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10 tennis players who battled depression and anxiety

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Pat Cash
Pat Cash. Photo/ATP

Tennis players who battled anxiety and depression

  • Mental illnesses – depression and anxiety – are common among tennis players
  • The sport is demanding and it often thrust players into the world of depression

Depression and anxiety are not new to the world of tennis players, just like many other athletes in the sporting world.

Most victims remained mum about it until recently when they started speaking out of their silent struggles.

German tennis player Andrea Petkovic a while back painted a grim picture of the five stages of grief tennis players go through.

Petkovic is vocal that tennis players have a grief routine. It starts with denial, anger bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She is not wrong!

The WTA and ATP have stepped in to calm the situation that is seemingly getting out of hand.

With the help of the British mental health organization Sporting Chance, the ATP has formed an alliance. Counsellors and therapists are available around the clock for ATP players.

The following players suffered from depression and anxiety.

Naomi Osaka

Last year, Osaka opened up on her battle with anxiety. She walked off French Open and Wimbledon.

She took a lengthy break from tennis after losing to Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez at the US Open.

Her thrashing by Fernandez – 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 – at Flushing Meadows in the U.S Open pushed her to more pain.

The third-round defeat in the U.S Open came with a barrage of mixed feelings for Osaka. And this compounded her decision to take a break from tennis.

Tennis Depression and anxiety

Naomi Osaka. Photo/Sky Sports

Ashleigh Barty

Barty battled bouts of depression after ‘retiring’ from tennis in 2014 after losing a match at the US Open.

Like many other athletes, Barty was hugely affected by a streak of losses and walked away.

According to her sisters, Barty had always been a person who would withdraw inside herself. However, no one was more surprised than her father, Robert Barty when the once-promising tennis prodigy announced her retirement.

And before long Barty was battling manic depression, something Robert had experienced many years ago.

He was worried that he might have passed it on to his daughter. For two years, Barty was on antidepressants and saw a therapist learn how to communicate more openly.

Robin Soderling

Soderling is, perhaps, the most affected male tennis player. A decade ago, he succumbed to tennis pressure and it was exacerbated by his losses in the finals of major Grand Slams.

By the end of 2010, his immune system was compromised to a point that he couldn’t perform simple tasks like scaling the stairs.

Serena Williams

It was during a time of injury that Serena Williams acknowledged falling to depression as well.

After cutting her foot on broken glass at a Munich restaurant, the American suffered a haematoma as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

After her second foot surgery, the 23-time Grand Slam champion revealed that she had been suffering from sadness and was constantly crying.

Pat Cash

The 1987 Wimbledon winner discloses in his memoir ‘Uncovered’ that he was afflicted with mental illness at the time.

The Australian revealed his battle with depression, which almost made him consider suicide severally.

Yannick Noah

The French Open in 1983, suffered from depression as a result of his success. The Frenchman’s life became complicated and difficult after his international success.

Despite his fame, Noah was unable to handle it and was unable to stand up to it. While Noah was in his early twenties, he stated that his mental health issues caused him to weep frequently.

Monicah Seles

On the WTA rankings in 1993, Monica Seles lost her No. 1 ranking after being attacked by a crazy Steffi Graf fan in Hamburg.

She found it difficult to deal with the incident both physically and emotionally and stayed away from tennis for two years.

Her depression made her binge eat as she details in her book titled “Anxiety and Depression: A Personal Journey”. This is how she dealt with her depression.

Nick Kyrgois

Another high-profile tennis player, Nick Kyrgios, spoke up about his own battle with depression. The Australian in 2018 disclosed he was seeing a psychologist in order to get back in the right mindset.

Jelena Dokic

Jelena Dokic

Jelena Dokic. Photo/WTA

Tennis fans were well aware of Jelena Dokic’s physical, emotional, and mental challenges during her playing days. In her book, ‘Unbreakable,’ Dokic recounted a number of bad experiences she encountered as a teen.

Mardy Fish

Due to the intense anxiety that followed his cardiac arrhythmia in 2012, former top-10 player Mardy Fish never again left his house.

Prior to his US Open match against Roger Federer in 2012, the American said that he had suffered many anxiety attacks. It wasn’t until 2015 that Fish resumed tennis, citing mental concerns, before finally retiring from the sport.

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