Canadian tennis star 'stepping back' from sport in battle with depression
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:42AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:07PM EST
Canadian tennis star Rebecca Marino announced Wednesday that she has struggled with depression for years and will be “stepping back” from the sport to pursue other goals.
“This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done,” Marino, 22, said of her decision last year to tell family and friends about her struggles.
She took a break from the game and sought professional help, but eventually realized that she was burned out and no longer passionate about tennis.
“At this point I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing my happiness for,” Marino told reporters in a teleconference call Wednesday afternoon.
She said she’s “stepping back,” not retiring because she doesn’t know what the future holds. She’s now planning to go to school and look for a job.
A New York Times article published over the weekend focused on the vitriol directed at Marino online, with critics attacking her on Twitter and Facebook.
But Marino said Wednesday that cyberbullying was not the main reason behind her decision to leave tennis, although she admitted to being “very sensitive” to hurtful comments she read online.
“I don’t want to discredit social media,” she said, but added that it can be “very distracting.”
Comments from sports gamblers who told her to “burn in hell” because she cost them bets were especially disturbing, she said.
She has deleted her Twitter and Facebook accounts, telling fans: “I just need to detach myself from the social media for a while.”
Marino said her battle with depression began about six years ago, but she didn’t fully comprehend the toll it had taken until about four years later. She described having no motivation to get out of bed and put on clothes, let alone play tennis, on what she called her “days of grey.”
But with help from a therapist and her loved ones, Marino said she is feeling better every day. She decided to make her struggles public in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with depression and mental illness.
“Depression is nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “You may feel alone and that no one understands what you are going through. The darkness closes in and becomes a vicious cycle of negativity and misery. But it’s pertinent that you talk to someone about what you are going through, that you can see the other side.”
Marino, who is from Vancouver, was once ranked No. 38 in the world.
She had a breakthrough season in 2011 that saw her reach her first World Tennis Association final round at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis in February 2012.
But when she failed to advance beyond the first round, she decided to take a break from the game and retreated to her family home in Vancouver.
Seven months later, she returned to the court, playing six tournaments and capturing the singles title at the $25,000 Rock Hill Challenger. She returned to Memphis this week to play her final event before deciding to step away again.
Marino said she sacrificed a lot to play tennis professionally, being away from her family for long stretches and missing “birthdays, anniversaries, births and deaths.”
She began travelling for tournaments at age 13 and lived in Montreal for about two years – “where I didn’t know anyone” -- as a teenager. Her demanding tennis schedule forced her to finish Grade 12 entirely through correspondence.
“There’s so much you aren’t at home for. For me, I’m just kind of tired of missing that,” Marino said.
“I feel there is more to life than tennis.”