Tennis coach dad brands daughter 'L for loser', court told

A tennis coach father wrote "L for loser" on his daughter's face as part of an obsessive training regime to try and make her a sporting star, a court has heard.

John De'Viana, 55, is accused of subjecting his two daughters to years of physical and emotional abuse.

The jury was told how Monaei and Nephe De'Viana - now aged 21 and 19 respectively - were punched, kicked and sworn at during the course of their father's training.

Monaei described an incident following a tournament when her father was "hitting me around the head, shaking my head and screaming at me".

Her younger sister Nephe - a former poster girl for the Lawn Tennis Association - said he punched and kicked her after one training session, putting his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming.

Monaei also described an incident when, aged nine or 10, after performing badly in a training session her father wrote an "L for loser" on her face in permanent marker.

During another incident he is alleged to have thrown away her dinner as punishment for losing a match.

She also told jurors she suffered many painful knee and back injuries as a result of stretching positions she was forced to do.

Expletive-ridden match statistics sheets were read to the court, including descriptions including "f***ing idiot" and "like a f***ing dog being told what to do".

Michelle Horne, the mother of the girls, rejected a suggestion she was lying about the allegations of cruelty in a bid to help her in a court battle over contact with the children.

She described her former partner as "very controlling" and said her eldest daughter was made to hold a tennis racket from the age of 10 months - and made to play aged three.

Giving evidence, De'Viana said he had noticed "the fun element" of tennis abating when his eldest daughter was aged six, at which point he had brought in a psychological development coach.

He also talked about recognising "the crossover line between coach and father".

Himself a European karate champion aged 17, he said he had taken up tennis to "fill the gap" when he gave up the martial art.

De'Viana, of Ilford, Essex, denies two counts of child cruelty.

The trial continues.

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