One of the bright hopes in Canadian women’s tennis is stepping away from the sport, revealing that she suffers from depression and is no longer willing to make the sacrifices required of a professional athlete.
Vancouver native Rebecca Marino, once ranked No. 38 in the world, was in the middle of a comeback after a seven-month hiatus from the sport. But she cut the comeback short Wednesday, announcing she has suffered from depression for about six years, keeping it to herself for much of that time, only telling friends, family and coaches in the last year.
She is ready to talk about it publicly now.
“This is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done,” Marino said during a teleconference. “If I can open up about my struggles to the public, I hope I can give someone else the courage to open up and get the help they deserve.”
The 22-year-old was careful not to use the word “retirement,” since she said tennis will remain in her life, and she hasn’t ruled out returning at some point in the future. She also clarified that negativity on social media, although upsetting to her, is not the reason she is retiring.
A recent article noted she has been unsettled by critical comments about her posted on social media websites. She has since deleted her accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
She said she no longer wants to sacrifice her happiness and other parts of her life for tennis and wants to pursue school.
While there were moments of her tennis career she loved, she said, “pro tennis is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be, especially in the lower ranks when you’re scrounging for one dollar here, one dollar there, and you don’t get much credit for it.”
Marino said the time spent away from family and friends was especially tough on her. “It was becoming more and more apparent that I didn’t have the passion that it would take. It was just me being honest with myself and knowing that I have other options out there.”
It wasn’t long ago Marino seemed to on target for stardom on the WTA Tour. She had pushed Venus Williams to a first-set tie-breaker at the U.S. Open in 2010, and was unleashing serves upwards of 193 kilometres an hour, among the fastest on the women’s tour.
The six-foot Canadian made her first WTA event final in Memphis in early 2011. She reached the third round of the French Open that year, and rose to a career-high ranking of No. 38.
Marino had been active on Twitter during her rise. She would often talk with fans about her passions, which included music and her favourite NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks. But negative posts about her or her play would alarm and unsettle her.
By the spring of 2012, Marino was withdrawing from marquee WTA Tour events and Canada’s Fed Cup group event, before announcing she was stepping away from tennis for a while. She said at the time she was battling mental and physical fatigue.
She returned to competition in September of 2012, and the next month won an ITF Circuit event in Rock Hill, S.C. She played five ITF Circuit and WTA tournaments in 2012-13, concluding with a qualifying loss in Memphis this week.
“I have had days where I haven’t been able to get out of bed,” Marino said of her battle with depression, adding she has lots of support from friends, family and Tennis Canada, and is being treated by a therapist. She hopes her story can help others.
“It’s definitely something that needs to be talked about.”