Weary Marino bids farewell to WTA and cyberbullies

Reuters, TORONTO

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - Page 19

Canada’s Rebecca Marino, a rising star in women’s tennis, stepped away from the sport in search of a normal life on Wednesday, weary of battling depression and cyberbullies.

The 22-year-old admitted she had long suffered from depression and was no longer willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the top.

“After thinking long and hard, I do not have the passion or enjoyment to drive myself to the level I would like to be at in professional tennis,” Marino explained in a conference call.

“I have previously been No. 38 on the WTA singles rankings, so I realize the amount of work and sacrifices that have to be put in and at this point I do not think it is worth sacrificing my happiness,” she said. “I feel there is more to life than just tennis.”

Big and powerful, Marino appeared destined for a promising career on the WTA circuit and underscored her potential in a hard -fought second-round clash with Venus Williams at the 2010 US Open.

“Now I know what it’s like to play myself,” Williams told reporters after winning the match.

The following season, Marino backed up that potential by reaching her first career WTA final in Memphis and advancing to the third round of the French Open.

However, in February last year she took a seven-month break from the sport citing mental and physical fatigue.

Compounding her depression were attacks on Twitter and social media, some coming from angry gamblers who had lost money backing her, while others poked fun at her appearance and weight.

“My depression came way before the so-called cyber-bullying; this has been going on for I would dare say six years,” Marino said.

“I was getting some comments that were really hurtful, as well as some great comments, but the hurtful ones stick with you a bit more,” she said.

“I was getting messages that I should die, that I should go burn in hell, that I’m a dumb ass, an idiot, that I lost them money, a wide variety of things and that is just scratching the surface,” Marino said.

“I like to feel I have a thick skin and I can deal with these sort of things so it wasn’t the main factor,” she said. “Social media has taken its toll on me, but it is not the main reason ... the reason I am stepping back is that I don’t think I’m willing to sacrifice my happiness and other parts of my life to tennis.”

After her extended break, Marino returned to the tour in September last year, winning a Challenger event and then playing at the Australian Open last month.

However, her passion for the sport did not return as quickly as her form.

“I thought maybe it would come back to me, but the more I started playing, the more I found it was becoming more-and-more apparent I didn’t have the passion it would take,” she said.

Marino says the focus of her life will now be on going back to school, finding a job, spending time with friends and family and enjoying a normal life.