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Rebecca Marino: “I feel very, very lucky” (US Open)

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NEW YORK – In 2011, when Rebecca Marino was just 20, on the tennis court everything seemed to come so easily. The Canadian reached round three at Roland Garros that year and shortly thereafter reached number 38 on the world rankings.

It wasn’t that easy off the pitch, though.

In Flushing Meadows on Friday, and for the first time since then, Marino will compete in the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.

This will, so far, mark the culmination of his comeback after a five-year absence from the WTA.

An absence caused by anxiety and, in his own words, by burnout.

“If you talked to me during my retreat, I don’t know if I would have thought I’d come back here. That’s why I’m so proud of myself. I overcame a lot and managed to get here – and I hope even further, Marino said.

“The word I keep coming back to is gratitude. I feel very, very lucky to be able to return to tennis and be successful. Every moment I’m on the pitch, I’m grateful. “

The pressure of being a young athlete traveling the world trying to break through can come at a high cost.

Naomi Osaka, four-time senior champion, is just one example of players who have faced her mental health problems in recent years. Ash Barty has been off the tour for over two years, returned and won three Grand Slam titles, then retired this year. She was ranked No. 1 in the world, at the age of 25.

“You can’t stop young people from living their lives,” Marino’s mother Catherine said on the phone from her home in Vancouver (she watches Rebecca’s games there from the same place in the kitchen where she listened to Roland-Garros in 2011) .

“I’m there with her every step of the way. When she won (against Daria Snigur in the second round), I had to pinch myself. I couldn’t believe it, said Mom, who sent Marino photos of the two family dogs, Jasper. and Stanley. I’m very proud of her. We’ve come a long way. “

Things got overwhelming for Marino in 2012. He tried to take a six month break to see if that would help. When she performed next, things didn’t go much better. She then she stopped forever. Or so she thought.

“I was completely exhausted, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. I was totally flat, said Marino, who is 31. Now that I’m more mature, I wish I could help the younger version of me in all of this. But at the same time. , it also made me what I am today. “

Outside of tennis, Marino has tried new things. He studied English literature at the University of British Columbia. He started rowing (his uncle, George Hungerford, was a gold medalist in the sport at the 1964 Olympics). He gave tennis lessons.

A return to her old life was not expected until 2017, when her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. (He died in 2020; his life was celebrated in April at the Billie Jean King Cup, on the second anniversary of his passing.)

“It made me think about a lot of things,” said Marino, who found that talking to a therapist helped her: he encouraged others to do the same. Something I kept coming back to was my tennis and how unsolved it was. “

She was invited as a training partner to the Vancouver Open, which was a game changer. For the first time, she felt ready to return to the game.

“I wanted to see if I felt comfortable in a tournament environment, and then I would make my decision,” he recalls. At the end of the week, I said to myself: ‘I have to do this’. Mentally, I was in fantastic condition. Two weeks before the start of my senior year of college, I dropped out of school, work and rowing. I threw myself into it. “

At the beginning of 2018 Marino returned to competitions. In 2021, he played his first Grand Slam tournament in eight years. In July, she returned to the top 100 for the first time in 10 years (she is 106th this week).

Marino can now advance to the fourth round of a major tournament for the first time in his career. On Friday afternoon he will face the Chinese Zhang Shuai, 36th in the world.

“She’s been through more than anyone could imagine and she made it herself,” said Austin Nunn, who has known Marino for about 10 years and started representing her this year. Being in such a dark place, getting over it, continuing to love playing tennis and getting to where she is is just amazing. “

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