After Coach Is Barred, Oversight Becomes Issue
By DANIEL KAPLANJAN. 16, 2006
When Evgenia Linetskaya took the court today in Melbourne at the Australian Open, two people who groomed her game were not welcome.
In late November, the WTA Tour barred her coach, Joe Giuliano, for life and suspended her father, Simon Linetskiy, for two years. They are prohibited from the grounds of WTA events and official player hotels. The Open is honoring the bans.
Women's professional tennis has had its share of teenage players who have been abused by parents or coaches. Linetskaya, a 19-year-old Russian ranked 62th in the world, is the latest to raise the issue.
The actions against Giuliano and Linetskiy stem from incidents involving Linetskaya at a tournament last August in Carlsbad, Calif. Linetskiy, 49, was arrested and charged with suspicion of battery, and his daughter was taken to a hospital for treatment, said Lt. Bill Rowland of the Carlsbad Police Department.
The week after Linetskiy's arrest, the Carlsbad police received a tip from a doctor in Los Angeles who had treated Linetskaya, then 18. The doctor said she contended that her coach had assaulted her, Rowland said. By that time, Giuliano had left town. He is wanted for questioning in a police investigation into the matter, Rowland said, but his whereabouts are unknown.
Linetskaya's case raises questions about the WTA's role in screening the men who coach and spend so much time with the players.
"There are so many young girls who are so vulnerable," said Tara Snyder, 28, who described her three-month coaching relationship with Giuliano in 2001 as a nightmare, saying he made sexual advances and exhibited bizarre behavior.
"You are on your own, you are trusting this person," Snyder said, referring to coaches in general. "You are trusting this guy to do the honorable thing. There needs to be some sort of screening, something the WTA can do."
Linetskaya declined to comment, said Andrew Walker, a WTA spokesman.
The WTA barred Giuliano under a Tour provision that governs coaches' conduct and includes prohibitions against physical abuse and sexual misconduct; it was the first lifetime penalty issued by the Tour. Larry Scott, the chief executive of the WTA, declined to describe the events that led to the group's action but said that Linetskaya had submitted a formal complaint against Giuliano.
"Given the severity of the Giuliano suspension," Scott said, "clearly the strongest penalty is reserved for anything that affects the player's health and well-being."
Linetskaya, who declined to press charges against her father, has brought no legal action against Giuliano, Scott said. But she was not the first person to express concerns about Giuliano to the WTA.
Daniel Harkleroad, the father of the American player Ashley Harkleroad, spoke with Scott by telephone in May 2004 and met with him last year at Wimbledon to complain that Giuliano had behaved inappropriately during a brief time as her coach. Scott confirmed the meeting but not its subject. Ashley Harkleroad never made a formal complaint, and the Tour took no action.
The WTA defended its policies, which require that only the coaches of players under 18 take development courses to ensure that they are properly trained. All coaches and players sign a code of conduct.
But there is only so much the Tour can do, Scott said, because players are not employees.
"At the end of the day, who independent contractors want to hire as a coach is the decision of the player," he said. "We have a very different role than team sports."
Snyder, however, criticized the WTA for not doing more to keep track of coaches like Giuliano, who she said was well-known on the Tour for making sexual advances toward players. She suggested that the WTA do background checks and have players fill out questionnaires about their coaches.
But Snyder never told the WTA about her problems with Giuliano. During the 2001 French Open, shortly after she began working with Giuliano, Snyder said, he secretly instructed the front desk to block calls to her room from her boyfriend, the tennis pro Brent Haygarth. Giuliano then changed rooms to be next to hers, and bought her gifts, including a leather jacket and a gold necklace.
Several days into the tournament, Snyder said, Giuliano barged into a hotel lobby bathroom and tried to kiss her. At Wimbledon several weeks later, Snyder said, she all but tanked her first-round match so she could fire him.
"If I had been 17 or 18, it would have been a huge problem," Snyder, who was 22 at the time, said recently.
Giuliano, who has no permanent address or phone number, could not be contacted. Requests to speak with him were relayed through acquaintances. The WTA said it communicated with him through his friends. Giuliano was not present when the WTA barred him.
Born in Yonkers, Giuliano graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1981. After three years on the varsity tennis squad there, he competed briefly on a minor professional circuit. Around that time, he befriended Vitas Gerulaitis, a top pro and fellow New Yorker, who introduced him to John McEnroe.
Giuliano and McEnroe remained friends after Gerulaitis died in 1994. McEnroe's agent, Gary Swain of IMG, said McEnroe would not comment.
By the end of the 1990's, Giuliano, with his blossoming connections, began to coach on his own. In addition to Snyder, Linetskaya and Harkleroad, his clients have included Miriana Lucic and Elena Bovina. He twice coached the World TeamTennis squad in Mamaroneck, N.Y., partly owned by Patrick McEnroe, the brother of John.
"He is sort of a vagabond," said Patrick McEnroe, who is also a commentator for ESPN and captain of the United States Davis Cup team. "I knew Joe has had his problems over the years. He has always been a friend of mine and to people I know. If this is what happened, it is terrible. I feel bad for everybody involved. I am dismayed and disgusted."
Giuliano often found work through IMG, the sports marketing company that dominates the business of professional tennis. Snyder, who was represented by IMG at the time she hired Giuliano, said many IMG agents were his friends.
Tim Nichols, a coach based in Florida who has worked with several women ranked in the top 50, said, "IMG is always taking care of him, providing him with players, because I guess he is good at what he does."
An IMG spokeswoman said that Giuliano was not a client and that he had worked with players represented by several agencies.
In the spring of 2004, shortly before a tournament in South Carolina, Harkleroad, then 18, hired Giuliano as her coach. The day after she lost in the first round, she dismissed him and paid him $150 for his services.
Daniel Harkleroad said, "I would just say he is a lonely guy that has no family and that loves tennis and loves the Tour." He declined further comment, citing Giuliano's influential friends who could impede his daughter's career.
One difficulty the WTA may have in regulating relationships between coaches and players is that they frequently also have dating relationships.
In perhaps the most high-profile example, the Swiss player Patty Schnyder grew estranged from her family in 1999 when she dated her coach, Rainer Harnecker, who advocated a strict vegan diet. She fired him several months later. Harnecker did not violate the Tour's code of conduct with Schnyder because both were consenting adults.
Linetskaya's case may be the first in which the WTA has tried to protect a player from a parent as well as a coach.
The Tour barred Jim Pierce, Mary Pierce's father and sometime coach, from 1993 to 1998, the longest banishment before Giuliano's. The WTA regulation prohibiting abusive conduct by relatives and coaches is known colloquially as the Jim Pierce rule. The Grand Slam tournaments usually honor Tour rulings.
In 2000, after the United States Open ejected Jelena Dokic's father, Damir, for complaining loudly about the price of salmon in the players' restaurant, the WTA barred him for six months. Damir Dokic, who was also involved in coaching his daughter, had several other highly publicized encounters, including his smashing a photographer's camera at Wimbledon.
Snyder, who has been ranked as high as 33rd but is now 325th, says she still feels the sting of her time with Giuliano.
"He has a middle seat reserved on the express train to hell," she said.