Prodigy Jan Silva Returns Stateside
Almost two years since I first heard about and visited 5-year-old American phenom Jan Silva in France, the family’s story has taken a somewhat poignant turn. Last month, the Silvas returned to Rancho Cordova, Calif., near Sacramento. Scott Silva and his wife, the Finnish-born Mari, are getting divorced, and the Silvas are trying to re-acclimate to American life after spending most of the last 24 months overseas.
The story that eventually ran on the front page of USA Today detailed how the Silva’s pulled up their stakes in Northern California and relocated with their three kids to the Paris suburbs, where Patrick Mouratoglou, owner of an eponymous tennis academy, funded Jan’s training and provided the family with housing and financial support. Scott Silva told me last month that it was a “family decision” to return to California and sort out their personal lives. He said he had absolutely no regrets about their decision to uproot to Mouratoglou’s academy and they remain on good terms. “They have done more to help us than anyone else,” said Scott, who is looking for work and said Mouratoglou continues to pay him a small salary. He called Mouratoglou’s support “nothing short of incredible.”
The kids are back in California public schools and adjusting to life stateside. Jan, who turned 7 in November, is playing everyday and “looking really good,” according to Scott. He’s still prone to meltdowns and tantrums, but Scott says his ability and level of enthusiasm are high. Mouratoglou confirmed the same when I saw him at the BNP PariBas Open last month. He continues to pay for Jan’s training and will do so if they return to France, Scott told me.
His oldest son, Kadyn, is 12 and also continues to play and compete. Scott says he will hook him up with a local pro, but he says he hasn’t been able to do as much for Kadyn because he lacks the financial resources (Kadyn is not funded by Mouratoglou). Scott said he hopes to move near the club so he can continue to monitor the boys’ development. Their youngest child, 4-year-old Jasmin, is doing ballet. “She has no desire to play tennis,” Scott said.
Scott said the whirlwind of publicity since the USA Today story appeared had opened the family up to criticism but also served as a fertile learning foundation. Scott did not shy away from the attention – shortly after the A1 piece appeared Jan went on the Today Show – but complained he had been unfairly compared to some of the more notorious tennis parents such as Damir Dokic and Stefano Capriati. “I’m not like any of these guys,” he protested. He also said that lots of people and companies came out of the woodwork with possible sponsor dollars, but “the reality is that the only one who did anything to help us was Patrick,” he said. (Since Mouratoglou’s academy has deals with Nike and Head, Jan and Kadyn still receive free rackets, clothes and shoes).
Despite the setbacks, Scott said the chance to live and train abroad was a valuable experience that exposed them to the tennis world and different cultures, allowed him to meet people such as Vic Braden and Richard Williams, and perhaps even prolonged his troubled marriage. Scott still harbors hopes of seeing his kids compete at Wimbledon – and of reuniting with Mari.
“My dream is to get back together with my wife,” he said optimistically. “I want to be at Wimbledon in 10 years, sitting in the box with her holding hands. If not, we’ll be there, just on opposite sides of the court.”
Intersex Player Sarah Gronert
In case you missed it, here is the story that ran earlier this month on intersex tennis player Sarah Gronert of Germany. It’s a pretty interesting case and one I’ll be following in the months ahead. After reaching the semifinals of an ITF event on clay in Croatia last week, Gronert is at a career high No. 539, almost 200 ranking spots higher than where she started the year.