Marino ready to get back in the swing
Canadian returns to the sport after a multi-year absence to deal with ‘burnout’ issues
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—For the first point she played at a Grand Slam event in six years, Rebecca Marino hit an ace.
She celebrated with a subtle fist pump, determined to have the best next act she could after a lengthy intermission during which she became the face of depression among athletes.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, just going from tournament to tournament now,” Marino said. “But if I stop and think about it, then that’s when I see that it’s pretty cool that I was able to do this, and to get this far, from no ranking to suddenly in the qualies of a Slam.”
Marino lost, 6-2, 6-2, to Caroline Dolehide on Tuesday in the first round of Australian Open qualifying, limited by a back injury, which curtailed her off-season training.
Despite her stiffness, Marino, 28, showed flashes of the power and clean ball-striking that sent her into the upper echelons of tennis seven years ago.
With a percussive forehand and a booming serve that topped out at 120 m.p.h., Marino surged to a high of 38th in the rankings in the summer of 2011, when she was 20. Not a highly touted junior prospect, she had
planned to enrol in college before her tennis successes mounted, catapulting her faster and further than she was prepared to handle.
“Not expecting it, I felt like I was thrown into this machine and I didn’t understand how it worked,” she said.
Marino stepped back from the sport for the first time in 2012, taking seven months off. After returning for several months, she retired in February 2013 at age 22.
In a conference call announcing her decision, Marino revealed her struggles with depression; days earlier, she had discussed her social media abuse in an interview with the New York Times. Her
leaving the sport was often attributed to one of those factors, or both of them, which Marino said was inaccurate in retrospect.
“When I look back, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was depression,” she said of her decision to stop playing. “It was burnout, and it was expectations put on my shoulders by myself and others, and I just wasn’t able to cope.
“It all came to a head in a big, giant burnout, I guess.”
She said after she stepped away from tennis she was “able to become super-happy and enjoy my life.”
Marino’s retirement at 22 generated considerable attention, particularly in her native Canada, where she was one of the brightest tennis prospects in generations.
Her story resonated with others, but she felt uneasy being a touchstone for athletes struggling with depression.
“It wasn’t something I was prepared for, and it’s still something I’m grappling with,” Marino said. “I’m still a really private person, and so for people to come up to me and tell me all of the things they’ve dealt with, or how I’ve affected them, it’s difficult sometimes, because I don’t really know what to say. Even though I’m happy that I’ve helped people, it can be overwhelming because I’m not professionally trained to help people.”
After retiring from tennis, Marino worked one summer for her family’s construction business, pouring cement and digging through clay. She later began teaching tennis lessons and enrolled at the University of British Columbia, where she studied English literature. The works she enjoyed most, she said, were ones from the Victorian era that grappled with the effects of industrialization on society.
After a false start because she did not re-enter tennis’ anti-doping program in time, Marino returned to the sport at its lowest rung last January, at a series of small tournaments in Turkey. Get the full story at thestar.com/tennis
Rebecca Marino decided to step away from tennis as the result of cyberbullying and depression in 2013, but at 28 she has returned to the game.