February 21, 2013 by Parveer Mann
Tennis is so damned lonely.
Those were the piercing words of tennis great, Andre Agassi in his appropriately titled autobiography, Open. He expresses the idea that tennis players exist on an island when they are in the heat of competition. You literally stand divided from your opponent by a net and are forbidden from talking to your coach or trainer. As a result, a player can only turn to themselves and talk out their issues and be their own sounding board. For those peering in, a tennis player may look slightly crazy in this situation and that only begins to describe the isolation of the tennis world.
Costs of Tennis
Tennis is a meritocracy. There are no guaranteed contracts or salaries like other sports, you have to win and succeed to help your earning power. It is this reality that causes a significant divide amongst the elite pro players and those outside the top 100. According to the Houston Chronicle, the average salary in 2012 for the top ATP and WTA players was $250,000 to $300,000. It represents a comfortable living by any means but it does come with some strings attached. The average cost to play on tour according to the USTA is $140,000 excluding the salaries of coaches or trainers.
Tennis is a global sport that hosts tournaments across the world. So it is not unusual for players to be playing one week in France and then travelling to Chile the next followed by Memphis. Those players outside of the elite have to use their earnings for their own flights and the travelling apparatus around them.
The costs can add up and that can often limit those who travel with you. A player may have to sacrifice travelling with a significant other or family so they can have their coach and trainer on the road. Some may not even have the resources to have even that support system with them. Add to that, the possible issues surrounding travel documents and language barriers, the experience can be exhausting. It is in these cases that Agassi’s description of a lonely world is illuminated the most.
At 22, Canadian tennis player Rebecca Marino announced she was taking a break from the game. She cited her battle with depression over the last few years and the toll it had taken on her. She noted that she had lived for long periods of time without her family and friends and it had affected her mental well-being. She also felt the open and often critical world of social media had been difficult to deal with over the course of her tennis career and travels
Excerpt from CBC:
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.
This post is not intended to suggest that athletes or tennis players should be coddled and protected from the reality many others face. Instead, I’m simply using this platform to applaud Rebecca for shining light on the issues and stigma surrounding mental health and cyber bullying. I hope she finds a peaceful resolution and can move forward with her promising life.