'Bigger Than Tennis': Heliovaara Skips Wimbledon For Paternity Leave

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2023

‘Bigger Than Tennis’: Heliovaara Skips Wimbledon For Paternity Leave

Finnish star discusses decision to take time off

Some things are bigger than tennis. So while the world’s best players are preparing for Wimbledon, the No. 8 player in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, Harri Heliovaara, is home in Finland awaiting the birth of his second child. 

“I have to say it was not an easy [decision]. There have been different approaches to this,” Heliovaara told ATPTour.com. “I spoke a lot to the German doubles guys. There are three of them [Kevin Krawietz, Andreas Mies and Tim Puetz] who had a kid recently and I got support from other players that it’s okay to have a few weeks at home, to miss some tournaments. It’s not the end of the world.

“At the same time, my wife, she hoped that I would be able to stay at home to help her the last couple of weeks before the baby’s born, of course, [being] present when the baby’s born and then a few more weeks at home helping her. It’s a big change for her, for our whole family. So I thought it was important to be here.”

Heliovaara’s wife, Sini, gave birth to their two-year-old daughter in May 2021. When they found out last year that Sini was pregnant and that the due date would be the Friday before Wimbledon, Heliovaara wasted little time putting his priorities in order. He spoke to partner Lloyd Glasspool, with whom he qualified for the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals, in Australia.

“Obviously, if I could choose the day I would choose something else but it doesn’t always go like that in life and we’re super happy that we’re having having another baby, which we wanted a lot. It’s not always that things happen so that you get what you want, especially when you are talking babies here,” Heliovaara said. “So we’re super happy that the baby is coming and, of course… I told Lloyd, my partner already in Australia that this is the case, we were expecting a baby at the end of June and [it] looked like Wimbledon might be difficult, my wife really hoped that I’d be home, I would like to be home when the baby’s born.

“Lloyd was very understanding. He knew there’s a lot of things in life that are bigger than tennis and he completely was on my side there. Of course, if I prefer to stay home, he’s happy about that, and I just let him know early what I want to do so he can find other solutions for the partners. And I think at that time, it was very easy.”

<a href=Lloyd Glasspool/Harri Heliovaara” />
Glasspool and Heliovaara made their Nitto ATP Finals debut in 2022. Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour.
After the pair lost in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros, Heliovaara returned home to spend quality time with his wife, daughter and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Dalton. Glasspool will play Wimbledon with Nicolas Mahut, the 2016 champion (w/ Pierre-Hugues Herbert).

Between 2013-17, Harri was off the Tour. While attending school, he would work at Helsinki Airport part-time, beginning his shift at 5 a.m. That is where he met his wife, who worked there full-time and still does now, outside of her maternity leave.

“We often joke about it that when we started dating, and when things got more serious, I wasn’t playing tennis. This is not what she signed for. She didn’t think that she would be marrying a guy who’s playing tennis and traveling the world,” Heliovaara said. “Last year I counted I was away from home 238 days, which is a big number, and my family wasn’t able to travel that much. It’s just a couple of weeks per year that they’ve been with me, so we don’t see each other for more than half of the year.

“It’s not ideal, especially when you have a family. We have a dog and a two-year-old and now another one. So of course it’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of work for my wife to make everything work at home while I’m traveling. So now that I’m able to at least give something back, I feel better and I’m sure she feels better as well.”

Ironically, Heliovaara’s first child played a part in one of the key moments of his career. Last year in Rome, an alternate spot in the doubles draw opened up late in the evening. Glasspool was in London and Heliovaara was asleep in Helsinki. Glasspool called his partner 20 times with no luck.

You May Also Like:

Two Men & A Baby, 20 Missed Calls & A Rome Quarter-final

However, Heliovaara’s daughter cried, waking him up. He saw the messages and the pair rushed to Rome, where they claimed the spot and made the quarter-finals on their ATP Masters 1000 team debut. At the time, they were both outside the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings. Now Glasspool and Heliovaara are inside the Top 10.

“It was kind of like a point where everything started to go our way, even more than before,” Heliovaara said.

The Finnish star is making the most of his time at home, training hard so that when he returns on clay in July, he is ready to go. It is especially beneficial because Heliovaara has been ill each of the past two Decembers, when he would hope to do his biggest training blocks. 

Competing in Wimbledon is a dream for many around the world. Thirty-four-year-old Heliovaara has only done it twice before. But spending this time with his family is important to him.

“Maybe some fans feel, ‘Why are you doing that? That’s so stupid. Why are you not playing tennis?’” Heliovaara said. “But being a tennis player, it never happens in isolation. I have to combine everything in life and family is a very big part of life.”

Source link