While Serena Williams credits her father Richard for giving her “everything”, the world No.1’s French Open semi-final opponent is playing tennis in spite of her’s.
Timea Bacsinszky tells a tale of triumph over adversity, the one-time victim of an abusive and demanding coach-father now revelling in his absence and eyeing a shock place in a grand slam final in Paris.
And all this two years after she almost quit the game to work fulltime in the Swiss mountains.
Disillusioned, Bacsinszky accepted an apprenticeship as a hotel manager in Villars-sur-Ollon.
“I don’t know if it really helps me for my forehand or for my backhand,” Bacsinszky said after beating unseeded Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4 7-5 in her maiden grand slam quarter-final on Wednesday.
“But it gives you a lot of humility because there are many people in this world working in restaurants, hotels, in the kitchen, who are like making our beds in hotels as well.
“Maybe when you’re a tennis player and you have everything around you, which is already given to you and you’re kind of assisted, then you don’t see all the people who are working for you.
“There are many, many players who don’t realise maybe how lucky they are also to have enough money to go to a restaurant.
“I learned to be maybe on the other side. My colleagues didn’t know actually I was playing tennis.”
Bacsinszky’s real-life perspective ensures the Swiss battler gets “less angry” with ball boys, umpires and locker-room attendants and she’s even delivered French cheese to the physios during her memorable run at Roland Garros.
“They are human beings,” she said.
“Just giving one time one present or saying thank you is not killing anyone.
“That’s also something I took from when I was working.”
The first Swiss woman since Martina Hingis in 2001 to reach the semi-finals in Paris, Bacsinszky’s exile from the sport in 2013 came after she almost stopped playing years before her pro career even began.
Now ranked 24th, she revealed after a 15-match winning streak earlier this year a much darker past than cleaning hotel bedrooms.
“I have been a kid of like a syndrome of pushy parents,” Bacsinszky said in Indian Wells.
“It’s happening a lot, especially in tennis, because especially in women’s tennis, because for sure, as a woman, as a young girl, you can never go against the power of the dad. You have no money or nothing.
“Actually, you have no chance to get out of it. Or you tank your tennis career and you lose matches.”
Bacsinszky said things were so bad with her dad that she demanded that her mother, Suzanne, divorce him, or she would set out on her own.
Her mother eventually agreed.
“I always loved the competition and on the tennis court I knew that no one had the power of me because I was my own boss actually,” Bacsinszky said.
“Like when I was playing a match, even if my dad told me, `OK, play (crosscourt)’, I would say, `Well, I’m going to do down the line.’
“I had to manage to win the match because otherwise it would not be okay.
“So I was quite sneaky actually because I was loving – I mean loving – that at this moment no one could control me.
“But at the same time I had to move my butt to win the match because otherwise I would be in trouble.
“I had to win matches because otherwise my parents would fight.”