Brian Vahaly says it would be “helpful” if a male tennis player came out as gay.
The former professional came out as gay 10 years after he retired from the sport back in 2017 and said he received thousands of hate mail and feared there would be financial implications if he came out while still playing.
He told BBC’s Sportsworld: “I have seen and felt homophobic remarks throughout my entire career. Tennis is a very conservative sport.
“For the first few days after the announcement, I probably received two to three thousand pretty nasty emails and communications from people who were disgusted by me and my family.
“I didn’t hear much from former players – most of the positive outreach came from the LGBT community or friends.”
Two of the greatest female players of all time Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova both came out during their careers and Vahaly says their success made others to be more accepting of their sexuality.
He continued: “Martina and Billie Jean were at the top of their game. They could set a culture – other players had to be accepting because they were the best.
“When they came out it was difficult for them, so they deserve a lot of praise of their courage. On the men’s side it would be helpful if someone at the top of the game would make an announcement like that.”
Vahaly also revealed the reason why he didn’t want to come out while still playing and it was due to fear of losing sponsors.
“At the time people wouldn’t have known what to do with it,” he added. “To bring this level of distraction didn’t feel advantageous.
“It would have been a very scary variable. I wasn’t prepared to have regrets about potential financial and tennis implications.”