- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

The grease pen is sheathed. Indian airspace remains open. And as far as we know, the deal to purchase Rockefeller Center was scrapped in favor of something more lucrative. Like, say, his proposed Homegirls.com.
Yet even in absentia, Richard Williams provides the most ridiculously sublime quotes in tennis.
Asked at Wimbledon how her father would react if he caught up with the German stalker of her sister Serena, Venus Williams rolled her eyes, then offered a telling reply.
"Probably take him to lunch," she said, only half joking.
Forget Jesus. What Would Richard Do? And would it involve a Caesar salad? Regrettably, there's no way of knowing at least not so long as Williams, who hasn't attended a Grand Slam tournament in a year, continues his self-or-otherwise-imposed exile from the spotlight.
Which, of course, is the real tragedy here.
Indeed, Richard's untimely disappearance speaks to a larger crisis, one that threatens to undermine the very fabric of professional tennis as we know it: namely, a decided and disturbing lack of insufferable tennis dads those overbearing, overexposed, loudmouthed and just plain obnoxious jerks who also happen to be the most entertaining and important cretins in the sport.
In other words, where have you gone, Daddy Strangelove?
Or to state the matter another way: We can only chuckle at Oracene Williams' gargantuan, Carrot Top-and-Foxy Cleopatra-shaming orange 'fro for so long.
The situation wasn't always so dire. Rather, the last decade or so was something of a golden age for transcendently loathsome tennis fathers, a bull market in which the repulsive stock of titanic churls like Jim Pierce, Peter Graf and Damir Dokic soared to unprecedented heights.
The appallingly abusive Pierce, it should be noted, was once slapped with a restraining order by his daughter, Mary, and later banned from the WTA tour. In 1993, he was even thrown out of the French Open, an impressive accomplishment given the nation's historically friendly attitude toward Jerry Lewis, Sharon Stone and the Nazi army.
Doing his best to fill the void, the execrable Graf plunged into a tabloid-baiting affair with a model just one year older than his daughter, Steffi. He then slithered off to prison for evading taxes on $6.55million of Steffi's earnings, a scam that reduced the normally cool Fraulein Forehand to tears.
Meanwhile, the odious Dokic was drinking. Heavily.
On the same day that his daughter, Jelena, advanced to the third round of Wimbledon, a soused Damir wrapped himself in a Union Jack, lambasted England as a fascist country and took issue with a reporter's cell phone, smashing it to bits. One year earlier, he flopped down in the middle of a road after being booted from a tournament.
Never the sort to leave well enough alone, Dokic also got kicked out of the U.S. Open for arguing over the price of salmon in the player's dining room and, like Pierce, was banned from the tour.
Could we possibly make this stuff up? No chance. To borrow from Dickens, it was the best of times.
Not to mention the best of copy.
Today, however, the giants of tennis dad idiocy are in repose. Jim and Mary Pierce have reconciled. Graf is persona non grata. Williams is busy installing solar panels on his South Florida home (really). Dokic, a perfect beer spokesman if there ever was one, instead shills for a nondescript Korean automaker.
All of which means we're in trouble. Unless, by chance, one of John McEnroe's children decides to pick up a racquet.
After all, reprehensible father figures are essential to the game's health. For one, they tend to produce champions, well-adjusted or otherwise. As parents, Roland Jaeger, Mike Agassi and Stefano Capriati were hectoring bullies; as tennis taskmasters, they were brilliant. Anna Kournikova should be so lucky.
Second, and more crucially, moronic tennis dads offer a gaggle of attention-grabbing headlines in a sport that trades heavily on personality and even more heavily on boorish behavior. Ideally, the players themselves would be able to shoulder the entire load in this regard; in the real world, there is only one Marcelo Rios.
Consider that tour staple, trash talking. Fresh from a loss to Serena Williams at this year's Wimbledon, Amelie Mauresmo took a shot at the Sisters Superior, stating that "people are going to get bored" by their dominance.
Catty? No doubt. But also pretty lame. And not even in the same solar system as Richard Williams, who had some memorably goofy advice for the diminutive Martina Hingis following the 2000 U.S. Open.
"I could help her," Williams said. "I've got a friend in Compton, and when he's not high, he's a surgeon. He could saw her legs off and attach new legs that are a couple of inches taller."
Sadly, such statements are now fewer and farther between, as are the annoying fathers responsible for them. However, the future is not completely bleak: In Australia, a fellow named Gavin Hopper has been feeding his prodigious 10-year-old daughter, Jade, a steady diet of balls since the age of 3.
Will Hopper, a tennis coach on the Gold Coast, someday join the less-than-esteemed ranks of Dokic and Graf? Will he stand in the Pantheon of Putzes alongside Williams and Pierce? Only time will tell.
In the interim, we applaud his misguided effort. And if he ever makes it Stateside, well, lunch is on us.

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