child and to believe in them 100%. If you support them, they will feel this and it will be a great asset.
ONcourt: Due to tennis, what are you most thankful for?
AS: I am most thankful for getting to meet Pierre Lamarche, who is an influence on everyone in my family. He is a friend of mine and that is what tennis is about: the people. You can meet such positive, big-hearted people who leave such a footprint in your life. Also, tennis gave Katia so many experiences to help her form. Some were positive, some were negative, but those are the ones that teach you about life.
ONcourt: How did you handle disappointments, losses and setbacks?
AS: I have one very strong principle of life that I stand on and that is that all hard work pays off. I believe all energy spent is energy that will be given back to you, in one form or another. This priniciple helped me in my own career and try to apply teach this to my own family.