When Don Candy talked, everyone listened. Whether he was providing insightful coaching advice or entertaining friends and family with his knack for storytelling, Candy was universally respected as a player, coach, husband, father, and friend.
Since the announcement of his passing on June 14 in his hometown of Adelaide, Australia at the age of 91, the word most frequently used to remember the cheerful Aussie has been “fun.”
Candy’s coaching career is most linked to his protégé Pam Shriver, who, among her Hall of Fame credentials achieved a World No.3 singles ranking, won 22 Grand Slam doubles crowns, and still today holds the record as the youngest US Open finalist — male or female.
“Don had tremendous tennis IQ. He could see my natural hand eye ability and size, therefore, he shaped my game to become a net rusher to apply the most pressure to each opponent. He coached by the winning percentages, which today would be data,” explained Shriver.
“Our 15-year tenure as player and coach was filled with hard work and laughter, a key for me to have a 19-year playing career,” the former Doubles No.1 continued. “Without Don moving to my hometown of Baltimore to coach, I never would have become the player I became.”
Candy was born in Adelaide during an era in which Australian players, including Lew Hoad, Mervyn Rose, Frank Sedgman, and Ken Rosewall, dominated the sport. A slender, agile player, Candy won one singles title, but made his mark in doubles by reaching five Grand Slam finals and winning one.
Following a 10-year career on the international circuit in the 1950s, Candy searched the classified advertisements in World Tennis magazine and ended up securing a tennis pro position at Suburban Country Club in Baltimore in 1967. This set the stage for Candy to coach not one, but two Hall of Famers — Shriver and Jimmy Connors.
A nine-year-old Shriver took her first tennis lesson from Candy in 1971. Later, in her first year on the WTA Tour, she reached the finals of the 1978 US Open as a 16-year-old — a testament to the coaching absorbed in her first seven years under Candy’s tutelage.
In 1974, Candy was hired as the head coach of the Baltimore Banners World Team Tennis (WTT) franchise during the inaugural year of the league. For Candy, WTT offered the unique opportunity to coach Connors, who won three of the four Grand Slams that year while compiling the best winning percentage in the WTT League.
“Don always made it fun on and off the court and always went the extra mile to look after all of us,” said Connors. “Tennis has lost a great ambassador.”
“We had never practiced or played together prior to teaming up in Paris, and Don made our partnership fun,” recalled Candy’s doubles partner Bob Perry, with whom he won the Roland Garros title in 1956. “We went on to reach the quarters at Wimbledon.”
“Don was the friendliest as well as the smartest coach around when I was playing,” remembered Chris Evert. “He took the pressure off and he made tennis fun. He always had a smile on his face, but more importantly, he gave me valuable advice during my career.”
Following retirement as Shriver’s coach, Candy settled into coaching again in Baltimore, making annual trips to his beloved Adelaide with his American wife, Elaine. He enjoyed reuniting with his Aussie tennis “mates” annually at the Australian Open, and ultimately, he and Elaine, made the move back to Adelaide.
Candy is survived by his daughter, Georgia Hall, who resides in Sydney.