The dominance of tennis dads - ESPN

Mark Hodgkinson, Tennis writer

CloseoRegular contributor to ESPN's tennis coverage

oHas previously worked for the Daily Telegraph

oAuthor of a number of tennis books

Serena Williams won't be the only player who will have a calendar-year Grand Slam on the line in New York this summer. Collectively, a group of men will be attempting at the US Open to complete an unprecedented feat: The Daddy Slam.

All three of the men's singles champions at the majors this year -- Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros and Djokovic at Wimbledon -- are fathers. Just to illustrate this golden generation is also a generation of breeders, the past two Grand Slam finals have been all-fathers contests, with Djokovic the runner-up in Paris and Roger Federer appearing on the second Sunday in London. The only man to have played in a Grand Slam final this year who isn't a father is the runner-up at the Australian Open, Andy Murray.

Such is the dominance of the dads. At Wimbledon, Djokovic joked that he advised other players to start a family if they wanted to keep up their tennis game, a quip that is almost starting to look like serious advice.

Novak Djokovic has thrived on the tennis court since becoming a father. Julian Finney/Getty Images

This isn't the first time fathers have won Grand Slams, with Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi among the small group of men to have been a Grand Slam champion as a dad. But never before has there been so many Grand Slam-winning fathers all on the scene at the same time, and certainly not putting together a run of titles, as the dads of 2015 have done.

There was a time when some players -- Ivan Lendl among them -- openly wondered whether it was even possible to be a father and a champion tennis player. That wondering has now stopped. Fatherhood certainly hasn't impeded this group. Both of Wawrinka's majors have come after becoming a father, while two of Federer's 17 majors -- the 2010 Australian Open and the 2012 Wimbledon Championships -- were won after the first set of twins was born in the summer of 2009 (the second set arrived last year). Djokovic now has a couple of majors as a father.

One factor behind this could be that the trend in tennis now is for players to have success when they are older, and therefore at a stage in their lives when it is more likely they have become fathers. But this is hugely individual. Who can predict how fatherhood can change the aspirations and demands in the itinerant world of professional tennis players?

Last year, Pete Sampras, who won all 14 of his Grand Slams before his children were born, told ESPN Djokovic would first need to "settle into fatherhood" before he could become truly competitive again. The reality is Djokovic has hardly lost a match since his son, Stefan, was born. This year, Djokovic has http://texastennisopen.com lost just three matches, and all three of those have come against tennis fathers, with losses to Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinal of a tournament in Doha, Federer in the Dubai final and Wawrinka in the French final.

Fatherhood hasn't taken anything away from Djokovic's tennis.

"Life has changed and has changed for the better," Djokovic told ESPN.com. "But my career, and my professional approach has stayed as it was before I became a father. Thankfully, I have a wife who supports me and understands me, and I have people around me who live the dream with me, who sacrifice a lot for me to be where I am, and I'm grateful for that. We're a great team."

Before becoming a father, Djokovic sought the advice of Federer, who travels the world with his family (and who has earned Sampras' admiration for the way he has done that and remained so focused). And Djokovic has no doubt also spoken to his coach, Boris Becker, who won one of his six majors as a father. Djokovic's wife and child typically accompany the world No. 1 at the biggest events.

Being a parent of a young child can be exhausting. For Djokovic, though, it appears to be quite the opposite, saying fatherhood gives him energy.

"Knowing that you're giving your love and your time to your baby, your child, that gives you a freshness in the mind. Being a father actually gives me more energy than it takes away."

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