‘Bigger Than Tennis’: Harri Heliovaara skips Wimbledon for paternity leave | ATP Tour

Some things are bigger than tennis. So while the world’s best players prepare for Wimbledon, number 8 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, Harri Heliovaara, is at home in Finland awaiting the birth of his second child.

“I must say it was not easy [decision]. There have been different approaches to this,” Heliovaara told ATPTour.com. “I talked a lot with the German doubles. There are three of them [Kevin Krawietz, Andreas Mies and Tim Puetz] who recently had a baby 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, she, my wife, was hoping that I would be able to stay home to help her the last few weeks before the baby’s birth, of course. [being] present when the baby is born and then a few more weeks at home and help 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 getting her priorities straight. . He spoke with 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 life doesn’t always work like that and we’re super happy that we’re going to have another baby that we wanted so much. It’s not always, that things happen, so you get what you want, especially when you’re talking babies here,” Heliovaara said. “So we’re super excited for the baby to come, and of course… I told Lloyd, my partner, who was already in Australia that is the case, we were expecting a baby at the end of June and [it] looked like Wimbledon might be difficult, my wife was really hoping I’d be home, I wanted to be home when the baby was born.

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

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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 (with Pierre-Hugues Herbert).

Between 2013-17, Harri was out of the Tour. While attending school, he worked at Helsinki Airport part-time, starting his shift at 5. This is where he met his wife, who worked there full-time and still does now, outside of her maternity leave.

“We often joke that when we started dating and when things got more serious, I didn’t play tennis. That’s not what she signed up for. She didn’t think she was going to marry a guy, who plays tennis and travels around the world,” Heliovaara said. “Last year I counted that I was away from home 238 days, which is a big number, and my family wasn’t able to travel that much. It’s only a few weeks per year, they have been with me, so we don’t see each other 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 big responsibility and a lot of work for my wife to make everything work at home while I’m away traveling. So now that I’m at least able to give something back, I feel better and I’m sure she feels better too.”

Ironically, Heliovaara’s first child played a role in one of the most important moments of his career. Last year in Rome, an alternative place in the doubles draw opened late in the evening. Glasspool was in London and Heliovaara slept in Helsinki. Glasspool called his partner 20 times to no avail.

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However, Heliovaara’s daughter cried and woke him up. He saw the messages and the pair rushed to Rome, where they took the spot and reached the quarterfinals 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 in the Top 10.

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

The Finnish star is making the most of his time at home and training hard so he’ll be ready to go when he returns to the clay in July. It’s especially beneficial because Heliovaara has been sick each of the last two Decembers, when he would hope to make his biggest training blocks.

Competing at Wimbledon is a dream for many around the world. 34-year-old Heliovaara has only done it twice before. But it is important for him to spend this time with his family.

“Maybe some fans feel, ‘Why are you doing that?’ It’s so stupid. Why don’t you play 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.”

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