Don Candy wore large, owl-like glasses and had the savvy to match. A celebrated tennis coach, he tutored Lutherville’s Pam Shriver from childhood to a No. 3 singles world ranking, and No. 1 in women’s doubles, in her Hall of Fame career.
Candy died June 14 in his hometown of Adelaide, Australia, according to the Women’s Tennis Association. He was 91.
“Don opened the pathway for me to professional tennis,” Shriver said Tuesday from her home in California. At 16, under Candy’s guidance, she reached the finals of the 1978 U.S. Open, the youngest player ever to do so.
“I had other coaches who helped me a lot when I was young,” said Shriver, “but nobody else with such a clear and confident vision that my talent could take me to a high level while still, as a teenager, leading a fairly normal life.”
A tennis prodigy himself, Candy, at 17, won the Australian National Junior Championship. He spent 10 years on the world circuit, winning one Grand Slam event, the men’s doubles (with Bob Perry) in the 1956 French Open.
In 1967, Candy moved to Baltimore as the teaching pro at both The Suburban Club and Orchard Indoor Tennis Club.
“Baltimore is a swinging tennis town,” he said then. Four years later, he was introduced to a gangly 9-year-old girl — an encounter that made history.
“For Christmas, my mom gave me a 30-minute tennis lesson with this Australian guy whom I’d never heard of,” said Shriver, now 57. “I knew he had traveled the world as a player, so I was nervous. For 15 minutes I was hardly able to hit the ball on the strings [of the racket], but I got better as the lesson went on.”
Candy took her under his wing and helped fashion her game, stressing the importance of someone Shriver’s size attacking the ball at the net.
“He’d say, ‘Keep coming, keep coming,‘ like, don’t stop pressuring your opponent,” she said. “At 13, I was well on my way to being 6-foot-1 and Don felt I was built to be at the net, and to shape my game that way. He had a clear idea of what my style should be and he hammered that point home.”
In 1978, while a junior at McDonogh School, Shriver, still an amateur, advanced to the championship match of the U.S. Open before losing to Chris Evert.
“Don was a huge part of that [success],” Shriver recalled. “For me to get that far, to do all I did during that run, I needed someone with a steady hand and who knew the ropes. Don did.”
Her full-time coach for 15 years, Candy seemed always to know what to say to settle Shriver.
“He understood the competition, the travel and even the rain,” she said. “He handled rain delays lightly, without grinding. He told funny stories, over and over, putting a little spin on each. I remember passing those times laughing a lot.”
Besides coaching Shriver and teaching club members, Candy served as coach of the short-lived Baltimore Banners of World TeamTennis in 1974. He returned to Australia to live 10 years ago with his wife, Elaine, since deceased.
Nowadays, Shriver said, “I think about his presence at Orchard and Suburban and how lucky those members were to have such a knowledgeable and fun tennis pro. Don looked at Baltimore as such an important town for him to accept his resume and reset his career. He had a lot of friends there.”
Candy is survived by his daughter, Georgia Hall, who resides in Sydney.