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.


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  • 5/7/2009 12:54 PM Jon KIng wrote:
    I have seen Jan hit, along with many other tennis kids the last 15 years of coaching. Honestly, he hits well for his age, but does not have amazing racquet speed compared to other 6-7 year olds, feet are good, not great. Taking him to France, seeking press, and saying he will play Wimbleton is kind of silly though as he is not any better than the top 10% of 6-8 year olds in CA, FL, Spain, France, etc. that I have seen hit.
    Reply to this
    1. 6/8/2009 11:15 AM Bob wrote:
      What's silly is that we're talking about a 5 year-old. He should be having fun with no one else judging him, and if that's by playing tennis so be it.

      Write back when he's 15 years old.
      Reply to this
      1. 6/16/2009 1:50 PM Jon King wrote:
        He is 7 now. We certainly can say how he compares to other 7 year olds. He is pretty good, one of the better 7 year olds, but not the best by any means. His dad sought the press and predicted Grand Slam wins, so commenting is certainly appropriate.
        Reply to this
    2. 7/20/2009 8:18 AM Bill wrote:
      Well bad news, Jan Silva at the age of 8 injured his arm due to his excessive daily training. Mouratoglou invested on his career a lot of money! now this could be the end of tennis prodigy. His in Sacramento, hope he is doing well.
      Reply to this
      1. 8/22/2009 9:28 PM Adrian wrote:
        According to the article, he will turn 8 in November 2009.
        Reply to this
  • 9/20/2009 12:27 PM Fred wrote:
    You are correct, you need to be at least in the top 10% in your age group to even remotely consider making it in the pro ranks. There are many kids with excellent athletic ability which Jan's parents have not seen play and are a bit obscured with realities of tennis.
    Reply to this
  • 11/27/2009 9:25 PM Lala wrote:
    There are some parents that exagurate their children's abilities. This kind of exaguration puts so much pressure on the poor kids unintentionally. I checked norcal match experience of Jan Silva. He is not someone that I would pay attention to based on his normal records. I pay attention to him because he was in youtube, newspaper, and magazine.
    Reply to this
  • 12/28/2009 10:40 AM Gary wrote:
    Hmmmm. Dad seeks child's fortune and fame for his five-year-old all in the name of winning and "doing the best for the child". Ends up in divorce. The best thing you can give your child is a healthy and happy home environment. Playing tennis as a family is a much more fertile environment for a child to develop and maintain any shot of being a champion than expensive, exclusive lessons. According to a Michigan State University research 70% of kids drop out of youths sports by the age of 13. The top three reasons are adults. Odds are that this will be another one!
    Reply to this
  • 1/13/2010 7:44 PM Jay wrote:
    You can look at Jan Silva's record on It is not the best for sure. If I were Jan's father, I would not say that Jan would compete @ Wimbledon. It is too embarassing to publicly state a big career of a young kid.
    Reply to this
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