Gone are the times when Brian Vahaly he fought on the tennis courts professionally. He reached number 64 in the world after a more than promising junior career and reached a quarter-final at Indian Wells in 2003, killing people like Fernando González or Juan Carlos Ferrero along the way. Didn’t get the prize of winning a title ATP although there are several in the Challenger category. But 11 years after his retirement in 2006, Vahaly became much better known for something completely unrelated to his accomplishments as a tennis player. He declared himself homosexual, the first to do something like that on the male circuit. Now in an interview for Ubitennis, the American speaks in depth about the details of that revelation, the hatred it generated and also the hopes that his story will open and pave the way for others like him.
Vahaly reviews his tennis career in the first place, to put us a little in context of what the American in the world of tennis since it is normal that many people do not place him well. It was not one of the front lines of the battle of American tennis although it promised much in juniors. “First of all, it gave me great satisfaction to be able to beat my childhood idol, Michael Chang. After that, as a great memory I have the quarterfinals that I did in Indian Wells in 2003, beating Ferrero, González and Robredo. It was a a great moment in my career, “recalls Vahaly, who in the Grand Slam, however, never made it past the second round. He had gone through the University of Virginia to graduate, something unusual in those years in American tennis, very different from what happens now.
Getting into the topic of homosexuality, Vahaly starts talking about the environment that moved and moves in the world of tennis. “It’s a very conservative environment. When I stopped playing I largely disappeared for my friends, my world in tennis and my family. That way I was also able to get to know myself more and discover myself. It was a process of self-exploration that there hadn’t been before. been able to start since tennis was not a safe place for it, “says Brian, who continues with that opposite environment for him:” There were a lot of homophobic jokes on the circuit. A very competitive and very masculine environment. You don’t see any representation of homosexuality on the Tour, unlike what happens with girls. Without having a proper speaker to express myself when I was in my twenties, I needed time to understand myself. I did not feel that in tennis there was someone with whom I could talk about everything this, “says the one from New Jersey.
Asked about the possibility of having told his nature during his professional years and how it would have changed his career and his life, Vahaly says the following: “I do not allow myself to ask myself this because I do not want to think about the ‘what if’. I do wonder if I would have been able to play tennis more freely and if perhaps my tennis quality would have increased. But I also know that during the 2000s I would have felt very uncomfortable traveling. There were certain countries where homosexuality was not well received “, says Brian Vahaly, who also brings inherent financial risk to the table. “There was an economic fear as well. How would the sponsors respond? When you’ve been in tennis for 25 years, you don’t want to put something like that at risk,” he says.
An absolutely critical moment was when he first revealed his homosexual status in 2017, 11 years after his retirement from the ATP circuit. “I knew it was important for me to tell the truth when the opportunity gave me. I didn’t want to feel like I was hiding a part of myself. Even though I was already married, I noticed that a part of me was still hidden from the world of sports. to my children, things change and you feel like you have to take a step forward, “says Brian. After the podcast in which he admits to being gay, the reactions did not wait.
Very negative reaction to your homosexuality
“I got a lot of negative messages. I would say probably about 1,000 messages from people who were very upset that two men were fathers and had children. A lot of hate was going in my direction. Luckily at this point in my life. Life was already prepared to receive all this kind of messages and he knew how to carry it properly. Although it became somewhat disturbing that there were people who told you that they knew where you lived and that they would take your children, “he admits.
Vahaly advocates in the times for a more modernized and morally adequate ATP. “If the ATP were more open and accepted all this reality in its speech, it would help a lot. At this point, for the moment they have decided not to do it,” the American resigned.