Rebecca Marino looks forward to applying for post-secondary education in Vancouver, seeking a job and hanging out with friends, minus the daily grind of professional tennis and social media attacks.
Marino, who reached a high of 38th in the women’s rankings in 2011, announced Wednesday she is stepping away from the sport because she no longer has the required passion to succeed at a high level.
"I’ve been suffering depression for close to six years and started realizing it was a problem probably within the last two or three years," Marino, who first opened up to family and friends a year ago, told reporters on a conference call. "I still struggle with my depression but I am doing far better than before.
"If I can share my story and change one person’s outlook on life, I’ve reached my goal. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of … but it is pertinent that you talk to someone about what you are going through."
Marino served notice to a broad audience with a strong effort in 2010 against U.S. player Venus Williams at the U.S. Open, and reached No. 38 in the women's rankings the following year.
Marino took most of 2012 off, returning last September and capturing the singles title in her fifth tournament at the $25,000 US Rock Hill Challenger.
At that time she said she was better prepared to handle the rigours of professional tennis after opening up about her depression with family and friends last February while receiving help and medication from a therapist.
"This is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done but also the best thing I have ever done," Marino said. "Seeking help got me through to a better outlook and made me enjoy life."
Marino described her toughest days as those when she wasn’t able to get out of bed and had no motivation to dress herself.
Last month, she competed at the Australian Open and this week returned to Memphis to play her final event.
She said life as a professional tennis player is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
"You’re away from your family for long periods of time," said Marino. "You miss your friends and family, you miss birthdays, you miss anniversaries, you miss births, you miss deaths. There is so much you aren’t at home for. You’re pursuing this tennis life and I’m tired of missing that."
The 22-year-old recently told the New York Times about the online comments that she says have affected her. On Monday, she deleted both her Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The six-foot-two Marino said that among the negative messages online were comments from people who had gambled on her matches along with those suggesting she burn in hell, while others called her a dumbass and idiot.
Social media taxing
Marino believes she has a thick skin to deal with such criticism, but at the same time said "social media has taken a toll on me," adding it isn’t the main reason why she’s leaving tennis.
"I don’t think that I’m willing to sacrifice my happiness and other parts of my life [for] tennis," she said. "There’s more to life than just tennis.
"Definitely I had moments that I enjoyed and I’ll look back on my career … and have a smile on my face. But there are also those moments where the burden is there. It’s kind of been there throughout."
Marino started travelling for tennis at age 13 for local tournaments and those in the United States. The better she played, the more she travelled. She completed Grade 12 by correspondence and at 19 moved to Montreal, where she lived for two years and trained at Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre.
She returned to Vancouver last year and trained at the University of British Columbia prior to her recent comeback.
The coach of the Canadian women's tennis team says he's been in regular contact with Marino and Tennis Canada has tried to help her though her challenges of the last year.
"We're for sure disappointed with the situation because, yes, we had a top player, who was up and coming and getting better," Sylvain Bruneau told The Canadian Press.
"That's my job to make sure we have more players like her who stay in the game. But at some point, you need to determine what's best for the player or the person.